Scientific Outreach Grants awardees announced

We are pleased to announce the awardees of the next round of Biochemical Society Scientific Outreach Grants. These grants support innovative and engaging events or activities for school children, young scientists or the general public.

Students and teacher doing outreach

Wonder eyes: Seek and you shall find (Priyanka Joshi, University of Cambridge)

Fifty students at an eVidyaloka study centre in a village in Jharkhand, India will undertake practical activities, brainstorm and arrive at possible solutions to challenges they face in their daily lives (eg. disease, clean water, good sanitation habits). The students will be given foldoscopes, small foldable microscopes, and will examine field samples for microbial cultures. They can then analyse the data using Raspberry Pi computers. Scientists from the nearest research institute will deliver an inspiration talk to the students, encouraging them to actively pursue their studies in science.

Everything about me (Dr Steve Rossington, University of Salford)

‘Everything about me’ will showcase the science of the human body by highlighting through a series of spectacular chemistry demonstrations the biological and chemical importance of the elements constituting the human body. There will be over 15 events held at The University of Salford and/or selected UK based secondary schools commencing.

From Bugs to Drugs (Dr David Allison, University of Manchester)

This is a family orientated Community Open Day, where the various key stages associated with drug development will be demonstrated and put into context.  Set against a public health theme, visitors will be invited to journey through the different stages of the drug development process to find a cure for a new and highly infectious (and of course fictitious!) microorganism that turns human beings into zombies if infected.

Parasite Biolab (Dr Johnathan Dalzell, Queens University Belfast)

The Parasite Biolab Kit will contain everything needed to study the behaviour and parasitism of the insect parasitic nematode Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. The kit will be offered to selected Schools primarily in the Shankill Road area of Belfast, and further afield as resources permit.  This will be in conjunction with an initial training event for invited Key Stage 2 teachers.  The kit will contain everything required to conduct the experiments, including parasite infected insect larvae (which pose no biosafety concerns) and instructions on how to collect and work with the parasites.

Illustrating drug target interactions using molecular models (Dr Steve Rossington, University of Salford)

This activity will use molecular modelling (through computing and actual model making) to introduce the idea that certain drugs fit into specific shapes of a host protein (or enzyme). With this in mind,  a purpose built protein molecule has been constructed which will allow modelled traditional drugs (such as aspirin) to fit inside, highlighting the fact that only certain drugs bind to specific parts of a protein.

ReelLIFE SCIENCE Video Screening and Awards Ceremony (Dr Enda O’Connell, NUI Galway)

ReelLIFE SCIENCE is Ireland’s first science video competition for primary, secondary and special schools.  It encourages students to engage with Science in a novel, hands-on way, by making a three minute video explaining one of the competition topics for a general audience.  This year’s topics include ‘The Food we Eat’ and ‘The Power of Science’ for primary schools, and ‘Exploring the Cell’ and ‘Medicines’ for secondary schools.  The competition also seeks to inform and educate the general public via the content of the videos.

“Brain  EXPLORERS” workshop (Amira Mahdi, NUI Galway)

“Brain EXPLORERS” is an interactive workshop which introduces the general public to the basics of brain biology from an anatomical to a molecular level, using hands-on and interactive activities. Visitors can do puzzles, play games and use microscopes to find out more about this fascinating area of biology.

The Bacterial Commonwealth Games: Resistance is Futile! (Carla Brown, University of Glasgow)

The Glasgow Commonwealth games which are being held summer 2014 will provide a great platform to introduce to pupils the concept of bacterial fitness and its importance in the human host. The bacterial commonwealth games is an interactive workshop designed to show participants that like athletes, bacteria compete against each other to survive in the environment and in the human body. The workshop is designed in the style of a mini sports event and includes interactive sports games including the gymnastics, swimming and boxing. For each of the games there will be interactive videos. In these games participants will be able to identify the properties of winning bacteria and will use this knowledge to then compete against other during an educational card game.

Science Week: Detective Scientists (Claire Price, Swansea University)

This event will focus on analysis and encouraging the students to question everything, using their skills to determine what something might be. By observing known samples of salt, sugar and baking soda in various mediums, with and without a microscope, they can then try and identify a mystery substance. They will also have a go at chromatography, using felt tip pens. The students will learn why scientists use these techniques in the laboratory and create their own lab book as part of the workshop.

The Biochemistry of the Cupcake (Dr Jill Williams, the Bay Tree Community Cafe Project)

This event will consider the biochemical nature of cupcake ingredients and the changes which result in the transformation of a wet, viscous mix of flour, butter, eggs and sugar in uncooked cake batter to a light and delicate but strong and stable sponge. This will incorporate topics such as monomers and polymers, the reaction between acids and alkalis, the activity of gases upon the application of heat, protein denaturation and the difference between mixtures and compounds.  How cupcakes are digested, absorbed and utilised by the body will also be discussed. Each topic will be investigated using a variety of experiments, posters, molecular models, anatomical models, quizzes, takeaway literature and workbooks in which participants can record the information they have learned.

Breathing new life in biochemistry (Mrs Denise Taj, University of Bradford)

This activity involves training three scientists from industry, three academics and three students in preparation for a public engagement event at the British Science Festival. They then team up with leading UK scientists to prepare an exciting event as part of the British Science Festival and to learn more about biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology by taking part in family friendly, hands on activities.

Cells: The LEGO of Life (Dr Caroline Scott, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine)

‘The concept of ‘Cells: the LEGO of Life’ would be to use child friendly materials to study different aspects of cells found within our bodies.  The focus will be on blood cells. A series of afternoon sessions will be run for 8-11 year olds, using Lego to illustrate the exchange of genetic material within cells, soft toy blood cells and edible cells made of biscuits.

Babraham Institute Schools’ Day 2015 (Michael Hinton, Babraham Institute)

The Babraham Institute’s annual Schools’ Day in March has been the Institute’s flagship event for 16 years and aims to enthuse young people about bioscience and inspire them to pursue scientific careers. Around 120 GCSE and sixth form students from 18 different local schools and sixth form colleges spend the day in Institute laboratories on two different projects, experiencing bioscience research alongside ‘real scientists’.

The next round of Scientific Outreach Grants opens in April 2015.

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