Glasgow Science Festival: Superbug Science

Antibiotic resistance and the emergence of so-called ‘superbugs’ pose a growing threat to public health. But who is creating the problem? And whose responsibility is it? At this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, a team of researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University will shed light on this important issue through fun, interactive debate. 

SHIP Superbugs Debate (2)

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Mairi –  I’m a researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researching public awareness of antimicrobial resistance.

Caroline –  I’m also a researcher at GCU using social science to shine a light on complicated public health issues, like antibiotic use and resistance.

Jen –  I’m a researcher at GCU using psychological theory to understand behaviours, such as hand hygiene, which have an important role in tackling the issue of antimicrobial resistance.

Lauren –  I am also a PhD student at GCU, researching knowledge, beliefs and perceptions related to the acceptability of rapid diagnostics for antibiotic use and resistance.

Ellie –  I’m a PhD student at GCU, researching public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours around antibiotic use and resistance.

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

Mairi –  I’m keen to engage with people from all different backgrounds, and raise their awareness to the issue of superbugs’ resistance to antibiotics.

Caroline –  I’m really excited to work with a great team of social scientists to share our research findings about antibiotic use and resistance, a topic which is relevant to us all.

Jen –  Glasgow Science Festival is a unique opportunity for us to spread the word about our research to a different audience and engage with members of the public around the issue of antimicrobial resistance.

Lauren –  I think the festival will be a perfect opportunity to engage with the wider community. AMR (antimicrobial resistance) affects everyone and it is so exciting to be able to share our research with the public.

Ellie –  I believe many health issues can be targeted by educating the public and raising their awareness of what can happen when certain behaviours and habits persist. Taking part in an event such as this means I get to play an active role in enhancing the public’s awareness, younger individuals and families.

3. Why should we come to your event?

Mairi –  We’re focusing on a serious public health issue, but doing so in an interactive and light-hearted way. This event will give you the chance to understand how superbugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics, and what role we all play in safeguarding antibiotics for the future.

Caroline –  The ‘Superbugs’ debate is going to be a great fun event. There’ll be a chance to hear lots of different perspectives on AMR (e.g. health, pharmaceutical, agricultural). You’ll then be given the chance to make up your own mind about AMR and what can be done – and to vote to let us know!

Lauren –  The event will be a fantastic opportunity to hear different views on a global health problem. The night will be fun and interactive but will also offer you the chance to have your say! Hope to see you there!

Ellie –  When people think about the issue of antimicrobial resistance, they seem to only look at it from the point of views of human health. However, there are many other processes in a variety of areas which contribute to this issue, such as agriculture and farming. Our event will bring all of these factors together in a fun way through role-play and public involvement in a lively debate.

4. This year’s festival theme is ‘Glasgow Explores’. Where would you like to explore?

Mairi –  Human reasoning (on a sub-conscious and conscious level) and how it leads to behaviour.

Caroline – I’d like to explore what solutions we create when the great minds of Glasgow and beyond come together to creatively engage with a problem like AMR!

Jen –  I’d like to explore what members of the public know about the issue of antimicrobial resistance and discuss the ways in which we all can make small changes to our behaviour to safeguard antibiotics for the future.

Lauren –  In my own research, I am hoping to find acceptable ways to reduce the AMR crisis and I cannot wait to hear what people have to say about AMR.

Ellie –  I’d love to explore how cultural norms affect the way people think about certain health issues, and how this then translates into behaviour.

5. What’s the best thing about being a scientist?

Mairi –  Contributing to tackling serious public health issues, and the creativity that comes with the research.

Caroline –  Like Mairi, I love the creativity involved in being a social scientist – the chance to explore, think about and impact upon public health problems is a real privilege.

Jen –  Learning about and exploring aspects of human behaviour related to health and working as part of a wider team to help people change their health behaviours, in turn, contributing to important public health issues, such as antimicrobial resistance.

Lauren –  The best thing for me would have to be discovering new things every day. Research lets you answer the tough questions and helps to reduce burden from health crisis’ such as AMR.  

Ellie –  This is quite a tough question because I pretty much love everything about it- from learning about what has been done, to taking that information and using it to find out more about the subject. There’s variation because your data leads you in many different directions too, and I think that is very exciting!

