The School recently celebrated national Universities Week, running events to spark conversations about the relevance of our research and its everyday impact on people’s lives.
Have you ever wished that books could explain their stories to you, rather than sitting silently in your hands? On 10 June, 45 visitors flocked to Keppel Street to borrow ten walking, talking, living books (our researchers!) at the Living Library. They explored subjects ranging from deadly viruses and the fight against super bugs, to mosquito repellent myth-busting and a wonder drug that halts bleeding. Our real librarian colleagues were out in force too, showing off gems from the Library & Archives collection.
Our researchers relished the opportunity to take on the role of storytellers and find out how their work resonated with a wide range of visitors. Inventive visual aids and props brought discussions to life, and included a jar of strawberry laces (Ebola virus), a colourful array of ineffectual “mosquito repellent” stickers and wristbands from the internet, a cuddly C. difficile toy, and a rapid diagnostic test for malaria.
The living books hardly had a moment to rest on the shelf all evening. Visitors loved the creative format and found that discussion flowed both ways: “I thought this event was a really good example of proper public engagement; researchers were as interested to hear what the audience thought as the other way round.” Several people also commented that research now felt more relevant to them, and they had learnt new information that they could take away and use.
On 11 June, Dr Nina Stanczyk was the guest speaker at the Universities Week Wellcome Collection Packed Lunch event: Mosquito Bites. With a cage of hungry Anopheles gambiae in tow, she told an audience of 70 people about how mosquitoes use their highly-developed sense of smell to sniff us out, and why our body odour makes some of us more attractive than others.
There were some great questions from the audience, including “Is there any possibility that mosquitoes could start ignoring even the effective repellents?” and “I heard about new GM mosquitoes on the radio this morning – how useful are they for control?”, which showed that there is a real interest in this subject.
Dr Stanczyk said: “I enjoyed this event because everyone there was fascinated by the subject – I feel like every single person in the room asked a question. It’s brilliant to talk to people who really want to learn more and who discuss their own opinions and experiences, especially on such an important topic as protection against mosquitoes which spread disease, where there are a lot of misconceptions about what does and doesn’t work.”
For more information about public engagement at the School, visit our dedicated web pages.
Featured image: Living Library session discussion about intimate partner violence in Brazil. Credit: Anne Koerber/LSHTM. Small image: Researchers testing mosquito repellents at the Living Library. Credit: Anne Koerber/LSHTM