On June 20th 2013 the Medical Research Council (MRC) celebrated its centenary. The MRC Units in Oxfordshire held a pop-up science festival in Bonn Square in the centre of Oxford as part of the celebrations on Saturday June 22nd. During the 6 hours of the event over 2000 people visited the different stalls. The two MRC units based in the WIMM manned a joint stall illustrating their research on disease involving the blood (Molecular Haematology) and infections (Human Immunology).
The joint stall was manned by a combination of WIMM students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty of all nationalities, a total of 15 split between a morning and afternoon shifts. All the volunteers were enthusiastic as demonstrated in the positive feedback from visitors.
The Human Immunology Unit was lent a model of a human nose so that children could explore the defense mechanisms against disease that are found in the nose. The nose plays a key role in the front line of body’s defense by trapping bacteria and viruses as well as allergens such as pollen and house dust. Using microscopes visitors were able to look at the different shapes and sizes of pollen down a microscope. Visitors were also able to look at the different shapes and sizes of red blood cells from birds, amphibians and humans. Another attraction was an artificial blood vessel where people could select a cell and find out about its role in health and disease. Visitors were able to find out about stem cells, the immune system and red blood cells. There were hands on activities such as blood typing and colouring activities for younger children. For some this may have been their first “hands on” experience of science in action.
Responses from on the spot surveys revealed that the overall impression of the event was overwhelmingly positive. The majority left with goody bags including posters illustrating the important breakthroughs of the MRC since its inception as well as having had a chance to find out more about the work funded by the MRC in Oxford.