Over 2000 visitors, including more than 600 children, took the opportunity to explore the work undertaken at the LMB, when it opened its doors to the public, on Saturday 22 June, to celebrate the opening of its new building and the centenary of the Medical Research Council (MRC). The family-friendly event showcased our work through lectures, tours, displays and hands-on activities for all ages.
Amongst the highlights was the chance for children to become scientists, with laboratory activities ranging from ‘See your cells’, ‘DNA discovery zone’, ‘Paper and colour chromatography’ and ‘Mass spectrometry: how to catch a cheat.’ Morgan, aged 10, commented “My favourite bits were mass spectrometry and looking at your own cells. I love science!!!!!.”
Children also took part in the ‘Neuron Art Zone’, where they explored the role of the brain and neurons. They were asked to draw neurons and these were added to a giant display, where they formed connections with other childrens’ drawings and ‘built’ a brain. Amongst the imaginative responses were the ‘tidy bedroom neurons’ and ‘hurt neurons’. Yvonne Vallis, from the LMB’s Neurobiology Division, who led the activity, commented, “It is always a joy to talk with children about science – they are receptive and curious and willing to think about problems. The LMB open day got so many children (and their parents) fired up about the science we do.”
‘Virus wars: antibodies fight back’, ‘The body’s daily clock’ and ‘Can worms unlock the secrets of our minds?’ were three popular interactive displays where the public got to talk to scientists about their work. “I really appreciated the staff taking the time to explain their fascinating research. Thank you!” exclaimed one visitor, while another added, “It was all very interesting. Very impressed by how helpful everyone was and willing to chat.”
More LMB scientists were involved in giving lay-person talks on subjects such as; ‘How alcohol harms you and your baby’, ‘Untangling Alzheimer’s disease’, ‘From oocyte to egg: a dangerous journey at the beginning of life’ and ‘The ribosome: the cell’s protein factory and how antibiotics block it.’
One of the most popular events during the day was the opportunity for the public to get a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of our new labs and facilities. Dressed in lab coats, for the full science experience, they were introduced to key areas of the LMB’s work and found out what it’s like to work in a lab. Comments included, “utterly amazing – sheer high quality commitment of scientists”, “top-grade research facilities and brilliant eye-opener for the public!” and “fantastic building and really well organised event. My kids were really engaged by the activities.”
The day finished with a ‘medical science comedy cabaret’ in the evening, compered by science comedian Steve Cross, where the public joined scientists from the LMB and beyond to explore the lighter side of research with jokes, music and an element of audience participation. Steve joked, to the audience’s delight, about why the new building wouldn’t work and how the LMB could up its Nobel prize count.
Summing up the day, Hugh Pelham, LMB Director, said “Those who were there will know that the open day on Saturday was a huge success, with over 2,000 enthusiastic guests of all ages.”
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