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Science in the park – a day out at Malvern Park

Blog posted by: Dr Mario F Munoz Pinto, Postdoctoral Researcher, CRUK/MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology

We must reach out to the people who fund our work; some of these are adults across the UK who donate to Cancer Research UK or pay their taxes.  Dr Mario Munoz Pinto (on the left in the photo below) reached out and found that one way to a parent’s heart and mind may be through their children. 

Public engagement activities are a great educational initiative for children as they can be astonished to learn new and interesting things. A child’s astonishment often brings a bonus; usually, once children have found their curiosity for something particular, parents start being interested too.

It can be common that adults have their minds too busy to think about science, and little games help them to understand it better. Children can really surprise you with their razor sharp mind and talented skill; they are our early adopters in public engagement. For that reason, it is so important to catch their attention first and then their parents will come later. That is why scientific events with activities for children, as I experienced at Malvern Science in the Park, are so successful, not only for children, but for researchers and parents too.

I enjoyed my experience at Malvern Science in the Park on Saturday 30th June, the science festival is hosted in a green park out in the fresh-air with a lot of stalls and professionals showing everyone their most enjoyable science. There were Physicists, Meteorologists, Archaeologists, Biologists and even us (my colleague Dr. Alexandr Khrapichev and I) as Oncologists.

Alexandr and I used our activities to emphasise the importance of cancer and diagnostic methods, especially in early detection. In one activity we provided some pictures of fruits scanned by MRI and people had to guess which fruit matched with the MRI picture. Another activity demonstrated how people with different predisposition to lung cancer could have more or less probability to develop it depending on the environment they are living in. This was demonstrated through using toys with different colours and marked with fluorescent dye which were then tracked using a UV lamp.

My first thought before starting the event was that it could be hard talking to people about cancer because it is a quite common disease and it is highly likely someone you will speak to has been affected by it. However, I realised that when you are talking about cancer scientifically (letting people know what cancer consists of or how we develop new strategies to fight it), cancer turns into a less aggressive word, cancer turns into a hope.

At the end of a long and tiring day I felt very grateful, especially when children told us they wanted to become scientists and adults expressed their thanks for our work (I think it is not a personal gratitude, but a general acknowledgement to all researchers). It is these people who tend to encourage you to continue with your work. Participating in these events is rewarding as they are full of positive energy and inspiration, which helps to face better your hardest moments in this profession. 

Main photo credit: Ruaridh MacDonald

Malvern Science in the Park was organised by Innovate Malvern CIC.

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