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Inspire young people to study science, says University’s Nobel laureate

06 August 2008

Sir Martin Evans at the Eisteddfod

Cardiff University Professor Sir Martin Evans FRS, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine has warned that unless more young people in Wales are inspired to study science and technology subjects, we risk ‘dumbing down’ as a nation.

On the day the National Eisteddfod’s Science and Technology Pavilion was officially opened, Sir Martin Evans urged teachers, parents, guardians and employers to find new and innovative ways to engage young people with science to secure next generation scientists and Wales’ place in the hi-tech future.

Sir Martin, who won the Nobel Prize for his part in a series of ground-breaking discoveries concerning embryonic stem cells and DNA recombination in mammals, visited Cardiff University’s stand next to the Science and Technology Pavilion, where interactive exhibitions allow youngsters (and the young of heart) to get hands-on and experiment with all kinds of science up close.

Speaking about his increasing alarm at the continued lack of engagement in science, Sir Martin said: "As we move into the exam results season, it’s almost inevitable that debate will begin again around the number of students failing to opt for science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

Rhodri Morgan finds out about the University's pavillion

Rhodri Morgan finds out about the University’s pavilion from (r-l) Vice Chancellor, Dr David Grant; Brian Richardson, Director of Public Relations and Communications; Anita Shaw, Techniquest, and Les Rees, Cardiff University’s Director of Regional Liaison.

"And every year the reasons cited seem to be the same –lack of suitably qualified teachers, too basic teaching environments amid funding issues, and health and safety concerns, perceptions that these subjects are hard and boring, and the current curriculum design which can put pupils off, particularly girls.

"In my opinion one of the big difficulties is how we sell science to the public and particularly to the younger generation. It is so often presented as of mere technological or economic importance but in reality it is the way that we can understand the world in which we live. We are not technicians; we are explorers and visionaries. We should not be saying to students ‘study science to get a useful job’ rather ‘study science to make sense of the world about you.’" Rhodri Morgan and Dr Arwyn Tomos Jones

Wales’ First Minister Rhodri Morgan officially opened the Science and Technology Pavilion before visiting Cardiff’s pavilion. Meeting with staff and students from across the University including the Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant, he was given demonstrations on how to harness the potential of stem cells by Dr Arwyn Tomos Jones from the Welsh School of Pharmacy, the speaker at this year’s main science lecture at the National Eisteddfod (pictured).

Cardiff University’s pavilion includes specially commissioned interactive ‘Hubs’, developed with its strategic partner Techniquest and inspired by world-leading research across the University. They offer exciting insights to engage people of all ages into diverse topics ranging from the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences’ research into global warming to the School of Chemistry’s work on Penrose Tiles. A third ‘Hub’, created with the School of Engineering and sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will feature exhibits around medical imaging.

Also taking place at the University’s stand are demonstrations, displays, talks, book launches and presentations from staff and students across the University.