In 2014, the BSGCT Public Engagement Day was held at Oxford University Museum of Natural History. This annual event is largely aimed at GCSE and A-level student, but also members of the general public and patient groups. This year we organised the event in collaboration with Oxfordshire Science Festival and received support from Genetic Disorders UK, the British Science Association and Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford. Our event was a huge success and all 300 places were sold out in advance of the day. The interactive day involved talks from science experts, hands-on activities, meet the scientist sessions, careers advice, a panel discussion and special appearance by our guest speaker Dr Alison Woollard, who presented the 2013 Royal Institution Christmas Lecture series on television http://www.rigb.org/christmas-lectures.
Subjects covered included stem cells, cancer virotherapy, gene therapy for blindness, a patient’s perspective of living with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes excess body tissue to grow on nerve endings, causing non-cancerous tumours (called fibromas) to occur and an intense debate on the ethics of embryonic stem cells during the panel discussion. During lunchtime, students had the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities like DNA origami, learn about stem cell differentiation with Dr Jo Mountford, chat to representatives from Nuffield Department of Medicine University of Oxford, Progress Educational Trust, The Biochemical Society and the Society of Biology about science careers and biology. Additionally, students had the opportunity to talk to The Nuffield Foundation and In2Science UK, organisations that offer paid summer science placements for students. Students also had the opportunity to meet and chat to scientists and STEM ambassadors from a range of careers in medicine and basic scientific research.
We received outstanding feedback about this event with students stating that “the event was run very well, informative and they loved the venue” and 95% of students said they would recommend it to other students. We also succeeded in getting students thinking about gene therapy and its applications in medicine with some students stating that “I knew it was an exciting area of research with enormous potential, the event endorsed this view” and that they “didn’t realise that there was so much work happening in this field at the moment” and am now “more interested in stories about genetics in the news”. Importantly, teachers were also impressed with the event and 100% of teachers stated that they found that it was very appropriate for the AQA biology syllabus.Programme Overview Engagement Day Photos