Genetics and Lego project with Abingdon & Witney College
3 July 2023
Dr Katherine Wood, a postdoctoral researcher in the Goriely lab and Junior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Personalised Medicine, writes about her recent public engagement event with students on the creative media course at Abingdon and Witney College.
This month, I ran an outreach and engagement project along with postdocs Dr Alex Martin-Geary, Dr Ruby Dawes and Dr Hyung Chul Kim from the Big Data Institute. Myself, Alex and the team delivered a brief to Creative Media students from Abingdon and Witney College to create short stop-motion genetics-based videos using LEGOTM. With this project, we aimed to show that genetics can be fun, that anyone can get involved, and to convey important and serious scientific information in an easily digestible, interactive format to inspire more young people to take an interest in genetics.
We provide the students with scripts for a primer video giving a brief overview of key genetic concepts and three videos explaining genetic conditions (spinal muscular atrophy, beta-thalassemia, and sickle cell anaemia) which disproportionately affect underrepresented populations. They then had three days to produce their videos in small groups under the mentorship of the postdoc team and teachers Joe and Alun from the college. The final animations were premiered at an event at the Big Data Institute the following week.
The project was a tremendous success. The students (most of whom had no, or very little, science background) really engaged with the brief and showed an interest in the genetics underlying the scripts. They worked extremely hard; the final videos were of outstanding quality and incredibly creative. Inviting the students to the university for the screening event was fantastic, as it gave them an insight into biomedical research and having an audience of senior researchers highlighted how impactful work like this can be. The college has already expressed an interest in running the project again next year with the new intake of students on the creative media course, with the hope it can become a fixed part of the curriculum for the students. The videos have also been a massive hit on social media, with thousands of views and many likes and retweets from key names in the genetics, genomics and medical field in the UK.
Alex, Ruby and Hyung Chul and I would like to thank Joe and Alan from Abingdon and Witney College for all their work making the project happen; the Oxford Centre for Personalised Medicine; Professor Anne Goriely, Associate Professor Nicky Whiffin and Professor Cecilia Lindgren; and most of all the students for their outstanding efforts in making the project a success!