Zika Virus: the Glasgow Story

Outbreaks of Zika virus in Brazil have been all over the news. But did you know that a Glasgow scientist helped discover this virus, as revealed in documents found in the University of Glasgow’s archives? A special event for Glasgow Science Festival will explore the past, present and future of this virus.

1. Who are you and what do you do? 

I’m Ellie Tiplady and I’m an Immunology PhD student at the University of Glasgow

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Ellie speaks to reporters about her finding in the University of Glasgow atchives

2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I’ve been doing an internship with the University Archives, researching a collection donated by Alexander Haddow – one of the discoverers of the Zika virus. We are putting on an event on the 15th of June, with myself and two other panelists, to discuss the present, past and future of the Zika virus.

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Original research notes from the archive

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Haddow’s findings

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The research took place on forest expeditions

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

My smartphone – perhaps literally as I have come to depend on it for so much.

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10 thbirthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

It’s the one time of year I feel it’s acceptable to eat a whole cake by myself, so I can’t pass that up.

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

I’m no good at jokes, hence the academia. My favourite science fact is that the elephant shrew, named for its long nose, turns out to be more closely related to elephants than it is to shrews.

Join Ellie and other Zika experts on Wednesday 15 June from 18:30-20:00 at the University of Glasgow. The event is FREE but ticketed. For information and booking, click here.

 

 

Fun with DNA

DNA, the ‘building block of life’, is what makes us so alike yet so different. This molecule is the subject of three hands-on activities for families at this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, led by postgraduates Weronika, Lauren and Millie.

1.Who are you and what do you do?

Weronika

Weronika: My name is Weronika and I am currently working on a PhD project, which aims to design a quick and simple diagnostic test for hepatitis C virus.

Lauren

Lauren: My name is Lauren and I am currently working on a PhD project which aims to find new treatments for haemorrhagic stroke.

Milly

Milly: My name is Milly and I am currently a PhD student working on prostate cancer

2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?

Weronika: I have never done public engagement work before, but I thought that taking part in the Glasgow Science Festival would be a perfect opportunity. I genuinely like to try out different experiences and challenges and I always found the prospect of working with people exciting. There is nothing more rewarding than to engage with the public, especially non-scientific people as it helps to remind me why I love science so much.

Lauren: Glasgow Science Festival is my first public engagement work! I enjoy the challenge of trying to make relatively complex concepts more accessible to those without much prior knowledge of the subject. I think it is really important for children and young people to be exposed to the amazing work that is going on within the field at the moment. Sometimes it can be difficult to relate what is learned in the classroom to how this knowledge could be applied in real life and I think the Glasgow Science Festival gives current science students a fantastic opportunity to be able to forge this link and spark interest in the sciences!

Milly: Being a part of the Glasgow Science Festival Internship has been my first experience with public engagement. I find public engagement such an important part of research, allowing scientists to talk about their research and teach the public on relatively complicated topics in a much more understandable way. I got involved so I could help children understand science in a fun and creative way!

3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?

Our activity is based around DNA and how each of us has our own unique changes to this DNA sequence which makes us, us! Through activities including building a DNA molecule from sweeties to catching a criminal and saving the Scottish Wildcat through DNA analysis, our activity will leave everyone with a greater appreciation for the importance of DNA technologies in our world today. Plus you will get a chance to gain some scientific knowledge in a fun, family-friendly way!

4. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Weronika: I definitely could not live without my smartphone. It allows me to send emails, read scientific articles and communicate with people. That definitely saves my time tremendously and not to mention space in my already overly large bag!

Lauren: I think my answer may be similar to many people – my smartphone! It is extremely helpful nowadays to be connected wherever you are – whether that be for work or keeping in touch with friends/family. I think you only realise how important your device is to your day to day life when you forget to charge it and your day seems to run much less efficiently!

Milly: The internet has to be the BEST innovation of all time. It allows me to keep in contact with people all over the world as well as keeping me up to date on research …. and shopping!

 5. Impress us with your favourite science joke or fact

There is enough DNA in an average person’s body to stretch from the sun to Pluto and back. 17 times.

Weronika, Lauren and Milly will be bringing fun science to the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19 June from 10:00-16:00 at the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow.

 

Renewable Energy Physics

Glasgow Science Festival aims to inspire people of all ages about science, including the next generation of scientists and engineers, through our free schools programme. This programme is delivered by real-life, practising scientists including Clara, Daria and George from Glasgow Caledonian University.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

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Clara: My name is Clara Hollomey, I am a PhD student at the Audio department of Glasgow Caledonian University. My research focuses on investigating how the hearing impaired perceive music.

Daria

Daria: I am Daria Freier, a first year PhD student at Glasgow Caledonian University. My research project is finding a design for a concentrator (a lens which focuses light) which can be used to make small portable solar systems, like solar lamps and solar chargers, more efficient.

