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Genetics at the Cambridge Science Festival 2017

last modified Apr 04, 2017 02:24 PM

Events in the Department of Genetics

On Saturday 18 March the Genetics Tea Room was transformed into a lively space for more than 250 children and adults to learn about genetics in a hands-on fashion from volunteer department members. This event was part of the 2017 Cambridge Science Festival and was the second time the Department of Genetics took part.

 The event consisted of three main activities:

  1. The 'human hub' taught visitors about human mendelian traits and offered a PTC taste test, probing for the presence of a bitter taste receptor gene.
  2. The 'fly fun' corner allowed participants to observe flies under the microscope and understand why fruit flies are so useful as model organisms.
  3. The 'zebrafish zone' demonstrated the ages of zebrafish embryogenesis with videos as well as real embryos, making use of a virtual headset to teach visitors about embryo morphology. 

We also set up a photographic matching game, where participants were tasked to match descriptions to a wide range of beautiful scientific photographs. This proved to be quite difficult and was a favourite among adult and more mature visitors. 

Science Festival Team 2017 475

Above: Some of the volunteers for the activities in the Department

Events in the Marquee

The Department of Genetics also hosted an exhibit titled 'Highlighting biology with fluorescent microscopy' on Saturday 18 March, in the marqueeon the Downing Site. A very creditable 399 visitors actually talked to members of the team and participated in our activities.

One of our star exhibits was the Department logo "drawn" using green fluorescent E. coli (the two strands of DNA can be differentiated by different colour!). This is shown in the opening image on our home page. The bright vial in the image contained purified 99.9% GFP.

Tent Team 2017 475

Above : Some of the Marquee team


The co-ordinator of the departmental event, Tessa Bertozzi, also participated in FameLab as part of the Science Festival. Famelab is '... a communications competition designed to engage and entertain by breaking down science, technology and engineering concepts into three minute presentations.' No Powerpoint slides are allowed, only props you can carry onto the stage yourself. While any scientific concept is valid, talking about one’s own research is encouraged. The judges decide on the winner based on three criteria: content, clarity, and charisma. 

The first round took place at The Portland Arms in February, where Tessa explained what jumping genes were, using velcro and cardboard.

The final took place at the Cambridge Junction on 15 March, where Ithis time Tessa attempted to give the audience a general understanding of epigenetics using pipe cleaners and stuffed colourful mice.

Tessa's Final talk can be viewed here:

Information supplied by Tessa Bertozzi

Image at top by Pallavi Panda