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NI Science Festival

Showing and Sharing our Research at the NI Science Festival

“Celebrating the Science of You, the Universe and Everything in between”, the 2019 Northern Ireland Science Festival ran between 14 - 24 Feb 2019.

In its fifth year, the Festival offered over 180 events across 50+ venues, showcasing some of the best scientists from NI and beyond to discuss their work and their cutting-edge research through a stimulating range of events, workshops, talks and interactive activities for young people, parents and schools.

This year, the Faculty of Medicine, Health & Life Sciences enjoyed a prolific presence in the Festival programme, with 8 different events ranging from free public lectures through to open days and an interactive hands-on experience and involved staff at all levels in the development and delivery of these events, which were hugely well received by the public and family audiences. 

Chris McCreery, the Director of the Science Festival praised Faculty participation, saying, “The events organised by the Faculty of Medicine, Health & Life Sciences at the NI Science Festival were simply exceptional and were some of the best I have had the pleasure to witness in my years working in science communication. The events were pitched well and proved to be some of the most popular at the Festival with most events booked out in advance.  Most importantly, each event was executed to the highest standards, with each event containing the perfect blend of educational, immersive, entertaining and inspiring content.  This was backed up with the feedback from our audience, with Faculty events receiving some of the highest praise of any events at the Festival.  We really look forward to working with the Faculty team on future events to promote the world class research taking place within the Faculty”.

Belfast on the Brink

For one day only, Queen’s Medical Biology Centre acted as Belfast’s Centre for Disease Control where visitors were invited to participate in the journey of Discovery to Recovery; identifying the contagion, triaging and treating the infected victims, developing a cure and designing a public health campaign to prevent further spread of the imaginary airborne HULC (Human Unidentified Luminous Contagion) virus.

This Faculty-themed event, the first of its’ kind, enjoyed representation across all Schools and Centres in the organisation and hosting of the event and student volunteers from Nursing and Biological Sciences played memorable roles as both Nurses and afflicted patients, roaming the MBC in various states of infection.  The event was a huge success with audience members particularly enjoying the ‘immersive science’ aspect.  There is a rumour that HULC will return next year for a sequel….


Children wearing face masks

Rosalind Franklin, Barack Obama and the Irish Twists in DNA

Rosalind Franklin, Barack Obama and the Irish Twists in the DNA Tale

In this public lecture, Professor Mark Lawler shone a spotlight on a brilliant, dedicated scientist who was key to discovering the mystery of life, yet did not receive the honour that she deserved.  Mark looked back at Rosalind Franklin’s career, her lack of formal recognition for the most outstanding discovery of the 20th century and her notable omission from the award of a Nobel Prize. In his own inimitable fashion, Mark captured the audience by contextualising the story in today’s era of #MeToo, gender pay gaps, and gender inequity in science and medicine and ended by highlighting some significant Irish contributions to the discovery of the "secret of life".

Mark Lawler addressing audience at Ni Science Festival

Keeping the Person in Personalised Medicine

Professor Mark Lawler chaired this expert panel discussion, bringing together scientists, patients, industry and healthcare professionals to share their expertise and help promote a personalised approach to the use of precision Cancer medicine.  This public audience were kept enthralled by the concept of ‘Personalised Medicine’ which is a move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the treatment and care of patients with a particular condition, to one which uses new approaches to better manage patients’ health and targets therapies to achieve the best outcomes in the management of a patient’s disease or predisposition to disease.

Talk with audience at Ni Science Festival

Galapagos with Liz Bonnin: Evolution and Global Change

Dr Jonathan Houghton and Professor Chris Allen, from the School of Biological Sciences welcomed and accompanied Liz Bonnin as she presented her experiences of visiting the Galapagos Islands while developing a series on their natural history for BBC television.

Ni Science Festival

Know Your Enemy: Disease-Focussed Research at Queen’s University

Staff from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine welcomed the public to their annual Open Day.  Now in its’ 4th year, the event explored how the human body works and how Queen’s researchers are leading the fight against disease.  With over 300 attendees, listening to talks, carrying out interactive experiments and talking to researchers, it may well have been the biggest Open Day to date!

“The most satisfying time I have ever had! I loved it!”

“I learned a lot today and had lots of fun. I will come next year”

Know your enemy open day

Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology Public Open Day

Members of the public enjoyed a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of CCRCB research laboratories whilst meeting researchers, local charities and funding bodies.  Members of the public enjoyed talks from leading cancer researchers, tours of research labs and lots of interactive activities including activities especially for children which were particularly successful.

Leading researchers presented an overview of the Centre and explained their work on the causes, early diagnosis and prevention of cancer.

Both morning and afternoon sessions were fully booked and feedback was excellent.

Children taking part in activities at Ni Science Festival

What’s the Big Deal with Big Data?

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, people are worried about big data. But digital technology and its application to “big data” has the capacity to transform the future of healthcare. So how do we use the power of big data while preserving the rights of the individual citizen? In this public forum, representatives from academia, the NHS, Government, industry, charities and patient groups explained how to restore public trust so that the knowledge gained through this data can bring benefits to patients and society. The Forum also highlighted the challenges and barriers that must be overcome before the transformative potential of using health data can be fully realised.

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NI Science Festival Roadshows

Staff and student volunteers from the Centre for Public Health and the School of Dentistry, travelled over four days with the NISF Regional Roadshow to Newry, Enniskillen, Dungannon and Ballymena with the ever popular one-stop-shop ‘Body MOT’.  Members of the public rolled up to check their weight, height, grip strength and blood pressure and some visitors even brought their ‘Body MOT’ booklet from 2018 for an update.  This year we also had a guest appearance from ‘Trevor’, the School of Dentistry mannequin, whose mouth will never be the same again after hundreds of children used mirrors and moulds to learn about dental hygiene and have some fun.  The Roadshows varied programme included shows and interactive stands from ‘A Celestial Journey’, to Lego Workshops to the Marble Arch Caves. 

Children enjoying the road show at the NI Science Festival

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