George

George: I am George Loumakis and I am a lecturer and researcher in Glasgow Caledonian University. I teach various modules that have to do with renewable energy, energy in buildings, energy resources etc. Chances are that if something contains the word energy I am somehow involved. My research focuses mostly on solar energy for the time being.

2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year

Clara: I just like making sound.

Daria: I am always keen and happy to communicate the potential of science and of renewable energy in particular to students who will shape the future.

George: I love every form of science communication and i think it’s time that us academics got out of our nice little bubble and started interacting with the public more.

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Clara: I could not live without the internet. Having the knowledge of the world at my everyday disposal is pure luxury.

Daria: The best innovation for me are airplanes. Without the fast way of travelling we would not be able to see the world as we can right now.

George: I agree 100% with what Clara says about the internet.

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10th birthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

Clara: This would probably be a Dobos-Torte (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dobos_torte). Chocolate and caramel thinly layered. For what more can you ask?

Daria: Cake!

George: My world famous triple chocolate fudgy cookies. Bring me a bowl the size of a room and i can feed the whole festival if need be.

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Clara: An optimist sees a glass half full. A pessimist sees it half empty. An engineer sees it twice as large as it needs to be.

Daria: How many software engineers does it take to change a light bulb? None. They wouldn’t do it. It’s a hardware problem.

George: Some years ago I left Greece to come to Scotland to study solar energy. Fact, joke or both, you decide.

Clara, Daria and George are leading ‘Renewable Energy Physics’, free workshops for school pupils with hands-on experiments to explore this growing field. For more information, visit the website.

The Gravitational Wave Detectors

Communicating complex concepts and specialised research is a big challenge for scientists. This group of postgraduates have developed a fun, interactive activity to explain gravitational waves to a public audience at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash.

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1. Who are you and what do you do?

Holly: I’m a PhD student in the chemistry department and I make materials that can levitate trains using powerful magnetic fields!

Euan: I’m a PhD student in the particle theory group of Glasgow university. I study ways of simulating small patches of spacetime on a supercomputer.

Finlay: I’m Finlay, and I’m a PhD student who fires lasers at strange liquids to make crystals grow in them.

Fraser: I’m Fraser, a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Glasgow. I use nanotechnology to make millions of tiny pillars that fit on a slide no larger than your thumbnail, and we want to use these to get stem cells to do what they’re told.

2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Holly: I’ve never carried out public engagement before, but am really excited about the prospect of making science cool for non-scientists!

Euan: Besides GSF I am a volunteer organiser for the Pint of Science festival, in which researchers give talks about their work to general audiences in pubs. I am attracted to public engagement by the prospect of inspiring the next generation of scientists.

Finlay: I love teaching, and helping others see that ‘complicated science’ is actually easier than it seems. This is my first time being involved with Glasgow Science Festival, but won’t be the last!

Fraser: I’ve never been properly involved with public engagement, but I’ve taught in a high school before as part of my undergraduate course in Physics. I really loved seeing young people, and even the teachers, getting involved in some “complicated” concepts like Gravitational Waves and Spacetime, and seeing the questions they asked and the ideas that they had towards it. Public engagement is also really good for teaching yourself things, because if you want to explain something in a really easy way to understand you need to really understand it yourself first.

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

We’ve built ourselves a pretty cool make-shift gravitational wave detector that you can come and try out to detect a gravitational wave, and have a chunk of spacetime that we’ve cleverly captured in a tupperware box, along with a star on a stick, to show you how spacetime really makes gravity happen.

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10th birthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

Holly: Definitely mascara.

Euan: google maps

Finlay: My GPS watch.

Fraser: Hot showers. Have you tried going a day or two with only cold showers? Brrrr.

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

There are places in the universe which are physically impossible for humans to reach, since they are moving away from us faster than the speed of light.

Holly, Euan, Finlay and Fraser will be at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19th June from 10:00-16:00 in the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. For more information, visit the website.

 

Green Biotech?

Can you be ‘green’ and in favour of genetic engineering? That’s the question under scrutiny at this year’s Café Scientifique, led by the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society. We had a chat with one of the panelists, Dr Louise Horsfall from the University of Edinburgh.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Louise Horsfall

I am a synthetic biologist and lecturer in biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh

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Photo: Copyright (c) Peter Tuffy Photography/Edinburgh Research and Innovation Ltd.

 

2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I’m taking part in the free Glasgow Café Scientifique event ‘Can we give biotech the green light?’ organised by the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Biology.

It’s being held in the Victorian Bar at the Tron Theatre, so I’m expecting quite a lively discussion about the pros and cons of modern biotechnology.

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Vaccinations, I’d likely be dead by now if I hadn’t received any.

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10th birthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

Birthday cake for breakfast, it’s only once a year and I swear it makes it taste even better!

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

I’m not too good at remembering jokes, and certainly not science ones.

What do you call a teletubbie that’s been burgled?

….a tubbie

Technology based jokes count, right?

