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Public engagement

We are passionate about communicating our research goals and advances to a broad audience, particularly school children and young people, and patients and their families. Events include:

  • Science communication events and festivals
  • Patient support workshops
  • School visits

Recent highlights:

Big Biology Day (October 2017). A fantastic open day event at Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, which provided an opportunity for families and students to discover how microscopes can reveal the inner workings of cells, and to learn about the many careers options in science.
Science seminar in DR Congo (May 2017). Jane Stinchcombe (Griffiths lab) visited the Anglican University of Beni in North East DR Congo, where she gave their first overseas speaker seminar. Her talk focused on microscopes and research on cytotoxic T-lymphocytes to an invited audience of university lecturers and students, medics, other community members and the local press.
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CIMR Public Engagement Award 2017: Special congratulations to the Marciniak lab, who won our institute Public Engagement award at the CIMR retreat this year in recognition of their fantastic contributions to public engagement events at the Science Festival, school visits and through outreach talks.

Cambridge Science Festival (March 13-26 2017): Two weekends of drop-in events in the city at the Guildhall and on the Biomedical Campus. Special thanks to all of our volunteers who ran microscopy activities and helped visitors to create a new giant cell, contributing so much enthusiasm and energy:

Gordon Frazer · Arianne Richard · Katharine Strege · Gillian Griffiths · Anna Miles · Anna Dickson · Niko Amin-Wetzel · Ana Crespillo-Casado · Alisa Zyryanova · Stefan Marciniak · Elke Malzer · Matthew Ellis · Hayley Sharpe · Janet Deane · Sam Spratley · Zuzana Kadlecova · Jenny Hirst · Alex Davies · Luther Davies · Sophie Breusegem · Richard Mifsud · Lucy Raymond


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Science Week, primary school visits (March 2017): The Owen, Nathan and Marciniak labs visited local primary schools in Harston and Cambridge during Science Week, running activities to learn about the inner workings of cells and how DNA provides the blueprint for life.


The Big Draw at the Royal Society (October 22 2016): A brilliant day at the Royal Society's BigDraw event, where CIMR researchers and artists worked together with visitors to create a giant cell, complete with fantastic new visions of organelles, the cytoskeleton and cell surface!

giant cell b  Giant cell Big Draw  Giant cell c

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Inspired by Jenny Hirst (Robinson lab), Nele Dieckmann, Gordon Frazer, Jane Stinchcombe (Griffiths lab), Alisa Zyryanova (Ron lab), Gareth Fearnley and Hayley Sharpe (Sharpe lab), together with Petra Matthews-Crow, Freya Matthews-Crow (Astor College, Dover) and Germaine Jayandra (Fairly House School, Pimlico) together with many creative families!

Watch this video of the Big Cell coming to life:



Hay Festival (May 26-June 5): Fortune favours the prepared mind. Jim Huntington attended this summer festival in the Brecon Beacons, to talk about the control of blood clotting and therapeutic strategies for preventing heart disease and strokes.

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Pint of Knowledge (April 27 2016). Researchers from David Rubinsztein's lab took part in this 'pint of knowledge' event at the Panton Arms, Cambridge. This public engagement initiative, from the Society of Spanish Researchers in UK (SRUK), included talks and discussion to highlight how insights into neurodegeneration can come from studying different model organisms.

Pint of knowledge 


Science inspiration session in Sierra Leone (April 2016).  Jane Stinchcombe visited Freetown, Sierra Leone to volunteer in Kroo Bay. She ran a ‘science inspiration session’ for >25 young people, in which she shared her experiences working as a researcher, talked about microscopes and her research on the immune synapse. The session was a great success, with participants also using microscopes at look cheek and onion cells, leading to many questions and a pertinent discussion about the inside of a cell.

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Cambridge Science Festival (March 2016). Our Festival events highlighted how different cell types are equipped with the 'know how' for their specialized functions. At the Cambridge Guildhall weekend, with >3,000 visitors and including a special autism-friendly hour, the Griffiths lab returned with the killer T cell quiz board, movies and cell biscuits, while the Marciniak, Reid and Robinson labs ran new microscopy activities to demonstrate what the fly wing can teach us about the signals controlling lung function. On the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the Buss lab and Rhys Roberts focused on molecular motors that drive transport in our cells and neurons.


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Jesus College school outreach workshops (November 2015-March 2016). Jenny Hirst (Robinson lab) has given four school lectures for year 10-12 school groups from across the southeast region, introducing her research into protein traffic and her career experience as a research scientist.

London International Youth Science Forum (July 2015). A pleasure to take part in the LIYSF 2015 event this year, with a group of keen students from around the world  - another chance to tour our research facilities and see how research works first hand.

International Summer School, Jesus College, Cambridge (July 2015). Tom O'Loughlin from the Buss lab ran a workshop for international high school students on cell trafficking, including a talk and microscopy sessions using Paramecium as a life cell model.

