Talks on Tap: A social way to share our ideas and stories

The Keppel Street Bar was recently re-launched as the Pump Handle Bar, in honour of Dr John Snow’s famous research on the water transmission of cholera in Soho. We want the Bar to be a space where staff, students and alumni can relax, socialise and share ideas with each other, so the re-launch offered a great excuse for a programme of low-key, informative events – Talks on Tap!

talk tap 2

The first Talks on Tap night was at the end of November 2014 and showcased the talents of our MSc and research degree students. An audience of 30 turned out to hear Sophie Budge share her undergraduate research on perceptions of bodyweight in Peru; Shivani Mathur Gaiha explain her PhD research which will examine whether art programmes and peer education techniques developed by young people in India can improve attitudes to mental health; and Charlene Degen – the Student Representative Council President – encouraging her fellow students to use their free time to support community organisations in London, and leave the city “better than we found it”.

For the January event, we chose something more interactive – an infectious diseases BINGO night paired with a “pegademic”! Dr Gwen Knight, Dr Erin Lafferty and Dr Andrea Apolloni from the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID) invited attendees to buy a drink and compete in a social game of BINGO. BINGO squares were crossed off by finding other attendees with certain traits that included “someone who can define R0” and “someone who can say ‘hello’ in five languages”. Little did they realise that the activity was merely a pretext for our researchers to see how long a “pegademic” would take to infect people and spread across the room…

talk tap 3Using coloured clothes pegs to represent infectious disease agents, they collected data on how the disease spread and the effect social contact patterns had on this. Each person “infected” with a peg was sent to the “treatment centre” where their name and treatment time were recorded, and were given pegs to infect others. The data collected showed that each individual who was infected, and hence infectious, took around 3 minutes to “recover” and become susceptible again. We also had some “super-spreaders” who infected more people than everyone else! We will be taking this activity to the Cheltenham Science Festival in June to compare differences in social contact patterns between adults and children and discuss how mathematical modelling is used in the real world. For more information about the modelling techniques that informed the pegademic, visit the CMMID outreach page.

We will soon be advertising the next Talks on Tap events, which include a student-led evening on cultural diversity, and the School’s local heats of the Three Minute Thesis competition. Do contact if you have a good idea for a fun event that would engage staff, students and alumni.

Read more about public engagement work at the School here.

Photo 1: Talk to explain the mathematical modelling behind the pegademic

Photo 2: Pump Handle Bar plaque

Photo 3: Pegademic “Treatment Centre”

Photo Credits: Vickie Bazalgette


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