Biology and Chemistry workshops

Attendees had the opportunity to attend two workshops on the day from the following selection. Click the plus sign for further information.

Introducing the fruit fly as a modern teaching tool in schools

Keywords: biology, genetics, model organisms, neurobiology

Workshop overview

Fruit-fly research plays key roles during the process of scientific discovery in all areas of biology. We show that Drosophila can also enrich school lessons, not only on classical genetics but on many other aspects relevant to the biology curriculum. 

Presenter biography

Andreas Prokop has worked as a Senior Lecturer in our Faculty of Life Sciences since 2004. He manages the University’s Fly Facility. Andreas’ own research looks at the genetic and molecular mechanisms that underpin the nervous system, in particular the causes of aging and neurodegeneration.

Previously, Andreas was Independent Heisenberg fellow at the Institute of Genetics in Mainz, Germany, where he also undertook postdoctoral research. He has also undertaken studies at the University of Cambridge Department of Zoology, and Bayreuth (then Cologne) University, Germany.

Experimental evolution: from superbugs to digital organisms

Keywords: biology, experimental evolution, computational biology, artificial life, antibiotic resistance

Workshop overview

Evolution is not all about what happened in the past; it's happening around us now - and our research group experiments with it.

Stories about super-bugs and the global threat of antibiotic resistance are increasingly in the news. How such antibiotic-resistant microbes evolve is an important scientific question.

This workshop will reveal the work we do in the lab looking at microbes evolving antibiotic resistance, and go on to demonstrate the experimental evolution that we also do with digital organisms evolving in a computer. It will also highlight tools that you can take back to experiment with evolution happening in the classroom.

Presenter biography

Chris Knight is a lecturer at The University of Manchester, with a research group working on questions in evolutionary genetics and teaching including experimental design and statistics.

His route into this was:

  • A-levels: Biology, Physics, Chemistry, RS
  • Undergraduate: Natural Sciences ending in Genetics (Cambridge)
  • PhD: nematode worm evolution (Imperial College)
  • Postdocs: microbes (Oxford and Manchester)
  • Research Fellowship: yeast evolution (Manchester)

Data with a purpose: taking inspiration from worms

Keywords: biology, immunology, research methods

Workshop overview

Let’s face it, good research involves repetition and the best way to understand it is to do it. But does it have to be boring?

In this workshop you’ll hear a classroom case study about gut infection (worms!) research. Come and try some activities to show how real-life research can encourage enquiry and creativity in the classroom.

Presenter biography

Dr Joanne Pennock is an immunologist in the Faculty of Medicine and Human Sciences at The University of Manchester, appointed as a non-clinical lecturer in 2005. She is interested in gut inflammation, with particular emphasis on how gut parasite infection drives disease and the effect it has on the immune response. This impacts our understanding of both tropical worm infections and conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

She regularly participates in public and school activities to engage all ages in the excitement of scientific research and what it can teach us about our immune system.

Filling up on sunshine - energy from sunlight

Keywords: physics, chemistry, nanotechnology, renewable energy

Workshop overview

This session will explore the issues surrounding solar energy, beginning with why it is such an obvious source of renewable energy, the limitations of electricity generation and the advantages of fuel generation over electricity. It will also investigate how the bonding of molecules to the surfaces of nanomaterials governs the efficiency of the devices for their specific use and why this is important by looking at the timescales on which charge is transferred.

We will briefly mention some of the techniques we use to study these interfaces, from large international synchrotron radiation facilities to ultrafast laser systems here in Manchester.

The workshop will use demonstrations, which can be utilised with children, to show how sunlight is not evenly distributed across all colours of the spectrum (which is also relevant to spectroscopy), and how nanotechnology can be used to tune the properties of materials for solar-harvesting.

Presenter biography

Dr Andrew Thomas is a Research Fellow in the Photon Physics Group of our Photon Science Institute. He graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Manchester before moving to UMIST to do an MSc in Instrumentation and Analytical Science. In 1990 he moved to Liverpool, where he did his PhD in Surface Science. He then returned to UMIST as a postdoctoral researcher, firstly in Chemistry and then Physics, continuing his work on oxide surfaces. He was made a University Research Fellow in 2000. His research has focused on spectroscopic studies of surfaces and interfaces with relevance to catalysts, corrosion, solar energy conversion and biomaterials science.

He is currently Secretary of the Thin Films and Surfaces Group of the Institute of Physics and a founding member of the Surface Science of Biologically Important Interfaces Network, which organises annual meetings to get clinicians and surface scientists to discuss how they can solve problems together. He is currently involved in a project to design a new sensor for detection of a molecule associated with kidney function. He has done outreach work to thousands of school children (from ages four to 18) and adults, and last month was awarded a second Royal Society Partnership grant to work with a local primary school on understanding the principles of light and their application to medical imaging.

Fingerprinting pollution

Keywords: chemistry, atmospheric science

Workshop overview

What is the cause of modern-day smog? In this workshop we will show how scientists attempt to ‘fingerprint’ pollution using infrared spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy. We will focus on ‘how science works’ and show that not all scientists wear white lab coats.

Presenter biography

Professor Carl J Percival is Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. His work over the last 15 years has involved the development of analytical techniques, in particular mass spectrometry, for the selective quantification of atmospheric species both in the laboratory and the field.

His other degrees, posts and awards include:

  • PDRA at University of Cambridge and with Professor Mario J Molina (1995 Nobel Prize Laureate) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • DPhil from the University of Oxford in the area of reaction kinetics.
  • BA in Chemistry from the University of Oxford.
  • Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC).
  • President of RSC gas kinetics committee.
  • Recipient of the David Shirley Award in 2012 for work on Criegee intermediates.

Putting a spin on things: recent advances in molecular magnetism

Keywords: chemistry, nanoparticles, nanotechnology

Workshop overview

Materials that exist in the size range between the classical macroscopic world and the molecular quantum world (~1 – 100 nm) exhibit some interesting properties. This talk describes how these effects arise, along with some practical demonstrations.


Dr George Whitehead.