An evening at Pint of Science Festival – Aboli Vavle

As a PhD student who is in her final year and writing her thesis, it gets incredibly stressful. But there are few things that can help you relax and I had one such evening last week. I was asked if I could give a little talk in an event called Pint of Science. If you are not aware, Pint of Science is a science festival that takes place over 3 days in five hundred cities around the world where local researchers go to their local pubs and cafes and discuss their research with members of public over a glass of pint! And I think it is one of the best ways to talk about your research.

So, on 24th May around 5:30 in the evening, all of us presenting gathered in a café closer to the Uni, Off the Ground where Rhys and Helen had organised the event. We started presentations a little after 6 p.m. The theme for the evening was ‘Microscopic Missions’ and I was supposed to go first. But my husband, Jack wanted to be there for the talk and because of his work, he was running late. Zoe, who is currently in 2nd year of her PhD very kindly agreed to go first and very wonderfully presented her topic about antimicrobial resistance where she talked about ‘superbugs’ and how they are a threat and can possibly cause the next pandemic. Luckily, Jack made it before my talk.

My topic was ‘A Secret Life of Dyes’ where I talked about ancient dyes and how they were important in different civilization. This was followed by, why it is important to study dyes as well as the difficulties that come with it and potential solutions. I also talked about any how different analytical methods especially the less-destructive ones are getting more importance and talked about how useful these methods are. I kept the talk light, without using heavy scientific words to make sure the audience is not lost or confused. I also explained chromatography and its principle with a lovely animation to explain HPLC and some of the audience came to me and said that my presentation was quite easy to follow. I was extremely pleased about this, as that’s what I was aiming for. Also, the presentation was full of colourful pictures which made it more interesting and attractive. Overall, the talk was received very well, and I got some very interesting questions about investigating dyes, which I was very happy to answer and discuss.

We then had a little break where the audience interacted with us, asking us questions and doubts, which was so amazing. The event ended with talk by Dom, who is a lecturer in microbiology. He gave a great talk about how radiations are used to understand microsporidia. He had these cool lasers to demonstrate reflections of green and red colours which all of us thought were remarkably interesting.

Overall, the event was a wonderful experience for all of us. Evenings or discussions like these should be organised more often as they help spread the information to people who are interested in these findings and topics regardless of how much background knowledge they have. It helps us as researchers as well to talk about our work in a less stressful environment and spread the knowledge. Here’s to more event like these!

Digging up Memories – Making a Digital Exhibit

You may remember a previous blog post when we set out 3D scanning a whole range of different wooden artefacts for the Digging up Memories – Making Connections online exhibit with Vindolanda Museum. Well here we are, looking back at all the successes and improvements after the exhibit was released to the world! We’ve recently written about online exhibits in the book Hadrian’s Wall: Exploring Its Past to Protect Its Future, but here we’re going to review through our recently published paper on the Digging up Memories exhibit.

This exhibit focused on the precious objects that comprise the Wooden Underworld collection at Vindolanda. Objects were selected by museum workers, volunteers and contributors to ensure co-curation in the exhibit, branching the breadth of roles at Vindolanda Museum. The exhibit was held on the Vindolanda website to help ongoing public engagement during limited visitation times and beyond, still remaining accessible today.

The Digging up Memories landing page – a whole range of different themes and objects to explore!

Our early priority was multimedia excitement. Yes that sounds like a bit of a buzzy phrase but essentially, we want several types of media to engage the different preferences and interests of our audience. This meant not just 3D models but also photos, sound bites, video interviews, voice recordings of contributors, lectures, creative writing, published reports, all sorts! Clearly this had some attentive impact, achieving an average 1 minute 35 seconds spent viewing per page (compared to the “typical” museum exhibit times of half a minute).

Now you may be wondering, which objects were the most popular? First, why not take a look at the exhibit yourself and pick out which one is your favourite!

Had a look? Great! The Things We Share page was the most visited, with the Toy Sword achieving the most views overall. Personally, we love the toy sword – Rhys even gave an interview about it in the exhibit!

A key question was “so… was it worthwhile?”. Yes! We had so much valuable feedback but the most valuable measure for us was that 88% of respondents felt encouraged to look further into Vindolanda and Roman history. Now that is a clear success for museums hosting online exhibits! If you’re interested in setting up your own online exhibit, check out the publication which goes into more detail, and offers suggestions and recommendations for future projects.

Isn’t technology great?

Climate change monitoring

One year has now past since Dr Gillian Taylor was involved in the installation of a weather station at Fort Magna. It is not just a weather station but also monitors ground chemistry to help us understand seasonal changes. The data has been fascinating and watch this space for updates on conference presentations later in the year..

Not content with one weather stations, in April 2023, the team also installed a similar system, provided by Van Walt across the Vindolanda site, monitoring more chemistry, more conditions and importantly watching those anaerobic areas very carefully, as we all know by now, the anaerobic conditions are important for the preservation of artefacts.

There are two other blogs posts, whom have written about the adventures of putting in the new system, so enjoy the link