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Project descriptions from MPLS researchers that were funded via the University's Public Engagement with Research Seed Funds 2017-18.

Sing-song Physics at Curiosity Carnival

It's always interesting to see what was funded; whether you applied, are thinking of applying, or just curious about different ways of doing engagement.

The University’s Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund is an internal grant scheme for academics and researchers to: - Develop or pilot new Public Engagement with Research projects or; - Improve existing Public Engagement with Research activity; - Evaluate and gather evidence of the impact of the activities. The fund is supported by the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).

Twelve projects have been funded (ranging from £1,200 to £4,000) in response to the 2017-18 call for proposals. The three from MPLS researchers were:

  • Dr Cedric Tan, Postdoctoral Researcher, WildCRU, Department of Zoology: Every cloud has a silver lining: an interactive theatre about the clouded leopard.
  • Professor Chris Lintott, Professor of Astrophysics Department of Physics: Sing-song Physics: science stories, told by you.
  • Dr Holly Reeve, Project Manager – HydRegen, Department of Chemistry: What can Chemists learn from Nature?

You can read their project descriptions below.

Every cloud has a silver lining: an interactive theatre about the clouded leopard

Dr Cedric TanDr Cedric Tan Postdoctoral

Researcher WildCRU, Department of Zoology

Conservation of endangered species in Southeast Asia is a multi-faceted issue which lacks awareness, particularly in developed countries which are at the demand end of the supply chain. We intend to create an interactive theatre that explores these sensitive issues, in particular, the vulnerable clouded leopard and the broader forces behind its population decline. During the play, the audience will be involved in role-playing as characters, making decisions for the authors and providing suggestions for the final conundrum. Our piece will be delivered live at science festivals and filmed for YouTube users. Altogether, these data will be used to examine the difference in perceptions across different countries and age groups and generate new ideas for difficult conservation problems. The performance will educate and engage the audience, in hope that it will shape perceptions and behaviour through affective learning. Our findings can help improve the delivery of theatre-based science communication and contribute to the generation of new conservation approaches in the tropics.

Sing-song Physics: science stories, told by you

Chris LintottProfessor Chris Lintott

Professor of Astrophysics Department of Physics 

Catchy songs are a sure-fire way of getting a message stuck in your head, but can we use song to enthuse young people about science – and what if they’re the ones writing the songs? At a series of local events this summer, researchers will be teaming up with a songwriter and local residents to create brand new songs based on current physics research at the University, including galaxy evolution, planetary science and particle physics. A new workshop will be developed that introduces young people to the science and research behind the projects through fun and inspiring activities and demos before inviting them to help the researchers write songs that will be performed at the local events by geek-pop performer and former teacher, Jonny Berliner. Finally, the songs will be shared and credited to all those who participated and shared widely online. This will allow young people the chance to see and hear science as never-before, meet researchers face-to-face and explore fascinating science projects. The project is aiming to pilot crowd-generated song-writing as a way of introducing and involving young people and their influencers to science, as well as developing the researchers’ communication skills.

What can Chemists learn from Nature?

Holly ReeveDr Holly Reeve

Project Manager – HydRegen Department of Chemistry 

This project builds a comprehensive engagement package for secondary school students, focusing on the area of nature-inspired science. In particular, the project will increase students’ awareness of how biological systems are used by chemists, in labs, to produce chemicals they use every day – for example in their cosmetics, medicines and food. This allows school students to explore how knowledge from one science (biology) can be applied in another setting (chemistry) and prepare them for a world in which bio-based / bio-inspired technologies are tackling global food, energy and health demands. We have already piloted a live experiment where we raced enzymes to create foam explosions! We engaged the public by racing familiar biological systems (a potato, yeast and an enzyme) to see how fast they can make coloured foam, and used this to explain how chemists can harness the power of biology in the lab. Here, the activities will be developed for school visits. Alongside these ‘inperson’ activities, we will enlist specialists to create an interactive online platform and an integrated engagement evaluation system. By building an interactive online platform we will produce a flexible and sustainable engagement strategy and will reach a larger audience in the future.