Listen to Louise and other panelists at ‘Café Scientifique: Can We Give New Biotech the Green Light?’ on Monday 13 June, 19:00-21:00 in the Tron Theatre. The event is FREE and no booking is required. For more details, visit our website.

Science-themed Monopoloy

Our postgraduate internship brings together researchers from a huge range of subjects, be it stem cells, ice sheets, nano-sized materials or renewable energy. We chatted to one of the postgrad teams as they prepare to bring their hands-on activity to the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19th June.

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The team preparing for GSF 2016

1. Who are you and what do you do?

crystal

Crystal: Hi, my name is Crystal Smiley and I am in my final year of my PhD within the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences. My research focuses on detecting oxygen and hydrogen isotopes within water from different terrestrial sources, such as the Greenland Ice Sheet and the annual snow cover, within the marine environment in retrospect to marine palaeo-runoff proxies.

Mark

Mark: I’m Mark and I am currently doing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. My research involves understanding how cells change their behaviour based on what kind of surface that they are growing on, which could be used to make stem cells turn into bone.

Eddy: I’m Eddy and I’m in my first year of a Chemistry PhD at Glasgow University. I’m investigating nano-sized metal oxide clusters that could be used as molecular magnets.

Roberta

Roberta: I am Roberta, a first year PhD at the Chemistry department. I have always been fascinated by the use of renewable sources to produce clean energy. My research is focused on this field by looking at an alternative way to store energy using hydrogen.

2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?

Crystal: Yes, I have done two public engagement activities before. I participated in the Glasgow Science Festival in 2013 presenting Ocean Acidification affects on corals. In 2014, I travelled to the US to give a seminar on “Opportunities in Earth Science” within the Aberdeen, Washington and McCleary, Washington School Districts. I started public engagement because I wanted to share the world of science and its many fascinating discoveries. I also wanted to strengthen my presenting skills to a non-science based community.

Mark: I’ve not done any public engagement before. I wanted to get involved because I wanted to take advantage of as many opportunities that a PhD provides as possible. A PhD gives you a chance to take part in so many things that you’d never thought about before and this is one of those things that you don’t know what it’s all about or whether you’ll like until you’ve tried it.

Eddy: This is my first time doing public engagement. I wanted share my enthusiasm for science and how science has changed our world for the better.

Roberta: This is the first time I’ve done public engagement but I really like the idea of sharing my passion with others. I think that doing public engagement is a beautiful way to inspire young minds to pursue a career in science and I really like the idea of being a part of this.

3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?

Come visit us and discover some of the Scottish Innovation technologies that make Glasgow a greener, cleaner, safer and smarter city. Join in on the fun by playing a giant innovation version of your family friendly board game, MONOPOLY! As you move around the board you will have the opportunity to learn and collect some of the new innovations that are happening around Glasgow. Collecting four innovations of the same colour or one of each colour wins a special prize and bragging rights for the year!

4. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Crystal: It’s hard to narrow down one innovation to live without but I couldn’t live without my camera.

Mark: Too many things that, I think, we wouldn’t even realise we needed until they weren’t there. I would say a microwave; it makes it really easy to heat up all my leftover meals.

Eddy: The kettle.

Roberta: I think I could never live without a smartphone. This is very funny because actually I was one of the last among my group of friends to get one and now I use it for almost everything.

4. Finally… impress us with your favourite science fact or joke!

Crystal: Why wasn’t the Geologist hungry? Because they lost their APATITE.

How often do you like jokes about elements? PERIODICALLY

Eddy: Atoms, with a callous disregard for etymology, can in fact be split.

Never trust an atom. They make up everything

Roberta: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate!

Meet Crystal, Mark, Eddy and Robert and have fun with giant Monopoly at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19 June, 10:00-16:00 in the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. More information on the website.

Bugs in the Pub

Some of the best chats happen in the pub! So why not throw some science into the mix? ‘Bugs in the Pub’ will give pub-goers the chance to hear some fascinating research over a pint with friends. Dr Connor Bamford is the lead organiser.

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1. Who are you and what do you do?

Connor Bamford: I am a postdoc researcher at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) out at the Garscube campus. My research focuses on understanding how our immune systems defend us against virus infection.

 

 2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I believe that it is our duty to communicate research and engage with the public and the GSF is an ideal opportunity to do this. I ran an event last year (microTALKs), which was a success, and I wanted to repeat it in 2016. To do this we are running a ‘pint of science’ style event exploring the role of structure, architecture and innovation in virus infection. Basically I think that evolution is the greatest innovator and that we can observe evolution by looking at viruses and the animals they infect.

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

If it wasn’t for antibiotics we would probably all not survive very long.

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10thbirthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

Pizza – it’s always pizza.

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Every living thing on the planet gets infected by viruses, even viruses do!

Join Connor and friends in The Admiral Bar, Waterloo Street on Thursday 16 June from 19:00-21:00. The event is free but ticketed – book online.