In order to illustrate what engagement activities we are doing within the School of Biosciences we have compiled a number of relevant case studies. These case studies have been grouped according to which one of our six strategic the activity best fulfills.
Public Awareness of Research and Teaching Excellence
Running an Inter-Divisional event for local schools during National Science and Engineering Week (Learn About Life)
Learn About Life is an annual event run during National Science and Engineering Week for a number of local Primary school pupils (10/11 year olds). Around 240 pupils visit the School over 2 days to experience a wide range of bioscience topics presented by over 50 staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students from each of our four research divisions.
In 2010 it consisted of the following 4 sessions (pupils rotate around 3 sessions during their 1 day visit);
- The Cells in Your Body (both days)
- Biodiversity (both days)
- Neuroscience (1 day only) - see "Brain Awareness Week" programme for details of 2010 workshops
- Physiology (1 day only)
Each session consists of a series of short interactive workshops. The pupils get to wear lab coats and take part in a quiz.
The 2010 event attracted external funding from RCUK, the Physiology Society, the Welsh Assembly and Career Wales. Career Wales (an education support organisation) also helps greatly with the organisation of this event.
"Please extend our thanks to yourself and your colleagues for providing such a wonderful day for our pupils. They were simply buzzing on their return to school and many went home to inform their parents about their day and, in some cases, to persuade relatives to give up smoking!
They have remembered so much information, mainly because of the enthusiastic way your helpers engaged the children"
Lyn Eldridge, Teacher, Petersen-super-Ely Primary School
See the following staff profiles for further information;
Working closely with local schools and education support organisation to enhance learning
Dr Richard Clarkson became a BBSRC Local Schools Coordinator in April 2010 and along with the Innovation and Engagement Officer (Dr Fiona Wyllie) and other researchers in the School of Biosciences, he will engage closely with a small number of secondary and primary school in the local area. The schools have mainly been chosen because of the good relationships we have established with their enthusiastic teaching staff. Development of engagement activities is a collaborative venture wherever possible between the researchers and the schools concerned. These collaborations have been greatly supported, both financially and at an organisational level, by the education support organisation Career Wales.
For further details see BBSRC Local Coordinator Schools and News.
Raising awareness of medical progress with Huntington's and Parkinson's Disease patient groups
Professors Steve Dunnett and Anne Rosser jointly lead the School's Brain Research Group (BRG), which develops cell transplantation methods to replace and repair the cell loss caused by neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. Professor Dunnett recently received the Molly and Bernard Sanberg Memorial Award for Lifetime Acheivement by the American Society for Neural Therapy and Repair. On receiving this award he said;
|“Of course I am absolutely delighted that our work over 30 years to address the devastating problems of brain damage and disease is so well regarded by our American colleagues. We remain optimistic and excited about possibilities that advances that are taking place in experimental laboratory science may soon hold real hopes for new treatments for patients with these progressive neurological conditions"|
Professor Dunnett ensures that the relevant local patients and carers are kept fully informed of these important advances by annually opening the doors to the labs of the BRG. Researchers, show visitors their impressive facilities and carefully discuss the work going on and the potential hope for effective therapies.
Taking part in interdisciplinary collaborative public events in the University and at the local Science Centre
The Cardiff University Brain Awareness Committee was established in early 2010 and is chaired by Dr Vanessa Davies who is the manager of the University's Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute. It's objective at that time was to organise a series of events for Brain Awareness Week (15th-21st March 2010), which would involve researchers from each of the four Schools associated with the Institute and which would engage with a wide variety of public audiences. A successful programme of activities was established and over 50 researchers and 600 members of the public participated in at least one of these events.
"Once you experience a devastating or life-threatening disease in your family or friends and you try to explain to them, what's going on, you realise how difficult it is, how disconnected we researchers sometimes are and that we need to find a way to explain what science can do to help people - even if it's only a small step at a time, it will eventually add to the grand picture."
Dr Alex Klein, Post-Doc, Brain Repair Group
One of these events was the Neuroscience Open Afternoon, which highlighted the breadth of Neuroscience research taking place within the University and its relevance for society. The aim was to show the progress being made in Cardiff and elsewhere and to emphasise that further support is needed from policy makers, funding bodies and the general public. Over 100 visitors attended, including Dr Owen Crawley (Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales), local patient groups and charities, University of the Third Age and soroptimist groups and other interested members of the public. This event started with a series of short talks from several of the University's top academics, followed by a refreshment period during which attendees were encouraged to visit the many demonstrations and participate in organised tours illustrating techniques used in Neuroscience research.
