Stencils, spray paint and school students

 9 March 2020  

Forget 9 green bottle hanging from the wall. What about 300 worms spray-painted on the wall?

On 2, 3 and 6 March, we headed out to the playing fields of our neighbouring school to fabricate the hoarding design that had been co-created with students from the school.

The MRC LMS is at the early stages of getting a new home as we are building a new building to house all of our medical research. Currently, however, that space is a building site surrounded by 300 metres of hoarding, some of which overlooks our neighbouring school, Ark Burlington Danes Academy.

Last summer, we held two workshops with some of the school students and some of our researchers to come up with a design for the side of the hoarding facing the school. We wanted a design that reflected some of the research that would be happening in the building that will be slowly creeping higher over the next few years, but also something that reflected the students too.

As a result of these workshops, our amazing artist Julia Vogl came up with our striking data visualisation project called ‘Wall of Variables’. The design consisted of a C. elegans worm which many of our researchers use in their work and also a DNA helix aspect to it to reflect our Institute’s work in genetics and epigenetics in medical research. There were also four multiple choice questions that the students and LMS researchers wanted to know how their peers would answer. Those questions were:

  • Are you a macro or micro thinker?
  • What is key to your future health?
  • What is science to you?
  • What is your go-to snack?

Each student answered the four questions that we co-created, and the answers to these questions determined where on the hoarding they painted, what colours they used and also what patterns. The contribution each student made was also set at their height, so knowing the key anyone could come along and decode the information that has been spray-painted on the hoarding. Over the course of three days, we managed to spray paint around 300 worms along the length of the hoarding, creating this magnificent masterpiece purely from data.