Breaking Down the Walls: THE CONVERGENCE OF SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING OPENS UP NEW IDEAS FOR THE FUTURE
Mar
16
6:00 PM18:00

Breaking Down the Walls: THE CONVERGENCE OF SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING OPENS UP NEW IDEAS FOR THE FUTURE

Building on the success of our previous events that explore the role of creativity in science, this year we focused on how exciting developments we are seeing in data science, artificial intelligence, robotics and synthetic biology are also raising new questions around ethics and humanity which are just as important to address to protect the most important role of science as a great force for good.

Five experts presented their research and views for 5 minutes each  and then the Chair, Dr Daniel Glaser, Neuroscientist and Director of the Science Gallery London, King's College London, invited the audience to ask their questions using a ‘Question Time’ format.

The experts presenting were:

Sophie Scott, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, who studies the science of laughter

Dr John Collins, Disruptive Technologist, Commercial Director, SynbiCITE, Imperial College

Mihaela van der Schaar, Man Professor in Oxford Man Institute of Quantitative Finance (OMI) and the Department of Engineering Science at Oxford, Fellow of Christ Church College and Faculty Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute whose research interests and expertise are in machine learning, data science and decisions for a better planet. including novel machine learning and data science methods for medicine and personalised education

Waseem Qasim, NIHR professor in cell and gene therapy, Institute of Child Health, University College London whose research interest lies in modifying and editing human cells

Phoebe Tickell, a scientist with Imperial College  Synthetic Biology Accelerator SynbiCITE, systems designer and social entrepreneur (Founder of Future Farm Lab)

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, Director of the Francis Crick Institute, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2001, supported the event and sent this message.

 I am delighted to support this Science Question Time event run by ColliderSCIENCE. Previous ones have shown the high level of enthusiasm for parents and students to engage in this forum.

Many teenagers about to pursue science GCSEs, A levels and IB may see science as a lot of facts that need to be learned to do well in exams, but scientific discovery is a creative pursuit that starts with asking many questions and challenging prevailing wisdom.   The world is changing quickly and many new types of jobs and careers will be created through the curiosity of individuals to invent new ways of solving problems.    It is good to see that Kings College Wimbledon have recognised the value of design thinking  and the critical role of engineering in this endeavour in their new Design and Engineering discipline.

One of the main reasons I am supporting the Science Question Time event is that it is aligned to the core principles of the Francis Crick Institute- that aims to explore connections between the different scientific disciplines to spur new thinking in many important areas of our lives. 

Applying the great strides we are seeing in data science, artificial intelligence, robotics and synthetic biology are just some of the things exciting scientists and engineers today- but new questions around ethics and humanity are just as important to address to protect the most important role of science as a great force for good. 

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Breaking Down The Walls: The Convergence Of Sciences And Engineering Opens Up New Ideas For The Future
Apr
25
6:00 PM18:00

Breaking Down The Walls: The Convergence Of Sciences And Engineering Opens Up New Ideas For The Future

Building on the success of our inaugural event in November 2015, we held another incredible Science Question Time in April 2017 engaging teenagers and their parents on the future of science, involving the following inspirational scientists:

Anjana Ahuja (Chair): Award winning science journalist, commentator and broadcaster.  Contributing Writer on science at the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Prospect and BBC2’s Newsnight.

Professor Mary Ryan: Professor of Materials Science & Nanotechnology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Materials, Imperial College, London

Dr Jessica Wade: Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Physics, Imperial College, London

Professor Alan Winfield: Professor of Robot Ethics, Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics,University of the West of England, Bristol

Dr Fay Cooper: PostdoctoralTraining Fellow, developmental biology, Francis Crick Institute, London

Professor Maja Pantic: Professor of Affective and Behavioural Computing, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Computing, Imperial College London

Professor Magnus Rattray: Professor of Computational and Systems Biology, Director, Data Science Institute, University of Manchester

Sir Paul Nurse, former President of the Royal Society and Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2001, is supporting the event for the second time, with the following message:

I am delighted to support the second ColliderSCIENCE Science Question Time event to build on the success of the first one held at Kings College School Wimbledon in November 2015.

