Meet the Scientists: A first time experience

Posted on: 26 April 2022 by Matthew Fok in April 2022 posts

Hopefully if you’re reading this blog you’re interested in public engagement (PE) and want to know more!

Rhianna Hill and I are both PhD students and prior to this event were first timers. We hadn’t previously done any public engagement and didn’t really know where or how to start! We saw the advert for the 'Meet the Scientists' event so decided to reach out and enquire about getting involved. We are so glad we took that step as we have gained a huge amount from getting involved and are looking for our next event! In our blog we will explain how we got involved (and how easy it was!), what we did, why it was hugely worthwhile, and how you can also get involved!

The recent 'Meet the Scientists' event was held at the World Museum in Liverpool on Saturday 19 March from 10am – 4pm. This event series is aimed at educating and engaging kids, and their parents, into the vast array of scientific research taking place at the university. The idea is to run a stall which offers a fun yet educational activity to explain the basic background and importance of your research.  Thinking of an activity to run can appear daunting however it was the complete opposite. We started off with a small and incomplete idea and Becky (University Public Engagement Officer) was great at helping us develop our activities through a couple of virtual meetings. Becky has a wealth of items stored for use in PE activities and there is pot of funding available to buy any additional items required to run your activity!

Our research explores the impact that hypoxia has on the success of radiotherapy treatment of cancer. We broke this down into four different activities. The first aimed at explaining hypoxia and involved a small science experiment where shaking a bottle turned a colourless liquid blue as oxygen in the air mixed with the solution and returned to colourless after leaving to stand. The next activity showed stained cancer cells from clonogenic assays, which is technique we commonly use in the lab. We also had a table with some surgical equipment which the kids could play with and practice picking out sweets (resembling tumours). Lastly, and perhaps the most popular activity, was the giant inflatable gut kindly provided by Becky. We attached pictures of cancer cells to the inside of the gut and the kids used nerf guns to shoot them simulating radiotherapy.

The 'Meet the Scientists' event was a great success with over a thousand people attending! It was a busy day with kids (and parents) of all ages taking part in our activities and an overwhelming majority loved playing with the nerf guns of course! As well as having lots of fun playing the activities, it was a special experience to talk to kids about science and answering their questions. It challenged us to explain our research in a different light and the kids definitely challenged our thinking with their ‘but why?’ questions! The parents were also particularly interested in our research, so we had to quickly adapt and explain our research in a variety of different ways. It is a great feeling to see the public’s interest in the important research you are doing!

The event was jam packed and tiring and we were glad there were a few other people who came to help us out on the stand. However, we loved every moment of it and would definitely do it again! We also received fantastic feedback and were rated as one of the top activity stands. As well as the rewarding experience of educating the public, we are also able to utilise this event in our thesis and in any future grants we apply for. There really is nothing to lose! If you are thinking of getting involved in any PE we would suggest getting in touch with ourselves or with Becky (, no commitments just an informal chat! Also, there is another 'Meet the Scientists' event coming up soon!