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Staff share their British Science Festival highlights

As you're all fully aware, the 2010 British Science Festival was held on campus and throughout Birmingham last week. It was a fantastic week, with over 250 inspiring and engaging events.

Aspects will contain various articles relating to the British Science Festival over the coming editions but in the meantime Aspects asked some of the key figures throughout the University, and those who were heavily involved with its organisation, to share their favourite memories of the Festival. Here's what they had to say (this will be a growing list!): 

Dr Anthony Hilton, Science Festival School Champion for LHS: "Something my research students and I were talking about after the event was how important it was to have younger visitors and school students attend the festival. On the final day during some periods our stand as part of the LHS exhibition in the great hall was alive with 20 or more enthusiastic youngsters up to their elbows in ultra-violet gel!  They haven’t lost that sense of awe and excitement of even the most simple of experiments which unfortunately so frequently characterises older learners; and if that fails you can always tempt them with stickers!"

Stewart Comfort, Director of Marketing:"Apart from countless great events, what stood out for me has been the volume of media coverage. We knew this would be big but it has exceeded my wildest expectations – this event has raised Aston’s external profile enormously. Secondly, the way so many Aston staff, with their normal jobs to do, have given their time and expertise so generously to make sure the Festival was a success. One partner said of our support staff “I can’t believe how helpful all your staff at Aston are - whether it was the porters, the IT people, whoever I spoke to couldn’t have been more positive and helpful.”

Dr Phil Extance, Pro Vice Chancellor for Business Partnerships & Knowledge Transfer: "The best event for me was 'Seeing behind the eyes' organised by James Wolffsohn. The event saw four enthusiastic Aston researchers presenting an easy-to-understand introduction to some fascinating work on different aspects of vision. The only way to sum it up simply is to say that it was “entertainingly professional”. James’s own introduction the eye was so easy to follow and yet introduced some fascinating science. Doina Ghergel explained very clearly how the eye was a window to lots of other medical problems associated with blood supply. Frank Eperjesi gave a fantastic introduction to age-related macular degeneration, made very enjoyable and useful by the debate with James on how best to increase our lutein intake to reduce the chances of AMD (sales of kale and spinach should rocket as a result!). And to crown the whole event our minds were challenged by a very practical and thought provoking introduction by Mark Georgeson to the complexity of how our brain processes the information generated by the eye. The four speakers deserve much praise for being so engaging and for pitching the talks at just the right level for a festival audience." 

Prof Helen Higson, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor: "‘How to Manage your boss’ and having to do a speech in Mandarin on the UK/China Symposium on Clean Energy and Nanotechnology!"

Prof David Lowe, Science Festival School Champion for EAS: "The Light and Sound Show driven by Kate Sugden. Kate's events have been fantastic - well organised and always busy. She has put a massive effort into making up the props and displays. Everytime I went through the Upper Foyer on Friday there were a load of schoolchildren around Kate and her team."

Prof Andreas Hornung, President of the British Science Association Chemistry Section: "People were extremely interested in the ‘Birmingham 2026’ story – they took part in four hours with us! The atmosphere throughout the week was very positive and full of smiling people."

Prof James Wolffsohn, President of the Btitish Science Association Medical Sciences Section: "The highlight for me was the debate as part of “Seeing behind the eyes” between Dr Frank Eperjesi and myself on whether eating vegetables or popping nutritional pills were better for your eye health. The audience were really engaged, and contributed so actively, that we had difficulty keeping the event to time!"

Dr Reiner Grundmann, President of the British Science Association Sociology and Social Sciences Section: "My talk 'End of the World or Happy Ending?' was attended well and the festival assistants did a great job. In my talk I presented the main findings of a research project conducted with Ramesh Krishnamurthy (who was also present) and Mike Scott on the press coverage of climate change in four countries over the past 20 years. We created a corpus of more than 250m words which we analysed using WordSmith software (written by Mike Scott). Our major finding was that different countries use different terms to talk about climate change and attribute different levels of urgency or moral evaluation. The audience was very interested and eager to participate in the following question and answer session." 

If you'd like to share your own highlight, please post your comment below!

Your comments
CommentAdded ByTime
The XChange on Friday night in the Guild was a highlight for me. Entertainment and science in one show. It was lovely to be able to relax and spend time listening to people that had interesting and challenging things to say about science. Sam Underwood's midi octopus performance was a great end to the week. It had been touch and go whether everything would be ready on time but those motors hit the right notes. Kate Sugden26/09/2010 20:26:19
Watching some of our very talented pharmacy researchers running on custard to the delight of numerous small children (and quite few adults - including me!)Claire Hopkins22/09/2010 15:59:28
There were so many highlights it's difficult to choose. On a personal level, the colossal media coverage was great, with national press, radio and TV here all four 'Press Days'. On the events side, it has to be the Pope's Astronomer. I was intrigued to see what he'd be like and in fact he couldn't have been more different to what I was expecting. He was warm, witty and engaging - a great guest. My main highlight though was the shout-out for Claire Hopkins at the Festival Dinner. Anyone who has been involved in the Festival will know how much work Claire has put into it, and not only that, she has done everything in the right way - positive, professional and in good humour. It is also fair to say that the Festival was made immeasurably better through her involvement - a personal, as well as a team, triumph. Well done Claire!Chris Harrison22/09/2010 09:06:10
My highlight was the West Midlands Chemistry Technician of the Year awards. It is good to recognise the work of technicians and it was very gratifying that Dave Walton from CEAC won the award for Research Support.John Fletcher21/09/2010 15:37:58
Mine would have to be the play by Y Touring Theatre Company called 'Breathing Country'. It was fantastic to see the serious subject of using electronic patient records in medical research presented in such an unusual and engaging way. Excellent! Louise Russell21/09/2010 12:37:16