The great interest in the inaugural event is driven at least in part by the increasing appreciation of the role of science in creating a better world for us, our children and society at large.

Many teenagers about to pursue science GCSEs, A levels and IB may see science as a lot of facts that need to be learned to do well in exams, but scientific discovery is a creative pursuit that starts with asking many questions and challenging prevailing wisdom. 

One of the main reasons I am supporting the Science Question Time event is that it is aligned to the core values of scientific research including those we apply in the newly opened Francis Crick Institute that opened this year and explores the connections between the different scientific disciplines to spur new thinking in many important areas of our lives. 

The world of science is exciting ahead- and many new types of jobs and careers will be created by the ingenious application of knowledge and curiosity and the collision of many people and ideas to invent new ways of doing things.   Understanding the genetics of aging, chronic disease and longevity (including the role of ‘omics’-the study of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics) as well as curing disease and preventing ill health more quickly though the great strides we are seeing in data science, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, are just some of the things exciting scientists today.

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Breaking down the walls: The convergence of sciences and engineering opens up new ideas for the future
Nov
19
6:00 PM18:00

Breaking down the walls: The convergence of sciences and engineering opens up new ideas for the future

Click here to see the podcast of the event.

An incredible Science Question Time event, “Breaking Down the Walls in Scientific Thinking- Convergence in Science and Engineering Opens up New Ideas for the Future”,  was held at Kings College Wimbledon on 19th November.  Over 200 tickets were sold to an enthusiastic audience of students, parents and the wider community, going far beyond expectations,  both in terms of interest to attend and the great engagement we had as evidenced by the number of questions we had in the end.

Dr Anjana Ahuja, award winning science journalist, did a magnificent job in chairing the event, bringing energy, knowledge and humour to keep up the tempo and engage the audience. 

First, Anj read out the message of support from Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society and Director of the Francis Crick Institute, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2001: ‘I am sorry I cannot be at this event but I am very pleased to see that its focus is on exploring the connections between the different scientific disciplines to spur new thinking in many important areas of our lives. For many of you about to pursue science GCSEs, A levels and IB, you may see science as a lot of facts you need to learn to do well in your exams, but scientific discovery is a creative pursuit that starts with asking many questions. The innovations we see every day come from the intense, creative collaboration between scientists across many specialties, blurring the lines between biology, physics and chemistry.   This is driving developments in areas as diverse as nanotechnology, synthetic biology and computational sciences that are revolutionising our understanding of disease and changing the face of healthcare.’

Dr Simon Schultz, Director at the Centre for Neurotechnology, Imperial College left the audience in wonder at how fluorescence borrowed from nature can be harnessed to understand neural activity and mechanisms of disease such as in Alzheimer’s.   This is a field known as optogenetics which holds much promise to unravel the complexities behind disorders in the brain and to develop new treatments.

Dr Chris Forman, Nanobiophysicist at Cambridge University, took the audience through a journey of natural nanotechnology with panache, first explaining the “central dogma”, describing how DNA provides the biological manufacturing platform to drive applications in all sorts of areas at the cellular level right through to the macro level.  He left the audience pondering how this fundamental appreciation of biological manufacturing may help to solve innumerable challenges like how best to recycle, prevent food from running out and develop renewable energy.

Dr Lena Ciric, a microbiologist at the Faculty of Engineering Science, UCL, explored the fascinating world of bacteria and engaged the audience on her professional journey which started with using microbes to help with oil clean-ups and develop antibacterial mouthwash; in her quest to do more on the global worries over antimicrobial resistance she is now focussed on applying engineering technologies to design healthy buildings.

Dr Sabine Hauert, Lecturer in Robotics at Bristol University, enthralled the audience with her incredible work applying swam behaviour (found in nature with bees and birds for example) to nanoparticles and using the power of the crowd to design applications as diverse as killing cancerous cells to cleaning up oil spills.  She works with Robohub.org, a non-profit online communication platform that brings together experts in robotics research, start-ups, business, and education from across the globe, and demoed their NanoDoc game which allows bioengineers and the general public to imagine and crowdsource new nanoparticle strategies towards the treatment of cancer.