Join Mairi, Caroline, Jen, Lauren and Ellie for ‘Whose Superbug Crisis Is It Anyway?’ on Thursday 8 June at Glasgow Caledonian University. The free event begins at 6pm. For full details and booking, visit the website.


The Science of Superbugs

Antiobiotic resistance is a growing problem in public health, yet overuse or misuse of antiobiotics remains an issue. Every year, 700,000 people die from drug-resistant infections. For this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, a group of postgraduate interns from the University of Glasgow have developed a fun, hands-on activity to explore the science of antiobiotics at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Andrei loves liquid helium

My name is Andrei Kamenski, and I’m doing a PhD at the University of Glasgow. I’m trying to find out the structure of a protein (a large biological molecule) that is involved in transferring information in the cell and, probably, in breast cancer.


My name is Biav Kittani. I’m a Clinical Pharmacist.  And currently, trying to be an optimistic PhD student.  The focus of my PhD is to find a new therapy for Stroke.


My name is Edubiel Alpizar. I am veterinary doctor. I have worked with marine mammals, zoo and domestic animals, my favorites are sea lions. I have been an athlete my entire life. I worked as an artist and stunt-sports man for many years, but I always had some energy left so I decided to work as a scientist the rest of my life. I am currently doing my PhD research in Brazil, Mexico and UK to understand how parasites evolve and their mechanisms of resistance to different drugs. During my spare time, I am training to compete in an Ironman Triathlon.

Cheeky Nuria after horse surgery

My name is Nuria Terron and I am vet surgeon that has embarked on a PhD at the University of Glasgow, studying a virus that causes skin cancer in horses.

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

Andrei: Never, but I have considered it for quite a while. I think that going out there and speaking to people is beneficial for everyone involved. We often hear about some cool discoveries from the media, but to me it all looks like it’s happening behind the glass if there is no contact with the people who actually do the research. Having obtained some experience in biology, I want to share how it’s done day-to-day, and what topics are currently in the spotlight, as well as learn more about what people find important, and what concerns they have about modern science.

Biav: As a STEM Ambassador, I participated in a number of STEM and career fairs in schools. I also took part in the 3 minutes thesis competition. You can have a look at my presentation here:

Personally, I enjoy public engagement events enormously. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than to see kids curious about science and having fun at the same time. Science events give us the opportunity to promote science, and to demonstrate that science can be fun and entertaining.

Edubiel: Yes, quite a few activities in Mexico, Brazil and more recently in the UK. In the past I worked with Public Health and developed many activities and workshops teaching school children from poor communities, key messages to prevent many of the most neglected parasitic diseases of the world. The reason I have done public engagement is that one of the main reasons why the world has more football players than scientists, is that scientists we have forgotten to do a very important part of our job: to make it fun and entertaining for everybody. Also because one of the best sensations that I have experienced in my life, is a very special energy, like an electric current going all over my body when I am sharing knowledge, that is why I became a scientist. And I do believe, science is changing the world rapidly.

Nuria: I always enjoyed interacting with people and science and public engagement events are just that for me: a fun way of conveying science and a fulfilling experience because I learn so much from the audience every time I participate in those events. I have volunteered for the Glasgow Science Festival in several occasions and I have been an event manager at the Glasgow Science Centre during Explorathon. I also have participated in events in community centres where I have had very rewarding experiences with kids particularly.

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

We have designed a couple of activities with two main purposes: to make people aware of the problem of antibiotic resistance and to have fun while learning from each other!

The first activity is a straightforward yet very easy and visual experiment whereby you will learn how bacteria become resistant when exposed to antibiotics without killing them. Be prepared to be amused with colour-changing bacteria, and to put your science skills to the test while using pipettes!

The second activity is a hands-on experiment (literally) whereby you will discover what bacteria do with the antibiotic when they have become resistant. You will be very surprised with the outcome, and just a hint… our bacteria can move and ‘eat’ things!

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

Andrei: That would probably be the Internet, and it would be quite difficult writing for this blog without it… Pretty sure invention of logarithms by a Scotsman John Napier in the 16th century has played a big role here.

Biav: If it wasn’t for the Scottish genius Mr. John Logie Baird, I wouldn’t be able to watch my favourite tv shows such as “Doctor Who?”.

