At the end of May, we announced the winners of our Science Communication Competition. This month the 3rd prize written piece ‘Cancer: a disease of bad luck, or bad lifestyle?’ by Jessica Hardy, who is studying for a DPhil in Pathology at the University of Oxford, was published in the December issue of The Biochemist.
To coincide with the publication of this piece, we asked Johanna Laibe, who is studying for a Masters by Research in structural bioinformatics at Kingston University and is the 3rd prize winner of the video competition, about the inspiration behind her video ‘In between the (beta)-sheets’.
“My research project investigates the formation of inter-protein beta sheets in the context of protein aggregation. Being passionate about the topic, I wanted to take advantage of this competition to communicate about it with the general public. I first wished to submit a piece of writing, but I quickly realised that I was telling a story I could easily turn into an animation that would make my message more accessible.
Proteins are the second most abundant component of the human body and their structure is important to comprehend their function. In my video, I present proteins as pearl necklaces that can adopt different 3-dimensional structures. I focused my presentation on the beta-sheet secondary structure because it’s involved in protein aggregations that can lead to major human diseases such as Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes. I thought comparing beta-sheets to hippies would be a nice way to make an impact and facilitate understanding of their promiscuous behaviour.
In order to test the efficiency of the hippy analogy, I asked some of my relatives that don’t have a scientific background to watch my presentation. For the most part, the video was clear and understandable and they even said it helped them gain some insight about what my research was about. They said comparing beta-sheets with hippies and interactions with relationships was a good idea because it made those difficult concepts a lot more accessible.”