On Saturday 11 July 2015, the Harwell Campus opened its doors to the public, providing a behind-the-scenes peek at some of the World’s most spectacular and powerful science facilities. 16,000 science fans visited the Campus on its first Open Day in over a decade.
NDM Researchers from the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and the Division of Structural Biology (STRUBI) at Oxford frequently make use of the Diamond Light Source at the Harwell Campus in their research work, and they were there at the open day to tell the public about their work.
Ellie Williams from the SGC said, 'The SGC had a chance to showcase its work, explaining what proteins are using lego, and describing how hard it is to design new medicines (and how easily they can fail at the last stages) with the aid of our Giant Jenga set. Our touch screen proved to be a big hit, allowing people to manipulate a real example of a drug/protein interactions. We also demonstrated how knowing a protein’s structure can make finding new drugs much easier and cheaper with our drug discovery game. Teams competed to make it to the top of our ‘open source snap’ leader board, illustrating how SGC's open access set-up speeds up research by reducing redundant research and encouraging collaboration.'
STRUBI provided visitors with an engaging masterclass on viruses, with interactive 3-D virus models and 3-D glasses to view the atomic structure of the foot and mouth disease viruse. Visitors also played with 'shake it to make it' self-assembling virus models, shaking magnetized pentamers in a plastic jar to produce 'self-assembling' viruses, an activity that was popular for all ages. Equally popular was constructing your own foot and mouth disease virus out of toothpicks and marshmallows, and the 'design your own virus' competition got entries from children as young as two.
STRUBI's Professor David Stuart said, 'It was a fantastic day: over 4,000 people went past our stand, we cleared all the local supermarkets of marshmallors, and have hundreds of scary viruses drawn. Also, the sound of self-assembling viruses really draws a crowd!' STRUBI staff are now looking at the over 200 entries they received, to award prizes to the most interesting ideas, in all categories.
Ellie Williams from the SGC said, 'The day ended at around 5.30 by which point we were all thoroughly exhausted but happy in the knowledge that we’d managed to promote some of what we get up to at the SGC to such a large and wide ranging audience.'
If you missed out on taking part this time but would like to volunteer at our next event, NDM Strategic will be taking part in Oxford Open Doors in September: we will be putting on a science fair and tours of the Target Discovery Institute. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.