Edubiel: The perfect 4D design of my brain. More accurately, Science.

Nuria: My mum makes the most amazing fig jam in the world and I could not enjoy my favourite breakfast if it wasn’t for Mr. Alan MacMasters, the Scotsman who invented the toaster, the Scottish innovation I could most definitely not live without.

5. Impress us with your favourite science joke or fact.

How can you tell the difference between a chemist and a plumber? Ask them to pronounce “unionized”.

Join Andrei, Biav, Edubiel and Nuria at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19 June from 10:00-16:00 at the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. The event is FREE and filled with fun activities for all ages, to shortcut you into the world of research.

Trailblazing Women of Science

How many Scottish female scientists can you name? Throughout history, women have made significant contributions to the advancement of science but remain little known figures. Catherine Booth, Curator of Science Collections at the National Library of Scotland has been uncovering the stories of these pioneering women and will share her findings at the Glasgow Women’s Library for Glasgow Science Festival this year.


 1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Catherine Booth and I am Curator of Science Collections at the National Library of Scotland.  The photograph shows me sitting near the top of Ben Nevis, feeling very proud to have reached the summit.  I was intrigued to see the ruins of the observatory which existed up there between 1883 and 1904.

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

I am giving a talk at the Glasgow Women’s Library on Scottish Women of Science – trailblazers from the past.  I have been researching women who made remarkable achievements in science – yet their names are almost completely unknown.

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

My radio!  I love listening to radio dramas and documentaries, as well as music.

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?

To be able to sit with my feet up reading a good book eating chocolate and drinking a cup of tea.

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

An optimist sees a glass as half full, while a pessimist sees a glass as half empty.  A chemist, however, will observe a glass as completely full – half with liquid and half with air.

Join Catherine at the Women’s Libraries on 17 June from 14:00-15:00 for her talk ‘Trailblazing Women of Science.’ For more information, see the website.


Sociology and Sport

With the likes of Lance Armstrong, Maria Sharapova and Simon Yates hitting the headlines, drug doping remains a huge issue in elite sport. As part of this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, we’ve invited experts from a broad range of subjects to take part in a debate: ‘Drugs in Sport: The Trial’. One such expert is sociologist Prof Ellis Cashmore, who stopped for a chat with the blog.


1. Who are you and what do you do?

Ellis Cashmore, visiting professor of sociology at Aston University, England, and author of books Studying Football (Routledge) and Elizabeth Taylor: A Private Life for Public Consumption (Bloomsbury), both published earlier this year.

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

I’ve been invited to serve as a witness in a debate motioning to legalise the use of drugs in sport.

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

The screen.

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?

Oh, anything made with oxygen and potassium, OK?

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

As Black Power leader Eldridge Cleaver once said: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the … er, precipitate.”

Join Ellis and other expert witnesses on Tuesday 14 June from 19:00-21:30 and serve on the jury as drug doping is put on trial. For more information and booking, click here.

What happens when celebrities die? Are TV talent shows too much of a good thing? Can Beyonce sell the end of racism? Check out Ellis’s blog at for his thoughts on the sociology of contemporary culture.

Making Waves

Prof Martin Hendry has been a major contributor to Glasgow Science Festival since its inception 10 years ago. As in previous years, he’ll be sharing his passion for physics and astronomy with the public through some fantastic free events.


1. Who are you and what do you do?

I am Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Glasgow, where I am also Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy.  I’m a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a global network of more than 1000 scientists who in February 2016 reported the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves – a discovery that finally confirmed the predictions of Albert Einstein made 100 years ago and opened an entirely new “dark” window on the cosmos.  Here’s a photo of me at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC, in April 2016 where a certain visitor to our LIGO exhibit said “good job”. (I’m the one on the right, by the way!)

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

Well, I’ve been a strong supporter of the Science Festival ever since it began, but this year I’ll be involved in various events to celebrate our first ever direct detection of gravitational waves – which was a huge global news story, and a particularly big story for Glasgow University given our key role in the discovery.  Moments like this don’t come along very often and it’s been amazing to be part of the enormous “wave” of publicity!  Just recently the entire collaboration was honoured with the award of the 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics ( so it seems clear that the world has been really captivated by this story – and who wouldn’t be captivated by an everyday tale of two black holes colliding 1.3 billion light years away!

