The Pint of Science Festival is a worldwide, three-day public event from the 23rd to the 25th of May, where people across the world gather in pubs and venues to hear about, speak about and try out some scientific concepts. Pint of Science states on their website “Our aim is to deliver science talks in a fun, engaging and approachable way by bringing them to a pub close to you”. In its first year in Nottingham, the festival has launched on the 11th of April with a taster from scientists at the University of Nottingham in the local venue Rough Trade. Known for its vinyl records, trendy clientèle and crate beers, Rough Trade was a great venue to showcase science and show that scientists are cool too.

Tolu Taiwo opened the floor with the ironically titled What a load of rubbish where she walked the crowd through the world of biotechnology. After introducing us to the broader meaning purpose of the science, in particular how it was used as a technology in itself, she discussed her own research. Her main focus was the transformation of waste substance from across the globe such as coffee grounds into useful products with the help of bacteria; i.e. turning “evil” waste into wealth-making products. To the enjoyment of most in the room, we found out that alcohol could be made in this way. I’m sure knowing it was made sustainably it would only increase the pleasure of consumption. It was also nice to hear that maybe one day our pharmaceuticals may not be reliant on oil and be made from waste also. Tolu’s clever use of GIFs made the talk fun as well as intersting. We, the audience, were still finding our feet and the confidence to ask, but Tolu answered some serious questions with confidence and predicted that biotechnology is the future.

Tolu Taiwo talking about biotechnology
Tolu Taiwo talking about biotechnology

Following Tolu, Khalil Thirlaway immediately grasped the attention of the audience by plunging straight into uncomfortable topics such as sex and toilets. His was a genuinely fascinating presentation about how parasites affect our lives on a day to day basis, and how our lives have changed because of them. Who knew that the reason we have sex in the way we do, rather than just replicate like bacteria, has a lot to do with parasite prevention? Khalil navigated his way through topics with humour and a brilliant level of science throughout, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. He spoke of how disease has shaped history and prompted us to think about how things would be different if certain parasites had infected Europe rather than Africa. Most by this point were a pint down and were happy to ask questions which made for a really interesting few minutes before the break was called and we all scrambled for another drink; not forgetting a chance to see some of the great interactive activities put on.

Khalil Thirlaway giving a talk on parasites
Khalil Thirlaway giving a talk on parasites

With fresh pints in hand, The Secret Life of Bones took what we have all learnt from school about the human skeleton and then knocked it straight out of the park. Sophie Millar dressed rather appropriately in a skeleton top. She discussed additional roles of bones, how we gain and lose bone throughout our lives and that bones can actually contribute to your hormone levels. Sophie is still at the beginning of her PhD career and so we only had an overview of what she hopes to do but I do wish her the very best on her journey.

Sophie Millar explaining "The Secret Life of Bones"
Sophie Millar explaining “The Secret Life of Bones”

Finally, the event closed with A tale of 8 legged travellers from Dr. Sara Goodacre. Her fascinating talk took us through videos and images of how spiders can take to the skies and travel the world. Aiming to dispel the fears of any arachnophobia audience members, I’m still undecided as to whether the fact that they are truly amazing animals was enough to convince me to be o.k. with the creatures. She displayed some real specimens, told us that spiders can sail across water and even that there is current research into whether spiders have some under-water activity too! The questions inevitable led us into Spiderman territory, and unfortunately for comic book fans out there, it would be physically impossible for Spiderman to swing from his web in the way he does, (In fact he apparently doesn’t even reel it out of his arm correctly).

The crowd getting involved with the interactivites on offer
The crowd getting involved with the interactivites on offer

Matt Young, co-ordinator for the Nottingham branch and president of Stem Outreach Notts, said about the event “We’re all really pleased with how well the launch has gone – it completely exceeded our expectations with more than 100 guests in attendance! Everyone involved has put in an amazing effort which has really made Pint of Science‘s Nottingham debut overwhelmingly positive”.
The event was an overall great success with over 100 interested guests appearing over the course of the night. I have no doubt that the success of the launch will have a positive impact on the festival itself.

Laura Samuel

Images by Mayu Amano

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