Doors Open Day at King's Buildings
Explore the main science and engineering campus of The University of Edinburgh through our updated virtual tour.
Discover the history and people behind our diverse collection of buildings; explore what happens in our research spaces; learn about our staff and students who undertake new investigations into how the world (and universe) around us works; and access a variety of interactive activities for the whole family.
Additionally, as part of our KB101 celebrations, our virtual tour includes a sneak preview of an upcoming aerial photograph exhibition that highlights how The King’s Buildings has developed over the past 100 years.
Alternatively, you can access some of the content through the links in the sections below.
To help us improve the tour for future visitors, it would be fantastic to find out what you think. There are three different ways to provide your opinions:
- Respond to our short online survey
- Write on our online comment board
- Tweet us @ScienceUoE or use the hashtag #DODatKB
Enjoy exploring our campus and we look forward to finding out what you think!
The annual Doors Open Day programme in Edinburgh is led by the Cockburn Association. To see what else is taking place, visit the overall programme page on their website.
Snapshots of GeoScience Field-trips
A key part of GeoSciences is going out into the world and taking measurements to better understand the changes that are happening to our planet. You can take a glimpse into our students' learning these skills through the following short videos.
The Insider’s Guide to Geology
Alex shares her experiences as an undergraduate student – from making friends through to exploring fossils and using physics – through her summary blog-post.
Specialised Research Equipment
We host a number of GeoScience facilities that enable us to make new discoveries either on our own or in collaboration with partners across the world.
Studying Chemistry at Edinburgh
In this brief video – originally aimed at potential students – you can go behind-the-scenes and see some of the unique research spaces that the Joseph Black Building has to offer.
A student's perspective of Chemistry at Edinburgh
Recorded for potential students earlier this year, join Jessica giving her views on studying Chemistry and the experiences that are possible within and beyond the University of Edinburgh.
Wonder what the science behind the chocolate, ice cream or beer is? Join Alex in the YouTube series "Yummy Physics", as he investigates why his favourite food has suddenly been deconstructed! On the way, find out about the fascinating physics taking place in your innocent-looking treats. Featuring real-life scientists, delicious experiments and really cool science.
How can Physics be helpful in biology? Watch the video below to see how some of our physicists work on biological problems to try and find out how “cities” of micro-organisms (called biofilms) behave and can affect the health of people and the hygiene of objects around us.
Tartan Tardigrade podcasts
The Tartan Tardigrade is a podcast where scientists from the UK Centre for Astrobiology talk to guests from around the world about their research in astrobiology, their careers, and the prospects for life in the universe.
Life in the Universe – Pandemic series
Life in the Universe is a set of short talks recorded by Professor Charles Cockell for those isolated during the coronavirus pandemic. The series explores some of the interesting questions about life in the Universe. How did life originate? Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? Are viruses alive? and other topics.
Peter Higgs Interview
Peter Higgs is a retired University of Edinburgh Professor who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on particle physics and his theoretical discovery of what is now known as the “Higgs boson”. Discover more about his story through this interview, recorded at the Orkney Science Festival.
Cells are Us
DNA exists in every cell of our body and carries the unique recipe that makes up each living thing. Our researchers are exploring how DNA is packaged safely inside cells, and how cells ‘read’ the DNA instructions to make the proteins that allow us to grow and function. Then we can better work out how to engineer them!
Have a look at how we study cells using advanced microscopes through a video clip showing two cells dividing (the DNA is in red), and look at the separation of DNA when cells divide.
Robots at Work: engineering and biology
At The King’s Buildings, we have a Genome Foundry, one of the largest and most automated DNA assembly factories in the world. Robots work around the clock to build pieces of DNA that can be used to turn cells into mini factories, for example to make a vaccine (perhaps for Covid-19!). Prof Susan Rosser is a cell engineer and director of the Foundry who tells us more about the exciting projects currently going on.
