Small science is big in South West

19 July 2011

Over 1000 students across Devon and Cornwall heard about the big impact of small science last week, in a special talk entitled ‘Small Science, Big Ideas’.

Dr Annela Seddon, a young researcher and lecturer from the University of Bristol‘s School of Physics, introduced the topics of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and spoke about her own cutting-edge research.

Dr Seddon’s talk led us through the physics and chemistry basics of nanoscience, showing students the real science behind the topics they read about in text books. Biology also got a look in, with examples of how nature has already been using nanoscience for millions of years. As one teacher commented, this “integrated approach demonstrated that you might study one science subject but it can lead in all sorts of directions.”

Small science is big in South West

Small science is big in South West physics around the uk With the help of some fun demonstrations and audience participation the A-Level & GCSE students discovered why nano-particles are just so reactive and how we see particles which are thousands of times smaller than a human hair. With a race to build the tallest tower from Lego blocks (pictured right), the competitive participants showed why even on the nano-scale you need the right kind of tools for the job…

Along the way Dr Seddon illustrated scientific principles with examples from her own research in the state-of-the-art NSQI building (Nanoscience & Quantum Information Centre). She also introduced many of her doctoral students who are currently working in the BCFN (Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials), giving the young audience a taste of what might await them should they choose to take their science studies further.

The talk visited Teign School (Newton Abbot), Callington Community College, Bideford College, Truro & Penwith College (Penzance) & Newquay Tretherras School and was seen by around 1070 pupils aged 14-18 and their teachers from 15 different schools.  An evening performance at Callington to a public audience generated much discussion and coverage of the tour also appeared in the Cornish Guardian.

The tour was organised by the Institute of Physics in the South West and sponsored by the IOP South West Branch, following a successful visit to the Channel Islands earlier in the year and the 2010 ‘Small Particles, Big Experiments’ SW schools talk.

‘Small Science, Big Ideas’ will return in October 2011, visiting 5 more schools in Devon & Cornwall. For more details, please contact Alison Rivett (IOP South West Regional Officer).