The Knight group have had a good year of public engagement, with 10 members of the group attending 6 different events for high school students, charity members, retirees and the general public at large, as well as winning an award.
The year was bookended, in March and November, by two very succesful PCR and Bioinformatic workshops at Abingdon School. The most recent one saw 27 students from Europa School and Larkmead School get to grips with duplicating small amounts of DNA using PCR, cutting it precisely using a digestion enzyme and displaying the results on a gel ladder. This session was run by Alice Allcock, with help from Giuseppe Scozzafava, Yuxin Mi, Parisa Yavari and Justin Whalley. While waiting for the PCR to cycle through to get enough DNA product, Yuxin Mi gave a really interesting talk on Pharmacogenomics; linking our genetics to the treatment we receive. In the time taken for the digestion enzyme to work, Giuseppe Scozzafava and Parisa Yavari discussed their careers in science. In the afternoon Justin Whalley ran them through an algorithm to produce a phylogenetic tree - in this case - to try track the path a message was passed through 9 of the students, when only hearing the end messages. It was an enjoyable day, made more so by running into Europa School again. Their students who attended last year's workshop did very well on the PCR question in their finals' exam and our talks on careers had helped them decide what they wanted to study at university. We were also pleasantly surprised to win the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics "Excellence in Public Engagement for Projects" prize for setting up and running this workshop. We look forward to meeting a new set of students for the next edition of this workshop in March.
This year two of our members also braved the general public with performances. Carla Cohen, as part of the Oxford Science and Ideas Festival in October, sang about her research in Ankylosing Spondylitis. While back in April, Justin Whalley helped kick off Pint of Science by performing stand up comedy about his life in research for the 2019 Launch event. Both of them, with the right inducement, could be encouraged to perform their song or set again.
As reported, Julian Knight and Giuseppe Scozzafava both attended the National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society Members Day in June. It was great to see this followed up with an article in the autumn AS News edition.
Finally, Justin Whalley was delighted to be invited by the University of the Third Age to give a lecture to 120 of their south east region members, as part of their Genetics Study Day in September. The audience was particularly engaged and had many questions on genetics, infectious diseases and to what exactly a Manhattan plot of a genome-wide-association-study shows.
A big thank you to Brian Mackenwells, the centre's Public Engagement Officer for his support, as well the students at our workshops, the retirees for the study day, the charity members and those who listened and laughed to our singing and stand up comedy. We look forward to 2020, hopefully, with just as many events and the enthusiasm, questions and fun we had, when we took our science outside of the lab this past year.