Some of our research explores how living things and systems change their behaviour in the face of changes in their environment. Here, you can discover more about how Scotland’s pine forests are being threatened by an imported fungus and how microscopic plants in the oceans control global temperatures.
Malaria and Sleeping Sickness Research
Malaria and a disease called sleeping sickness occur when certain insects (e.g. mosquitoes) carrying a parasite in their own bodies bite humans and pass the parasite on. The parasites look like tiny worms under a microscope. Millions of people catch these diseases every year and many die. The parasites find clever ways to hide in the body away from medicines designed to kill them. However, Professor Francisca Mutapi and Professor Sarah Reece have been investigating how drugs can stop them in their tracks.
Trypanosomes (the parasites that cause sleeping sickness, see above) swim with a corkscrew-like motion in the host organisms’ bloodstream. To record short videos of them, we immobilise them in a special gel. Look at the video clips below to see them swimming.
In this experiment, we have labelled a protein we are interested in with a green fluorescent marker, to see how the protein is distributed. The videos show that the protein is distributed in different ways in two different Trypanosome forms.
Some diseases happen when human cells start to die. This can be devastating especially if these cells are in the brain. Parkinson’s Disease happens when brain cells that make a chemical called dopamine, die. This can affect smell, walking and swallowing food. We don’t know yet why these cells die, but Dr Tilo Kunath has been exploring ways in which we might be able to replace those missing cells using stem cells.
Catching Sea (or Water) Beasties!
Make your own net - using some old items that are hopefully around the house - and visit the shores, rivers, and lakes of Scotland to see the tiny creatures that are living in waters around the country. (A digital microscope with x60-120 magnification – like this one from Carson – can help to see the fine detail.) The identification chart and background on plankton, both linked below, could be helpful for your searches!
The Chemistry Walking Tour
Take a trip across the city centre to the sites where some of the most incredible chemistry discoveries were made through this self-guided walking tour.
Mathematics and the World of Work
How do we program video games? How can we predict and control traffic? How are insurance premiums calculated? Join our Mathematicians to discover the answers! Five Maths graduates talk about their jobs and challenge us with a puzzle of the day: start with this first puzzle.
Find the solution to the puzzle, and further activities, at the Maths Week at Work pages.
Have Fun with Maths: play the “join and cut” game
Consider yourself a problem-solver? Then get your brain juices flowing as you play these challenging mathematics strategy games. Building on what you learn from the first games, you’ll then have to work out how to make transport networks (like flights and trains) more efficient.
Create your alien passport
Aliens! What do they look like? Where might they live? During this activity you will answer these questions to create aliens’ passports. Like a real astrobiologist, you will need to take into account the climate, geography and other important living conditions of aliens. You will discover the effects of the environment on life!
Combining Science and Art
Researchers in the School of Chemistry have been working with artists to develop innovative works founded in chemistry topics. Much of this work is still in progress, but some initial results can be found below.
Footballs in Space focuses on Fullerenes, carbon-based molecules of increasing interest to researchers in chemistry and technology, while Atomic Love Poem is a piece of music inspired by a love of all things chemical!
Cells are Us
DNA exists in every cell of our body and carries the unique recipe that makes up each living thing. Discover more through our instructions to make your own edible biscuit cells, and younger visitors may enjoy our unique colouring book!
Sounds Like DNA
DNA is very small but we have a clever way to make music from it. PhD student Eddie Martin has developed a way to use sound to show scientific data (compared to, say, a graph).
Robots at Work: engineering and biology
Do you have some Lego at home? Then you can try some biology-related engineering yourself and emulate our Genome Foundry with this hands-on activity!
Linked to our plant-biology research, explore how light affects plants in our science-art activity.
After exploring the research (see the previous section), if you have modelling clay or plasticine, try making some parasites yourself in these family activities.
Activity 1: Make a Malaria Parasite (PDF)
Activity 2: Make a Trypanosome Parasite (PDF)
SCI-FUN Do-It-Yourself Activities
The team behind the SCI-FUN Roadshow have developed some stay-at-home approaches to a small number of their interactive exhibits. Explore how your visual system works, test your reactions, and try the challenging Tangrams puzzle!