And, finally, Professor Paul Freemont,  co-director of the EPSRC Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovations and the National UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology at Imperial College London, opened our minds to a number of ‘what if’ scenarios: for example, what if we could design cities with naturally bioluminescent treesto reduce the need to light our cities?   He then went on to describe how cells can be viewed as programmable “factories” picking up on the central dogma theory from Chris’ talk to expand on the power of the ‘living operating system’  to design limitless synthetic biology applications to solve major global challenges.

The questions form the audience were diverse and inspired, starting first with which scientists had watched the film ‘Ex Machina’  a sci fi exploration of the concept of singularity, delving into humankind's experiments with artificial intelligence-   followed by the question, what would happen when manmade machines started getting smarter than humans?  Simon responded first, saying that while it would be possible to scan the human brain and upload the information on a computer, this will take time to figure out due to the complexity of information storage in the brain.

Next, a question on how can we make sure that a scientific divide does not grow between the “haves” (the scientific elite) and the “have nots” (the less well educated, or less empowered citizens).  Lena admitted this was an ongoing challenge which she tries to address in her head of outreach at UCL and Chris stepped in with his concept of the “virtuous policy circle”, harnessing people power to create pressure on governments to change policy.

Simon interjected his views on the importance of education to reach communities and communicate how science and technology together are changing the world and impacting our lives in many areas, including our jobs. Paul concluded that we need to make technology accessible, and with the power of citizen science can create a movement where technology can be shared- this is starting to happen with “hackspaces” and “DIY Labs” for example.

The next question asked whether armed with the knowledge of DNA that we have today- can we not use shortcuts to go straight to biology rather than nanobiology to design applications.  This set the scene for Anj, the Chair, to ask the panellists- where do you predict will be the most exciting developments ahead?

Chris answered that you can use shortcuts and cited the example of start-ups that use bacteria to create silk- for example, Spiber have created silk using synthesised genes which coax bacteria to produce fibroin, a structural protein found in spider silk- this spider silk is at least five times stronger than steel, more flexible than nylon and three times stronger than body armour.  Simon then cited the potential of using synthetic silk as a "flexible, biocompatible waveguide" to pipe light into the body (for optogenetics).

Lena said that developments in renewable energy with biofuels was where she would put her money, whereas Sabine felt that leaps in understanding of the biology of tumours was driving significant developments in personalised medicine. Paul said that if he had any money to invest, it would be in companies specialising in DNA synthesis and computational design, designing biological systems and devising new materials, biosensors and drugs.

Chris added that he felt the biggest impact ahead would come from machine learning and pattern recognition.  Simon added that keeping people alive for longer by tackling neurodegenerative diseases was also a very exciting area, but that more money was needed for research.  This spurred the next question on the issue of funding scientific research- this time on the global challenge of superbugs resistant to all antibiotics.  Lena explained the challenges of incentivising pharmaceutical companies to invest in this type of research (drugs required for chronic diseases tend to get the lion’s share of investment) and Paul added that the Wellcome Trust and other groups were funding this research in recognition of the severity of the global problem.  Anj cited a recent report by an economist that looked at the scale of the problem from a macro economic perspective.  Finally Chris volunteered some ‘disruptive’ ideas, using nanotechology and physical approaches to interfere with viral cycles.

Questions on robotics and fracking followed (the general consensus amongst scientists was to look for alternatives to fossil fuels) and ending finally on the penultimate question- will we ever be able to design a new species to which Paul answered enthusiastically with a resounding YES!

Throughout, Anj asked personal questions of the scientists on their personal journeys of discovery – Simon’s interest in science started from building circuits, Chris’ fascination began with the constellations of the night sky and his first viewing of ORION in his telescope, Lena’s low point in her scientific career was completing her PhD, Sabine’s advice to other would-be scientists is to follow your passion, and Paul said if he weren’t a scientist the only other option would have been to become a mountaineer (relishing the solitude and reflection you can have in the mountains).

Overall, a key theme running through everything was one of constant questioning and being prepared to fail- science is an art in persistence.

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