Earlier this week Layal Liverpool and Mirjam Schilling, a PhD student and postdoc in the Rehwinkel lab at the MRC Human Immunology Unit (MRC HIU) joined Oxford Sparks in a Facebook Live event about their research on viruses. This opportunity arose as part of a University-wide competition that Oxford Sparks, a University portal for public engagement with science, ran across the University.
The Rehwinkel lab at the MRC HIU, led by Jan Rehwinkel, Associate Professor Innate Immunology at the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, studies how nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA can trigger immune responses, in particular when cells are infected by viruses. During their half an hour broadcast, Layal and Mirjam discussed their research on viruses, and in particular how cells are able to detect the DNA or RNA of viruses using cellular sensors, not unlike the smoke detectors that can detect a fire (you can read a blog post by Layal on this topic here). The recording took place in the lab, providing an opportunity for those tuning in to see what a real research lab looks like, including a demonstration of the health and safety procedures that protect researchers (and the wider community) from contamination. Layal and Mirjam also answered questions sent in by the public during the event, such as ‘how many different cold viruses are there’ and ‘what kind of imaging techniques do you use’.
For Layal and Mirjam this was a new way to engage the public. “This was an exciting opportunity to engage a wider audience (our video already received more than 5000 views at the time of writing!) with our research and provide a picture of what scientific research in a lab actually looks like.” said Layal “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and highly recommend social media as a tool for engaging people with science.” “Additionally, this was an interesting way to not only reach a broader audience, but also to share a more personal side of our day-to-day working experience and start conversations about the aims and methods of our research.” added Mirjam.
If you missed the live broadcast the video is now also available on YouTube: