College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Researchers at Edinburgh International Science Festival

Thousands of children and parents visited our researchers over 5 days at the 2016 festival.

The Edinburgh International Science Festival is the UK’s largest Science Festival and takes place every year during the Easter school holidays. The Festival offers an exciting and varied programme of events in venues across the city offering the chance to explore science, technology, engineering and design in fun and interactive ways.

Family events

Researcher explains image to visitors at Edinburgh International Science Festival

Along with fellow researchers from the College of Science and Engineering, our researchers participated in a programme of drop-in events, workshop and shows over a fifteen day period at the National Museum of Scotland.

The programme was free and had been specifically designed to engage with families, inviting them to get hands-on with activities such as taking their own blood pressure, exploring the lungs and even becoming a brain scientist.  Below is a selection of some of the activities that were on offer from the College.

One of the things that visitors tell us every year is that they love being able to speak to scientists.  Taking part in activities alongside students and staff who work in the relevant area of science provides a valuable level of engagement.

Dr Janet PatersonSchool of Biological Sciences

Meet your social brain

Children speak to researcher at Edinburgh International Science Festival

The Nicodemus research group from the Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine (IGMM) invited visitors to ‘meet your social brain’ via a free drop-in session. The aim of the researchers was to explain to visitors the social functions of our brain, emotional intelligence and the relation between social skills and mental health.

Visitors to the stand learnt about the social brain through a variety of activities including making an anatomical brain hat and participating in live neruoeconomic game play which demonstrated the benefits of cultivating trust and cooperation in relationships.

Many visitors to the stand took the opportunity to chat to the researchers about their current work including neuroimaging, genomics and their relation to mental health. The group estimate that welcomed almost 3000 visitors to their stand over the 5 days, averaging almost 100 people per hour.

Amazing Immunology

Participants in the Amazing Immunology workshop experience the 'rash decisions' ball pool

Representatives from the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research ran a sell-out workshop for an audience comprising mainly 6 to 11 year old children. During the interactive workshop attendees were invited to discover the secrets of their own immune systems and learn more about allergies, infections and vaccinations.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed helping ‘Denny and the T-team’ find and solve 3D puzzles, competing in the ‘Rash Decisions’ ball pool challenge and completing their own ‘Immunological Sticker Story’.  Feedback from the workshop was very positive and was welcomed by the 16 volunteers who ran the activities over the course of the week.

The Edinburgh International Science Festival is a great opportunity for University researchers to enthuse members of the public about science and to engage around the specific topics that we study. It also represents a particularly good chance to increase science capital for children.

Donald DavidsonMRC Senior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer

Dolly, DNA and You

Participants at the Dolly, DNA and Me workshop

In the year that we celebrate 20 years of Dolly the Sheep, researchers from The Roslin Institute invited Science Festival visitors to discover what makes Dolly so special in a 1 hour workshop aimed at children aged 9 to 14 years old. Through fun activities and experiments the audience learnt how Dolly’s birth has helped to improve both human and animal health.  Children declared that 'Dolly is cool' whilst many adults were shocked that twenty years had passed since the birth of Dolly.

Our workshop “DNA, Dolly and You” was specially designed for the family activities at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, to celebrate 20 years since the birth of Dolly the Sheep. Families signed up for the workshop in droves and got hands-on with fun activities all about inheritance and DNA, from testing their taste buds and performing a (mock) blood typing test to making colourful pipe-cleaner chromosomes.

Nicola StockPublic Engagement Officer, The Roslin Institute, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Dolly was also the topic of a panel discussion led by Professor Sir Ian Wilmut who led the research project that created the world famous sheep.  The ‘Dolly and Me’ event took place at the National Museum of Scotland and included a Q&A session with Ian and expert panellists.  It was the first in a series of 2016 celebrations to mark the life and legacy of the Dolly the Sheep.

Related links

Find out more about the work of the Nicodemus Research Group

Visit the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research website

View the full schedule of Dolly@20 events in 2016