The exciting side of science

The exciting side of science

PA 56/09

Seeing inside the body with MRI scanners, building a genetic code with sweets and beads, creating ‘crude oil’ slicks with cooking oil and the big bangs and flashes of chemical energy are to help reveal the exciting side of science and engineering at The University of Nottingham.

The University has a packed programme of activities, demonstrations and outreach events planned to celebrate National Science and Engineering Week, which runs this year from March 6 to 15.

Coordinated by the British Science Association, the national event aims to celebrate the importance of science and engineering and technology and the huge part they play in everyday modern life.

Around 200 local secondary school pupils will be treated to a spectacular display on Wednesday March 11 at 2.30pm in the School of Chemistry when inorganic chemistry lecturer Dr Pete Licence and retired technical manager Jim Gamble will deliver the infamous and hugely popular Thunder and Lightning lecture. Created during the 1930s by Dr BD Shaw, an explosives expert in the department, the lecture is packed with chemical reactions that provide a dramatic noise and lightshow.

Dr Samantha Tang, Public Awareness Scientist, and colleagues in the School of Chemistry will spend the morning at Chetwynd Road Primary School in Chilwell on Thursday March 12 running practical experiments with year five youngsters. They will be demonstrating the vital role science can play in society when things go wrong by using cooking oil to recreate a crude oil slick and then testing a range of materials to find out which is most effective in a clean-up operation.

Dr Tang will also spend three days (Monday March 9, Tuesday March 10 and Friday March 13) at Samworth Church Academy in Mansfield leading sessions on creating “Dragon’s Den” innovative ideas and products on a scientific theme to show that science can inspire creativity. The sessions are the culmination of Ignition*’s Come Alive with Science

scheme, during which students have taken part in other experiments including making batteries from fruit and creating their own slime from polymers.

Dr Tang said: “It’s great to see so many University departments putting on events that celebrate NSEW; it’s the time of year where everyone recognises the significance science and engineering has on so many aspects of everyday life, and it is essential that the University engages with schools and the public to show everyone what we do for a living, why we’re passionate about it, and how our research could benefit everyone in the future.”

Saturday March 14 will see a whole range of free scientific activities on offer to the local community on University Park. The Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre will host an event on How MRI Lets Us See Inside Our Bodies

from 12 noon to 4pm. Visitors will be able to take a tour of the facility, known worldwide as the academic home of Sir Peter Mansfield, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2003 for his pioneering MRI work and see a number of MRI systems in action, including the highest field scanner in the UK. (This event is by pre-booked tickets only — please see Notes to Editors).

Darwin 200 Celebration

, running in the Portland Building from 11am to 4pm and organised by the School of Biology, will celebrate Charles Darwin’s bicentenary and increase awareness and understanding of the past, present and future of evolution among the general public. ‘Darwin’ — aka evolutionary geneticist Professor John Brookfield in full Victorian costume — will present his original theory of evolution at 12 noon and 2.30pm, while other activities will include a natural selection computer game, genetic code building with beads, investigating evolutionary relationships and examining bones and fossils to learn about classification and morphological change.

Later in the month, on the mornings of March 31, April 1 and April 2, the University will also open its doors to around 300 eight to 11-year-olds from invited local schools for its annual Schools Science Fair. This year featuring involvement from the Schools of Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy, Department of Chemical Engineering and the Institute of Hearing Research, the fair will give the youngsters the opportunity to try their hand at a range of fun and practical scientific experiments — everything from freezing flowers and fruit with liquid nitrogen and turning copper pennies into ‘gold’ to finding out how our liver works and why iron is so important to our bodies.

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