Science Festival interview with Professor Mary Bownes
Professor Mary Bownes, Vice Principal for Community Development, and Professor Emerita of Developmental Biology, has overseen the University's contribution to the various Festivals taking place in the city for several years.
She reflects here on some of her experiences from the 2015 Edinburgh International Science Festival.
What do you think the University gets out of participating in the Science Festival?
We can play a huge role in a wonderful festival that has something for everyone and is an important event in the city calendar.
It's a chance for the University, as a major partner, to showcase its research and for our staff and students to engage with external audiences.
It is great experience for those taking part to share the wonders of science with audiences and be inspired by meeting visitors.
Have any events especially caught your eye at this year’s festival?
There was something for everyone at the Summerhall events. I especially enjoyed the exhibition How The Light Gets In, which showcased lots of different artists and scientists.
It is always fun as a scientist to see the tools of the trade made into artworks. The exhibits gave visitors the chance to learn about the science behind the stunning images, sculptures and objects.
The University's family events at the National Museum of Scotland were also impressive. Enthusiastic staff and students interacted with families about all kinds of scientific and medical research and discoveries.
All the workshops were full and there were some real gems among them. I especially enjoyed looking at star constellations and the Milky Way through virtual reality goggles.
How does taking part in the science festival inspire you?
I was inspired by a talk on dinosaurs given by Dr Steve Brusatte. It was fascinating to hear about recently discovered fossils of dinosaurs with feathers and wings, from creatures that slowly evolved into birds. With all that is going on in the dinosaur world, who wouldn’t want to be a fossil hunter?
I especially like that something we thought was well understood can require a complete rethink. This is insightful and inspiring, even for a seasoned scientist.
What do staff and students get out of taking part?
At our events for families taking place in the National Museum of Scotland, it was such a delight for our demonstrating staff and students to see young children busy looking down microscopes, measuring globes, building models or trying out equipment in the drop-in areas.
It was great to hear from students and staff on how they get a great deal out of the interactions with families and that it inspires them in their research.
The university's activities were complemented by others from the Museum, tailored to slightly different age groups. All involved seemed very absorbed on the tasks in hand. It also builds on the excellent partnership we have with the Museum.
What do visitors get out of taking part?
They can learn something new, no matter their age or experience, and I hope they will be inspired by the enthusiasm of our scientists.
They can hear first-hand about the inspiring and incredible discoveries made by our researchers and share experiences that are great for children and adults alike.