Over 500 scientists stepped out of the lab and into the pub to talk about their research during the Pint of Science festival this week. The global festival aims to engage the public in fun, accessible and relevant science.
“It’s great to get members of the public interested our work,” said Lucien West, member of the Neuroplasticity and Disease research group at the MRC’s Clinical Sciences Centre in West London, who helped to organise three of the talks. “We had 40 tickets a night and we sold out really quickly. Next year maybe it should be 80, or even 100 tickets!”
On Wednesday, West chaired a talk entitled ‘Will I have a heart attack?’, which took place in a boat-turned-pub on the River Thames. Standing in front of a packed crowd, he used a quick show of hands to establish how many people in the audience were not scientists. Over two thirds put their hands in the air.
The talk itself was by Michael Emerson of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London. Emerson discussed his research on the effect of diesel pollution, Viagra and HIV medication on our risk of heart disease.
Emerson also explained why he uses animals in his research. By performing experiments on mice, Emerson explores how diesel particles may build up in our lungs. He has worked with the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research to develop a method that improves both living conditions for the mice, and the results of the experiments.
Next up was Erica Smyth, who works alongside Emerson, and who entertained the crowd with a tale of what scientists wear while they work. Two audience members stepped up to the stage to compete in a race to dress like researchers. The pair scrabbled around in an orange sack to find and pull on scrubs, hairnets, shoe covers and lab coats.
The festival began at Imperial College London. “It started as a really small thing,” says West. “This year, the public response has been overwhelming.”
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