Sheffield’s marvellous world of medical research goes digital with online festival

21st May 2020

How can we all live healthier, longer lives? That is something on many people's minds at the moment and medical researchers at the University of Sheffield want to help you find out how.

  • Festival of Medical Research will be hosted online by the University of Sheffield for the first time for people to enjoy while the UK remains in lockdown
  • The theme of this year's festival is healthy living and how medical research can help to keep us well throughout our lives
  • A range of activities and exhibits will be online from Friday 29 May to Friday 5 June 2020 for people of all ages

How can we all live healthier, longer lives? That is something on many people's minds at the moment and medical researchers at the University of Sheffield want to help you find out how.

As part of an annual Medical Research Council (MRC) celebration, the University of Sheffield is hosting a Festival of Medical Research online for the first time.

From Friday 29 May to Friday 5 June 2020, Sheffield’s medical scientists and researchers will host the free festival which will include activities and content to engage, educate and entertain the people of Sheffield and beyond; suitable for all ages, including children aged five years and up.

Dr Alice Pyne, a Lecturer in Soft Matter and Polymers in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, will be presenting a series of videos and activities exploring the structure of DNA. She hopes the festival will inspire the next generation of medical researchers.

She said:

“For me, one of the best parts of doing research is communicating that to people beyond the confines of our lab. The MRC Festival is an amazing opportunity for our research to reach a really broad spectrum of people, and hopefully inspire other budding researchers to get excited about DNA.”

The festival will be hosted by Sheffield Culture Hub, a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council and Our Favourite Places. The digital platform was launched to host arts and cultural events online, as well as other activities from around the city, to support the cultural and creative sectors during the coronavirus lockdown.

The festival will include projects hosted by teams from departments across the University:

  • Detangling DNA
    Join materials scientist Dr Alice Pyne and learn about the fundamentals of DNA topology - the knot-like structural arrangements of DNA. Get your hands on DNA structures with the DNA Origami guide and learn how scientists are using atomic force microscopy to look at the structure and interactions of DNA.
  • DNA Repair to the Rescue!
    Delve into the world of DNA damage and repair with Professor Sherif El-Khamisy and his team of molecular biologists. Play a series of short games that explore different types of DNA damage, how our cells can repair this damage, and what happens when our DNA repair system fails to work.
  • Vaccinations: Keeping us Healthy
    Explore the role of vaccinations in preventing diseases throughout our lives with Dr Helen Marriott, Researcher in Respiratory Infection. Learn about the structure of viruses with the Build Your Own Virus crafting guide and get to grips with how vaccines combat pathogens in the Pathogen Buster game.
  • Mapping Alcohol Consumption in England
    Immerse yourself in epidemiological data with interactive alcohol consumption maps developed by health statistician Dr Ines Henriques Cadby. Compare numbers of alcohol outlets in different parts of England and explore the drinking habits of people in Sheffield.
  • Run for Your Life!
    Join cardiologist Dr Paul Morris and medical physicist Dr David Randall in a Run for Your Life! Learn about their work to develop 3D computational models of diseased coronary arteries and watch a demo of the virtual reality game. In the game, which will be used as a tool to educate patients and the public about cardiovascular health, players will race each other through simulations of coronary artery racing tunnels.
  • All About Ears
    Join Professor Walter Marcotti’s Hearing Research Group for a journey inside the ear. Explore the structure and function of hair cells, trick your brain with some audio-visual illusions and experience a simulation of age-related hearing loss.

Ana Amariutei, a PhD student researching the use of gene-based therapy in restoring hearing at the University, will be part of the team hosting All About Ears.

She said:

“This is the second time the Hearing Research Group from Sheffield has participated in the MRC Festival of Medical Research. This year, the group of supervisors, post-doctoral researchers and PhD students have developed a set of online activities for both kids and adults. We hope people will enjoy learning about their ears and that they will find their mechanism of function as inspiring as we do.”

You can join the free festival online at www.sheffieldculturehub.co.uk. For more information, visit: ourfaveplaces.co.uk/hub/university-of-sheffield, or contact engage@sheffield.ac.uk.

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