Phage Therapy Citizen Science Project Launched!

We are delighted to be working with Dr Ben Temperton and his team from the University of Exeter to run an important citizen science project about phage therapy over the next year.

Phage therapy is a promising alternative (or a complementary treatment) to antibiotics. The historical overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to the global issue of antimicrobial resistance, where bacteria become strongly resistant to antibiotics or other disinfectants, leading to dangerous “superbugs” including MRSA. The World Health Organisation has recognised this issue as one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity.

Phages (short for bacteriophages) are viruses, but unlike coronavirus or flu, they infect and kill bacteria. There are more phages on the Earth than there are stars in the Universe and they exist everywhere that bacteria do. The use of these phages to treat bacterial infections was developed predominantly in Georgia, Russia and Poland, even before antibiotics were discovered! With the rise of antibiotic resistance, scientists are starting to rediscover phage therapy as a treatment for bacterial infections, either in conjunction with antibiotics or as an alternative to them, and it is gradually starting to be used in serious “superbug” cases.

In this project, Dr Temperton and his team need the help of citizen scientists to become Phage Hunters, to seek out phages in the natural environment and help build a phage library for the UK.

We will be recruiting Phage Hunters from communities across the South West, particularly those who would not normally have opportunities to engage with scientific research – both school children and adults will be taking part. We are launching our first school workshops this term, and in early 2022 we’ll be working with community builders across the region to recruit more phage hunters. We’re really hoping this is the start of a significant project for both science and society, and we’re thrilled to be able to contribute!

Follow our progress on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and check out our resource page which we’ll be updating throughout the project.

Pop-up exhibition postponed until March 2022

We’re sad to say that we have postponed our STFC-funded “Breaking the Ice”, climate-themed pop-up exhibition until British Science Week in March 2022, due to concerns about another COVID-19 peak.

Although this is disappointing, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to engage the public much more in the whole process of creating it. Keep an eye on our social media for opportunities to be part of creating a really exciting exhibition!

Pop-up Science Centre in August!

NOTE: The pop-up has been postponed until March 2022 due to COVID-19.

We’re delighted to announce that we have been awarded an STFC Spark Award grant to fund a pop-up exhibition in August! For two long weekends, we’ll be showcasing an amazing exhibition in Maketank in Exeter, for people to meet the scientists involved in some inspiring local research, and get involved with our plans to make a STEAMM discovery centre in the city.

We’re collaborating with a fantastic team of scientists from the University of Exeter and local artists to make the exhibition, centred around climate modelling – which helps us not only understand our own climate and how it is changing, but also the climates on other planets! Exeter is home to the largest number of meteorologists and climate change specialists in the UK, along with a world-leading astrophysics research department in exoplanet climates. We’re excited to show how astrophysicists and climate scientists are working together to better understand the climate on Earth, along with other planets in and outside our solar system. By looking out into the Universe at the many wild and wonderful exoplanets – with day temperatures over 700°C or glass rain showers – we want to highlight how precious our extremely habitable planet is, and how we can better look after it.

As part of this event, we want to launch our public consultation for the Exeter Science Centre building! We’ll be exploring ways for the public to share their ideas and views with us and help us imagine what the science centre could be like. Stay tuned for updates!

Great Conjunction Article Published!

Throughout November and December 2020 we worked with the University of Exeter Astrophysics Group and Interwoven Productions to celebrate the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, culminating in a live stream on 20th December, which has been viewed over 300,000 times on YouTube!

Dr Claire Davies has written an article about this project, which was accepted for publication in the April 2021 issue of the Royal Astronomical Society’s Astronomy and Geophysics (A&G) magazine. The article is now available on the A&G website, as well as being freely available on the arXiv.

Dr Sam Morrell has presented a short talk on how the livestream was carried out, along with the engagement statistics, at the Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference (CAP) 2021. He has also written this up in a conference proceeding document. The video can be viewed in full on YouTube and the conference proceeding can be read here (or in full on the CAP 2021 webpage here).

We’re keen to share our experiences and resources for others to emulate in future, so thanks to Dr Davies and Dr Morrell for preparing these articles and videos!