The Ashworth Laboratories
The building constructed for the Zoology Department owes much to Professor James Hartley Ashworth who worked to raise funds for its construction and had a major part in specifying its design.
The building was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and John F Matthew and constructed between 1927 and 1928. It was formally opened by HRH Prince George and Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald in May 1929.
The Grant Institute
The Grant Institute was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and John F Matthew and formally opened in 1932 by Rt. Hon. J Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister. The southern extension was formally opened on 20th May 1992 by the then Chancellor of the University, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.
It is named after Sir Alexander Grant (1864 - 1937), a Scottish businessman, biscuit manufacturer and philanthropist who donated £50,000 to The University of Edinburgh for the foundation of the King’s Buildings campus. (He also created the McVitie’s digestive biscuit.)
The Joseph Black Building
This was the first building on the King’s Building site, built to accommodate the Department of Chemistry (now the School of Chemistry).
The plans were drawn by architect A.F.Balfour Paul. Work on the site began in 1919 and a foundation stone was formally laid by King George V on 6th July 1920. The original building was finished by architects Lorimer & Matthew and formally opened by the Prince of Wales in December 1924. The total cost, including fittings, was £182,000.
Joseph Black (1728 - 1799) was a Scottish physicist and chemist, known for his discoveries of magnesium, latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide.
FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility
The FloWave test facility comprises a circular 25-metre pool, able to simulate combinations of waves and currents at up to one-tenth scale for normal, challenging and extreme conditions of coastlines anywhere around the UK and Europe.
The building was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and The University of Edinburgh. It officially opened in 2014 and became a fully integrated part of the University in August 2017.
Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library
Completed in 2012, Austin-Smith:Lord was appointed as Lead Consultants for the Noreen & Kenneth Murray Library on the site of the demolished Robertson Library Building. The Library is a studying and social hub on the campus; a landmark building providing a dynamic array of teaching and learning environments beside the Campus Green.
This modern building is named in honour of Noreen and Kenneth Murray to recognise their long, successful research careers, as well as their philanthropy.
James Clerk Maxwell Building
The first part to be constructed was for the Edinburgh Regional Computing Service and the rest of the accommodation housed initially the Departments of Computer Science, Geophysics, Mathematics, Meteorology, Physics, and Statistics, together with the Agricultural Research Council’s Unit of Statistics. It is now home mainly to the School of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Mathematics.
Designed by Hardy Glover of Basil Spence, Glover and Ferguson, construction began in the early 1960s.
James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) studied at the University of Edinburgh and later graduated from Cambridge. He held Chairs in Aberdeen and London, but retired to concentrate on his research at home in Edinburgh. His most significant work was the theory of electromagnetic radiation, published in 1873.
Michael Swann Building
Designed by Thomas Henney Architects, construction of this building began in 1994 with funding contributions from Wellcome, the Wolfson Foundations, and the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh. It formally opened in 1996 and is named after Michael Swann, Principal of the University (1965-73), who played a vital role in the growth of Biological Sciences within the University.
This construction, finished in 2009, is named after Conrad Hal Waddington, and houses SynthSys: a collective which combines synthetic biology and computer science within pioneering research addressing issues in diverse areas, such as medicine, agriculture and biotechnology.
This building was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and John F Matthew with building starting in 1929. Like the Grant Institute, it was formally opened on 28th January 1932 by Rt. Hon. J Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister.
These engineering laboratories were built through a bequest of the late Mr James Sanderson of Galashiels, who was a director of one of the oldest firms in the Scottish tweed trade (Messrs R and A Sanderson & Co.).
For information about our Doors Open Day events organised outwith the King's Building campus, please check out the links below.
Coleagues from our School of Physics & Astronomy are also involved in the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Virtual Doors Open Days.