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“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” (Buddy the Elf, 2003)


Safe to say, this year the WIMM cheer was out in full force, with decorations more original and extravagant than ever before!

The competition saw 13 labs fighting for a chance to be crowned the title of ‘most festive’.  A few familiar decorations adorned the interior of the MRC WIMM, with last year’s winners, the Rehwinkel group, gracing us with their beautiful virus stained glass windows. The judges were also very pleased to see Larry the Luminometer once again dressed as Rudolph!

Other noticeable mentions include a hanging iron molecule from the Drakesmith group, constructed very articulately from several pipettes; the atoms were represented by red baubles and tinsel was used to display bonds. The Bodmer group also impressed with their interpretation of a cancer immunotherapy tree which was also accompanied by a tree decorated as a goblet cell; secretary cells were cleverly represented by baubles, while pipettes were used to show the secreted mucin. The competition also featured various snowmen, constructed from recycled paper cups or polystyrene ice boxes.


However, in a surprising turn of events, for the first time in WIMM history the judges could not decide on a winner. They were so divided that they crowned two labs as joint champions: the Mead and Jacobsen group (Haematopoietic Stem Cell Biology lab) for their sheer abundance of decorations and festive spirit; and the Simmons group for their very original take on ‘Jingle Bells’.

The Mead and Jacobsen lab was thoroughly covered head to toe in Christmas decorations. What’s more, the judges were also warmly welcomed by equally decorated members! Some of the highlights included a test-tube wreath carefully decorated in ribbon and beads, x-ray image ‘bells’, and pipette tip icicles suspended from their windowsills.

The ceiling was decorated in an abundance of intricate hanging paper stars, and the walls were shining bright with strings of Eppendorf lights. The only thing missing from Santa’s grotto, was Santa (who I hear is actually rather busy this time of year).

It is fair to say that many hours must have been spent putting together such an abundance of decorations, and it appears that the night elf had also been hard at work drinking Nespresso coffee! Fortunately for the HSCB lab, this meant there were plenty of coffee capsules left to make a ‘coffemas tree’ and also some left for another festive wreath. The eager eyed among us may also have spotted baby Jesus wrapped in his ‘capsule’, under the watchful eye of Mary and Joseph. When asked for comments they replied: “we want to go in a different direction next year, probably bigger, but we will keep it under wraps until closer to the time!” …definitely one to watch out for next year!

Meanwhile, over in the Simmons group, they were warming up their voices to wow the judges with their unique rendition of “Single cells, single cells, single all the way”. In one last attempt to get data before Christmas, the Simmons lab told us they would be “dashing to the flow, with all their cells in tow”, in the hope that they could have a relaxing Christmas break.  The Simmons group scored highly for incorporating their science into a festive theme as they are using single-cell approaches, amongst others, to map intestinal immunity in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis. An excellent example of how we can engage others in our science!

Christmas decorations in the Simmmons group


The lab was also wonderfully decorated in hand-painted agar plates displaying references to bacteria commonly found within the gut, such as Salmonella. Mr ‘Salmochristmas’ was joined by other festive faces in the shape of crypts, glands found in between villi in the intestinal epithelium, which were wishing the judges a ‘Merry Cryptmas’. Covering the doors and chairs around the lab were several hidden Christmas messages, which could only be revealed under UV light – the judges definitely took a shine to this one! 


In one last attempt to impress, the Simmons group had several references to sustainability dotted around the lab. These included a Christmas tree made out of recycled Nature papers and Greta Thunberg was even seen being pulled along in her sleigh.


Sticking with the theme of sustainability, an honourable mention went to the Admin team who put together a coniferous tree made out of exactly 50,000 sheets of A4 paper. The artwork was accompanied with a very detailed description of the beauty of the natural world around us and asked its viewers to reflect on the “magnificence of Mother Nature’s own artwork… if it is not cut down to meet man’s ends.” Importantly, the artwork will be 100% recycled in early January, following its exhibition at the WIMM.

For a second year in a row, another honourable mention went to the Higgs group. In their window you will find several icicle peaks, representative of transcription-factor binding sites at the a-globin locus in mouse erythroid cells. The judges were also pleased to see that they didn’t forget to label the y-axis!


It was evident that the Christmas spirit was not lost this year in the WIMM, and if anyone has a few minutes before the break, then please do go and see some of the other entries! It is amazing to see what creative and original ideas come out each year, and it goes to show that Science can be both festive and fun! Congratulations to our winners and to all those who took part – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



This post was written by Rebecca Tooze in the Wilkie group. Many thanks to Liz Stephens and George Paschalis for judging the competition and for everyone else who participated!