The resources from the event, including videos and details of the community outreach work with Interwoven Productions can be found on the dedicated webpage,

Exciting News: ESC-Live Coming Soon!

We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded one of a limited number of £15,000 grants by the Engineering Education Grant Scheme (EEGS), for our project “ESC-Live: Virtual, out-of-the classroom events connecting school children with engineers”, which will be on the theme of Energy and Waste.

The Engineering Education Grant Scheme, which is run by the Institution of
Engineering and Technology and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, aims to engage young people aged 4-19 in learning about engineering and to develop the professional skills of those involved in supporting Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning and careers awareness.

Organisations capable of developing and delivering UK-based educational activities are eligible to apply to the EEGS scheme. There are two levels of funding available. Awards of up to £5,000 are available for standard applications to the fund, and a limited number of awards up to £15,000 are available each year.

Read more about the project below:

ESC Live is an exciting new way to get students virtually out of the classroom, via a live, interactive documentary-style experience. In this project, we will visit a range of organisations across the South West on the theme of Energy and Waste, transmitting these visits live to mainly disadvantaged schools in the local area, taking questions from students to direct our investigations. We will visit engineers in industry and Universities; wind and solar farms; wave and tidal research sites; geothermal, anaerobic digestion, energy-from-waste and nuclear power plants. ESC Live uses innovative mobile journalism techniques which can be transmitted live over the internet from almost any location. This immersive and interactive experience should make students feel like they are there in the labs or on-site, without the current difficulties of a conventional field trip. 

In these educational events, the students will learn about the science and technology behind current and future innovations in the Energy and Waste industries, and understand the important and varied roles of engineers in these endeavours. The South West is a hub for energy innovation, being the birthplace of industrial energy, now the home of pioneering work in renewable energy engineering. This will be a unique and impactful way for students to “meet” the experts in their region, and be inspired by their work and enthusiasm for making a difference in society. To ensure an even broader reach, we will produce short, informative and engaging YouTube videos for the general public which summarise each visit.

We will be working with our advisor and distinguished former BBC science producer Robin Mudge to produce the events, and award-winning lecturer Dr Adam Feldman from the University of Exeter’s Renewable Energy Department in Penryn, who will guide the project overall with his wide-ranging expertise in engaging teaching and renewable energy engineering. We can’t wait to start this exciting project in the New Year – follow us for updates!

Art of Science Gallery Launched

We’ve launched our online Art of Science Gallery! We find Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) really inspirational and we know lots of you do too. This is an opportunity for professional artists and amateurs alike to share the Art they have produced that has been inspired by STEMM.

We’re looking for creations across many themes and in many different media, from people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

View the gallery and make submissions here – we can’t wait to see what you create!

“Behind the Scenes” Podcast

Natalie took part in a “Beyond Your Research Degree” podcast by the University of Exeter Doctoral College, which was published in September. If you’d like to know a bit about what goes on behind the scenes from Natalie’s perspective – the process and rationale for making the science centre, the (charitable) business perspective, plus an insight into all the groups we’re working with across the city – then have a listen!

It’s available on PodBean, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

We’re in the i news!

We’re delighted to have an article written about us in the i news, online here and in print on 26th May 2020 (see below)! The fantastic article was written by Environment Reporter Madeleine Cuff, who spoke to Natalie and Alice about their ambitions for the Exeter Science Centre.

Here’s a few of our favourite quotes from the article:

“The pair want to re-brand the South West as the Silicon Valley of the UK”

“Coaxing the so-called “hard to reach” parts of society through the centre’s doors is central to their ambition of bringing good science to all.”

“coronavirus will not be the last major scientific challenge the world will face, by a long chalk. Dr Mills and Dr Whitehead are convinced now is the time to prepare the public for the hurdles still to come.”

Madeleine Cuff, i news

Science as Art Gallery Launched

We’ve launched our online Science as Art Gallery! This is a great opportunity for everyone to get creative with their cameras, and discover the science going on all around us. It’s also a way for STEMM researchers to view their research in a new light – and share it with the public!

View the gallery and make submissions here – we can’t wait to see your contributions!