Agents of F.L.U. report for duty at Big Bang North West

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Visitors attending the IGH stand during Big Bang North West 2014

It may not be flu season yet, but there's nothing wrong with being prepared! Staff and students from the Institute engaged hundreds of pupils from across the local region with the science of influenza as part of the recent Big Bang North West fair, which was held at Aintree Racecourse on 8 July.

The fair gave pupils the chance to meet real scientists and engineers from local industry and universities and the chance to experience the fun and excitement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

Led by virologist Dr Diane Munday and colleagues from the Department of Infection Biology, and supported by volunteers from across the Institute, Agents of F.L.U. saw pupils learn about influenza infection through interactive games and activities.

Influenza pom-pom making proved popular, with two different colours of wool representing haemagglutinin and neuraminidase introducing the structure of the virus and the concept of reassortment. A virus-monster mash game, where pupils (and some very competitive teachers!) had to match up randomly generated virus-monsters to their matching pair using vaccine swatters, helped explain why new flu vaccines need to be made each year. Pupils could also look down a microscope at infected lung tissue, learn how good hand hygiene can reduce the spread of infection, and find out about some of the Institute’s current influenza research.

Diane said: “Many thanks to all the volunteers who gave their time, enthusiasm and ideas to Agents of F.L.U. Everyone engaged brilliantly with the visitors to our stall, whether they were teachers, children or other exhibitors. I'm looking forward to the 25 and 26 of July, when more volunteers will have the chance to make reassortment pom-poms with visitors and foil flu with our vaccine game as part of the Science of War event at the University’s inaugural Festival of Ideas."

Nicola Frost, Science Communication Officer for the Institute, said: "For many volunteers this was their first time taking part in an outreach event and they all did a fantastic job! It was great to see so much support from our staff and students who have gained valuable experience engaging with so many pupils, and hopefully inspiring a few more to consider a career in science.”

Visit our Big Bang North West gallery to see more photos from the event.

Image of influenza pom pom used at an IGH event at the World Museum in Liverpool