Celebrating Science Week
- Post by: CIPPS
- 28 August 2022
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The great spectacle that was National Science Week is officially over. We have packed away our banners and games and are now left only with the fun memories from our awesome events! It was a very busy period for CIPPS, with many Centre members participating in multiple events spanning across three different nodes.
Our communications and engagement portfolio were very grateful to have been awarded a $5,000 grant from Inspiring NSW to assist with our events. We also had the opportunity to partner with Science at the Local, an engagement initiative bringing science to the remote Blue Mountains area just outside of Sydney. With this support, CIPPS hosted two special events, one in Springwood, and one in the heart of Sydney city at the Powerhouse Museum.
The theme of our NSW events was: Australian Animals; Saving Us and Saving them. Hosted by our communications and engagement officer Dr Nisha Duggan, the events featured key presentations from CIPPS researchers Dr Carolyn Hogg and Prof Richard Payne from The University of Sydney. Carolyn did a wonderful job explaining genomic research, and how her team has been applying it to save threatened species in Australia. Rich then described how Australian animals produce a wide variety of peptides and that some of these could be repurposed for human medicine. We were so pleased to host about 90 people at the Springwood event, and about 70 at the Powerhouse.
Left: Carolyn Presenting at The Powerhouse Museum. Right top: Rich presenting at The Powerhouse Museum. Right middle: Carolyn, Rich and Nisha with Hamish (left) and Kev (right) from Science at the Local, photo by Eddy Summers. Right bottom: Carolyn presenting at Springwood sports club for Science at the Local, photo by Eddy Summers.
Our Powerhouse event also featured interactive activities to teach our guests about different areas of CIPPS research. Belinda and Issie from the Payne group led peptide jewellery making, where guests learnt that peptides are made up amino acids which have a one letter code. Guests made bracelets, necklaces, and sunglasses straps with sequences from some famous peptides! Oxytocin bracelet anybody?
Issie and Belinda supervising peptide bracelet making at our Powerhouse event.
Anthony and Pat from the Payne group helped guests play spider venom bingo. Each bingo ball represented a different component of funnel-web spider venom, with the winning ball representing the the drug-candidate Hi1a. Payne group members Bryton and Sophia supervised “spin-the-tick-wheel”, where each panel of the wheel represented a component of tick saliva. Guests span the wheel hoping to land on the safe anticoagulant! These two activities highlighted to our guests that animal venom or saliva is composed of many different molecules and that sometimes certain molecules can be applied to human medicine.
Interactive activities played at our Powerhouse event. Left: Anthony leading Spider Venom Bingo. Right: Sophia and Bryton playing “spin-the-tick-wheel”
Elle and Kimberley from the Belov group presented beautiful posters teaching guests about genes, peptides and proteins. They also described how the Belov team has been working to save Tasmanian devils and koalas through a combination of genetic research and translocation. The atmosphere during these activities was fun and laid back with many members of the public engaging with the science behind the games and chatting easily with our CIPPS members.
Dr Elle McLennan describes how the Belov team is working to save Koalas.
Our communications team was also pleased to receive a grant for $1300 from Inspiring the ACT to run an event in Canberra. The event was called “Electricky! Using electricity for more than turning on a switch”. The night was hosted by Dr Lara Malins from our ACT node with help from Junming He, Sarah Andrew, Andrew White and a range of other ACT node members. The aim of the event was to teach guests about how electrons move to make electric currents and then explain that the movement of electrons can also cause the formation of new bonds! Guests made electric currents using lemons, potatoes, and apples and then learnt about Lara’s research on using electrochemistry to modify peptides. This event was a great success, attracting nearly 50 guests of many different ages and backgrounds!
Left: Our ANU volunteers setting up for the event. Right: Andrew and Lara demonstrating electrochemistry. Photos by Sarah Andrew.
In Brisbane, a team of CIPPS researchers from the King and Capon groups facilitated an engagement activity at Ironside Primary School for 170 Grade 6 students. Dr Natalia Saez and Daniela Rojas Azofeifa first introduced the students to biodiscovery from natural (and sometimes unexpected) sources. The students had the opportunity to examine a scorpion and a live tarantula and observe their creepy features! Next, the students learnt that the spider’s DNA is responsible for the ingredients in their venom, with Nat and Dani explaining that they extract spider’s DNA to work out what’s in there. The students then had a chance to do their own DNA extraction on a strawberry.
Dr Zeinab Khalil, Jolynn Kiong and Caitlin Aust from the Capon group described their work in collecting soil to identify microbes which may produce antibiotics. The students isolated their own microbes (jelly beans) from soil (milo) in a petri dish and looked at images of real petri dishes growing real soil microbes to simulate microbial discovery. Our team received great feedback from the event, from both teachers and students!
Dani showing students at Ironside Primary that scorpions glow under UV light.
We are thrilled with how our first CIPPS Science Week activities went and delighted we could engage with so many different people. We can’t wait for next year!