Dr Alex Klein from the Brain Repair Group in the School of Biosciences helped to run a "How do we repair the Brain?" demonstration, which explained how the multi-disciplinary group examined how the transplantation of cells into the damaged areas of the brain can improve the symptoms of both Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. He explained how their research is aimed at all levels of the process, from manipulating stem cells to make the right cell types, through preclinical assessments to clinical trials in patients.
A second event organised for Brain Awareness Week 2010 was Neuroscience Workshops at Techniquest, the local science centre. Researchers at all levels ran these workshops in the main exhibition areas and interacted with both specific school groups and families during the 2-day visit to the centre. These researchers included Nick Puts , a PhD student in the School of Bioscience who was responsible for creating an initial set of workshops for Brain Awareness Week 2009 and personally recruited other postgraduate students to help run the activities.
Winning National competition to find new voices of science communication
PhD student, Sam Durley won the Wales heat of FameLab 2012 by wowing the panel of judges with his 3 minute pitch on epigenetics as the reason why cloned cats might have different coloured coats and how you squeeze your DNA into a cell, or as Sam described it "how you fit two whales in a mini". Sam will now go onto the UK Grand final to be held at the Royal Institution on 21 March 2012;
|"I’m very excited to be in the prestigious FameLab UK final. I hope I have managed to give people an idea of how incredible DNA is and how it is so much more interesting than just the genes that make you up."|
Past winners of FameLab have gone on to travel the globe, perform in festivals and feature on national TV and radio, and many combine public-facing activity with ongoing research. All finalists become part of a global network of science communicators.
Since starting his PhD, Sam has not only won the FameLab heat, but has utilised multiple other opportunities to maximise the impact of his research.
Winning prestigious Gold Award for fungal research at RHS Chelsea Show
Professor Lynne Boddy won the coveted Gold Gilt Award in 2009 at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea show for her British Mycological Society display in the continuous learning section. Her exhibit was called "Out of Sight Out of Mind" and the message was that fungi, though hidden, are crucial to the functioning of the terrestrial ecosystems of this planet.
The display had considerable impact on the general public through the Show itself and also through extensive media coverage. The large number of visitor included the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who spoke at length to Lynne while viewing the display. She was also interviewed by Alan Titchmarsh for a TV slot on the importance of fungi and participated in several radio interviews.
More information about the display can be found on Lynne's own overview webpages; http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/biosi/contactsandpeople/stafflist/a-d/boddy-lynne-prof-overview_new.html
Engaging with Welsh speaking local communities
As well as playing a vital internal Welsh language role regarding the School's research and learning and teaching activities, Dr Hefin Jones is also very involved with engaging externally with local Welsh speaking communities. This engagement is mainly centred on his research interest in climate change, which is of course an extremely topical issue. Hefin has been a major contributor to three documentaries on S4C , appears frequently on Radio Cymru and has also written articles for the Western Mail on the subject. He has talked to the general public through local Probus, Workers Education Association and UN Association groups and thorough two Welsh speaking groups (Cymdeithas Edward Llwyd and Y Gymdeithas Wyddonol Gendlaethol ). The topic is also particularly relevant to younger audiences and Hefin has become a STEM Ambassador to engage with schools on the many important and controversial associated issues. He has gone out to seven local schools/colleges in the last year (five of these have been Welsh speaking) and will be taking part in the Earth Summit O2 Experience for 'A' level pupils in London in November. This event follows on from lectures given by Hefin to UK school pupils in Futuroscope, France and at the prestigious Royal Institution.
On a lighter note Hefin entertains Primary school pupils participating in our annual National Science and Engineering Week event ("Learn About Life") by talking about insects - their variety, adaptability and culinary uses- carefully timed for the pre-lunch spot!
Working with central University Division to widen access to Higher Education amongst under-represented groups
We have been working since 2008 with Vicki Roylance and other staff from the Widening Access team in SRWEB to deliver a program of events to pupils enrolled on the Cardiff University Step-up-to-Health Scheme. These pupils all come from schools which do not have a strong tradition in Higher Education . In addition events have been run for individual schools with a similar background and Dr Karen Reed has an ongoing relationship with Pencoed School. We also ran a 2 day workshop in July 2010 for pre-GCSE participating in a widening access summer school organised by the Reaching Wider - First Campus scheme.