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

It took me a while to get one, but now I couldn’t live without my smart phone!  And it’s amazing to think that its built in GPS system relies on Albert Einstein’s theory too:  according to relativity time runs a tiny bit faster at the altitude of the GPS satellites because gravity is weaker up there.  Without correcting for this, my GPS would get me lost PDQ…Just another example of where fundamental physics underpins our everyday lives.

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?

Probably a nice brunch followed by a trip to the cinema.  In 2014 I got to see “Interstellar” on my birthday, which was a real treat!

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

I’ll leave the jokes to others and go with an amazing fact.

The gravitational wave event GW150914 that we detected last September (and announced in February 2016) was the merger of two massive black holes more than a billion light years away.  As they merged together they released about 50 times as much power, in the form of gravitational waves, as the light power released by all the stars in all the galaxies in the entire observable universe.

Listen to Martin and other LIGO scientists at ‘Making Waves: Listening to Einstein’s Universe’ on 10 June from 18:00-20:00. FREE. Book tickets online.  You can also meet black hole hunters at Science Sunday on 19 June, details here.



Glasgow Science Festival: Space for Art

It’s just five weeks until Glasgow Science Festival 2016 takes over the city! Ahead of the festival, we’re shedding a light on some of the faces behind our events. Our first interview is with the University of Strathclyde’s space enthusiast Peter McGinty.

Pete stargazing 2

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Peter McGinty, Network Manager for the Stardust Network and Outreach co-ordinator of the Strathclyde Aerospace Centre for Excellence (ACE).

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

This is my third year participating. As always, the fantastic array of events and activities are what make me love GSF and keep me coming back.

As before I come peddling space knowledge:

Space for Art is an exhibition inspired by the research being carried out by the Strathclyde Space Institute. Featuring beautiful abstract artwork, stunning photos of our galaxy taken from right here on earth and fabulous digital animations and interactive tablet apps. This exhibition is aimed at engaging more people with space science and encouraging more people to take STEM subjects at a higher education level and beyond. Because we need more space scientists and students. We’ll be at the Glasgow Science Centre from 12-19th June.

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

The super-secret giant space laser which saves earth from killer asteroids with a frequency that would boggle your mind.

Also bicycles.

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?

Why how kind of you to offer – I’m rather partial to lemon drizzle cake. And my favourite balloon would be of the helium variety (and actually the final day of the exhibition is my birthday too, so… you know… don’t disappoint me!).

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

What did the asteroid say to the shooting star? Get ready to meteor maker.

Space for Art is on at Glasgow Science Centre from 12-19 June. For more information, visit the website.

Shaun of the Dead

GRRR ARGH! After a sellout show at Glasgow Science Festival last year, “Zombie Science” is back with a brand new show for 2014. Uncover the dark complexity of the zombie brain with an interactive lecture from the Zombie Institute of Theoretical Studies – then pitch your zombie questions to (living) brains from the University of Glasgow. Dr Shaun Killen is one such brain. 

shaun zombie pic (2)

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a biologist at the University of Glasgow. I mainly study animal physiology and behaviour. I did my PhD in marine biology and so most of my work ends up focussing on fish.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Some marine biologist colleagues and I are having a panel discussion about the science behind the film Jaws. Jaws is awesome, but besides science I’m also passionate about terrible horror films. Which is probably why I’ve also been asked to come talk about the science of zombies.

With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, Glasgow is gearing up to welcome the world. What’s your top tip for visitors?

The main tower at the University of Glasgow looks a lot like Hogwarts. Take the opportunity to go there and re-enact scenes from Harry Potter.

Favourite Scottish food and drink?

Tunnock’s Teacakes. Those things are dangerous. And Williams Bros. beer.

Impress us with your favourite science fact. Or joke.

There are more species of fish than all other vertebrates combined. You should start preparing now to appease our eventual fish overlords.

Ask Shaun your best zombie questions at “Zombie Science: Brain of the Dead” this Thursday at The Admiral Bar, Waterloo Street. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are available online. Tweet your zombie questions to @GlasgowSciFest or email