More than 60 LMB researchers were involved in taking activities relating to cryo-EM, the origin of life, and worms out on the road for LifeLab and Big Biology Day
LifeLab returned for the second year of the project – this time with LMB scientists taking their research to Ely Cathedral and Queensgate Shopping Centre in Peterborough, as well as to events in Cambridge. Through a range of hands-on activities, talks, discussions, displays, and entertainment, LifeLab volunteers talked to more than 3,500 people across Cambridge, Ely, and Peterborough over a day and a half.
LifeLab was a European Commission-funded programme of events taking place as part of European Researchers’ Night, and was one of 55 similar projects happening in 27 countries across Europe. LifeLab involved volunteers from four other Cambridgeshire-based research institutions alongside the LMB.
Visitors to Ely Cathedral had the opportunity to learn about the LMB’s “resolution revolution” in electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) with a new exhibit developed by members of Lori Passmore’s group from the LMB’s Structural Studies Division. This stand included a model of an electron microscope demonstrating how 2D projections of proteins can be used to obtain 3D structures, as well as a kit for visitors to try their hands at preparing a model of a cryo-EM grid – although many visitors were shocked at how much smaller the real thing was and how fiddly that would be!
Researchers from Philipp Holliger’s and John Sutherland’s groups in the LMB’s PNAC Division also took their “A Recipe for Primordial Life” exhibit to Ely Cathedral to tell members of the public about their work to improve our understanding of the origin of life. Visitors were asked to find the fundamental molecules of life on a volcanic landscape, play a game to combine those molecules into the building blocks of life, and then assemble models of early precursors to the first cells.
Queensgate Shopping Centre in Peterborough was turned into a pop-up lab for a day, with LMB scientists showing their C. elegans worms. Shoppers could have a go at identifying different mutants based on differences in the way the worms moved as observed down a microscope, while hearing about how LMB scientists use worms to study ageing, disease, and neuroscience.
LMB scientists were also involved in a Kidology gameshow-style event and a special edition of Café Sci Cambridge tied to Jeans for Genes Day, as well as contributing profiles to a careers booklet and to Stories from Science, a set of displays showcasing the diverse types of people working in science; and to Bioinformatics Blitz, a computer-based activity shared with schools. Other events included a science-themed comedy night and a musical about genomics.
Big Biology Day
Big Biology Day is an annual event taking place at Hills Road Sixth Form College. This year LMB researchers gave visitors the opportunity to see their own cheek cells under the microscope, as well as to become science detectives matching plant and insect specimens up with microscopic photos. This year was Big Biology Day’s biggest event yet, with exhibitors representing almost 50 different departments, institutes, organisations, or companies.