CIMR-Kings College Student Open Day (July 2015). A fantastic day with two groups of year 12/13 students visiting the institute to learn about a career in research. Inspiring talks from our Director Gillian Griffiths, Jenny Hirst and Stefan Marciniak, a chance to meet with CIMR students and have tours of our research facilities.

Science workshop, Jesus College, Cambridge (June 2015). Jenny Hirst from the Robinson lab ran a workshop for year 10 students together with Malte Gersch (LMB), which included a chance to make protein crystals of lysozyme.

Fulbourn Primary School visit (June 2015). Jenny Hirst, Alex Davies and Bavani Sahu from the Robinson lab visited students to talk about our cells and the intracellular transport system. Students viewed their own cheek cells under a microscope, conducted races between nutrients and viruses in a cell model, and even decorated cell biscuits.

Inspire Me: History of Flu (April 2015). Stefan Marciniak took part in the Inspire Me seminar series this month at the senior school of the Stephen Perse Foundation. The talk, “One hundred years of influenza - Spanish ‘flu to the present day”, spanned the influenza pandemic last century that killed 70 million people to the research today aimed at preventing this from happening again.

The CIMR at the Biomedical Campus, Cambridge Science Festival (March 2015). Our first CIMR event at the Biomedical Campus was a great success, with thousands of visitors during the day. The Robinson and Luzio labs ran several hands-on activities including vesicle races, cell biscuits and microscopy activities. There was also a fully booked seminar event where Jim Huntington and Frank Waldron-Lynch discussed the development of new anti-coagulant therapies and an immunotherapy trial for type-1 diabetes respectively.

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'Cambridge Stars: Big Ideas' at the Science Festival (March 2015). As newly elected Fellows of the Royal Society, David Ron and Randy Read presented public lectures on their research, highlighting the principles of protein crystallography (Read) and the perilous path to protein folding (Ron).

'Cells in the spotlight' at the Corn Exchange, Cambridge Science Festival (March 2015). A fantastic weekend with ~3000 visitors each day, decorating cell biscuits, and running hands-on activities about cellular motors (Buss lab), axon myelination (Rhys Roberts) and T-cell killing in the immune system (Griffiths lab).

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The CHaOS roadshows (Winter and Summer 2014). Richard (or Miffles) Mifsud from the Read lab and Gordon Frazer from the Griffiths lab are committee members for Cambridge Hands-On Science (CHaOS), a student society of Cambridge University that organizes engaging science events for families and young people. Their activities include local events as part of the Cambridge Science Festival, at the Cambridge Science Centre, and as part of the CHaOS roadshows in the summer and winter months.

UK HSP Family Support Group (June 2014). Evan Reid participated in the annual general meeting of the UK Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) family group. He discussed the past and future of HSP research, beginning with the original descriptions of the condition by Adolph Strumpell in the 1880s, and ending with the latest developments in cell biology, animal models and stem cell technology. New developments for the HSP clinic in Cambridge were also highlighted.

The egg challenge (May 2014). James Edgar, Scottie Robinson, Nicola Hodson and Jenny Hirst went to Fulbourn Primary School for a hands-on scientific investigation into the appearance of a mysterious egg on the school playing fields!  

Cambridge Literary Festival (April 2014). At a public engagement event attended by more than 100 people, Bertie Gottgens took part in this 'Thinking Aloud: Stem Cells' event together with the Director of the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, Austin Smith, and Amer Rana.

Cambridge Science Festival (March 2014). The Griffiths lab led several activities this year aimed at helping children to learn more about how T cells seek out viruses and tumour cells for destruction. These included a model of giant killer T cells and a virus shooting gallery. The Deane lab also helped young and old to make their own crystals of the protein lysosome, and examine these using microscopes, allowing them to highlight the importance of protein structure studies in biology.


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Primary school visit (March 2014). As part of Science Week, Maike de la Roche, a postdoctoral fellow in the Griffiths lab, and Alison Schuldt visited Morley Memorial Primary School in Cambridge, to discuss T cell killers of the immune system with a Year 1 group. The children watched T cells in action by live cell imaging, used stickle bricks to understand pathogen recognition, and created their own T-cell  biscuits.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Information and Support Day (March 8 2014). This free event at Addenbrooke's Hospital was organized and chaired by Fiona Karet on behalf of The Polycystic Kidney Disease Charity. It aimed to inform patients, their families and carers about different clinical aspects of PKD as well as the latest research, and allowed them to put questions to medical experts and share their experiences in breakout sessions led by renal counsellors, our research nurse and speakers. Topics covered included the basics of the disease; screening and genetic testing; diet and lifestyle; research; and transplants. Invited speakers included Dr Dick Sandford (Cambridge), Ms Clare Parslow (Cambridge), Dr Roz Simms (Newcastle), Dr Paul Winyard (London) and Mr Andrew Butler (Cambridge). The 100+ participants also enjoyed a low-salt lunch and lots of clear fluids!