On Saturday 1st July the LMB threw its doors open welcoming over 2500 visitors to the institute. More than 300 LMB scientists and support staff gave up their time to offer an exciting day of family-friendly, hands-on activities, tours of the laboratories and facilities, and talks about the LMB’s cutting-edge research.
At the Hands-on Lab children dressed up as scientists and ran their own experiments to investigate the building blocks of life; including DNA extractions from bananas, protein chromatography and a pipetting challenge. Alison Lane, Head of Genotyping Services, said, “The kids that participated in our activity seemed really keen and interested and it was great teaching them.”
The Time of Your Life activity showcased how our body clock works by testing it against the clock in a live human experiment. People of all ages took part in the ChronOlympics where they measured their grip strength and reaction speed and found out whether they are a morning lark or a night owl, and what this actually means! Andrew Beale, from John O’Neill’s group, stated, “I enjoyed hearing from visitors what circadian biology and sleep means to them in terms of their daily lives. I had many conversations about how it, and sleep in particular, has such a massive role in their lives. I also just enjoyed talking in general about doing research and hearing the peoples’ perspectives and opinions about what that means for society.”
The LMB Biological Services Group displayed the amazing care our research mice and rats receive. People dressed up as animal technicians and experienced how we make up enriched mouse cages. Lesley Drynan, Head of the Biological Services Group, said, “I wanted us to be open about animal research and share all the good things we do to care for the rodents. It is lovely to talk about our work with the public and interacting with the visitors, especially the kids who really enjoying visiting and taking part in the interactive events on our stand.”
At the Unleash Your Mind’s Power activity, visitors explored how our brain commands motion and harness its electric signals to master people and machines. Live microscopes demonstrations showed how mighty molecular motors move cargo within cells over incredibly long distances – using the cellular version of train tracks. In the organoid lab researchers showed how they grow mini brain tissues in the lab to find out what really makes the human brain unique.
Attendees also visited some of our amazing facilities like X-ray Crystallography, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and the Flow Cytometry Facility, where they got to see how cell sorting works. Pier Andrée Penttilä, Head of Flow Cytometry, said, “We had really engaged visitors who asked fantastic questions (both adults and children). They were very interested in what we do which was a joy to share.” Tours also showed how researchers use electron cryo-microscopy to see atoms, how and why they study how cells work, and gave live demonstrations of our Mechanical and Electronics Workshops in action.
In addition to this, at the Fly Brain Connectomics Tour and Journey of the Centre of the Fly Brain activity researchers showed how the fruit fly is helping them understand how the brain controls behaviour. Ivana Henry, from Marta Zlatic’s group, explained, “Based on our activity and comments from others, I felt that it really encouraged children to be curious about science.”.
Additionally, throughout the day there were several engaging talks from scientists on a range of topics; investigating Alzheimer’s Disease, being a virologist during the COVID-19 pandemic, researching tuberculosis, and building the first 4D map of human brain temperature. Jonathan Shanahan, one of the speakers and member of Lalita Ramakrishnan’s group, said, “I really enjoyed giving a talk and engaging with the kids who came – especially hearing some of their comments and questions!”
Children found out more about the Technicians and Technical Specialists of the LMB looking for the clues scattered around the building with our fun, fact-finding treasure hunt. The Green LMB stand showed what we have done to strive towards more sustainable research and reduce our carbon footprint. Visitors discovered the biodiversity of the LMB site and met our LMBees as well. Anna Albecka-Moreau, from Leo James’ group, stated, “Many people were interested in our sustainability, taking some ideas for their places of work. I think it was a great success and great addition to all the scientific activities.” There was also a Careers Corner where people could learn about the many different job roles and career journeys at LMB.
Visitors left comments on colourful post-it notes at the end of the Open Day, including:
“Fantastic! Such good ‘hands-on’ exposure for children. Great way to experience and learn about science. Thank you!”
“I had lots of fun and learned a lot of new stuff, thank you”
“Appreciate the wide range of activities available from children to adults. Thank you for being approachable”.
Summing up the day, LMB Director, Jan Löwe, said, “It has been wonderful to welcome so many visitors to the LMB. Their enthusiasm, curiosity and interest in the LMB’s science has been truly uplifting and is the best return we could have hoped for. A big thank you to LMB staff and students for putting up a great show.”