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IDRM researchers debunk cardiovascular myths and engage the public with how the body forms

IDRM researchers across two public engagement teams - the 'Myth Busters' and 'Shaping Destiny' - engaged hundreds of visitors at Wesley Memorial Church on Saturday 8 October 2022 as part of The Oxford Science and Ideas Festival’s Explorazone. 

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A young girl named Purdy enjoys the 'virtual Shaping Destiny world'. Image Credit: Tomoko Watanabe

 

IF Oxford is an annual science and ideas festival taking place in locations across the city. It offers a variety of events, workshops and talks to explore the latest scientific research with audiences of all ages, and creates an opportunity for thousands of face-to-face interactions between Festival visitors, researchers and innovators. The Explorazone is an interactive science fair for families, teens and adults, which includes an hour just for adults and children and the families of those who are within the autistic spectrum or who have other neurodiverse conditions. Three IDRM cardiology Postdoctoral Research Scientists were part of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) 'Who You Gonna Call? Myth-Busters!' team, and sought to debunk myths around the cardiovascular system. At the same event, the Srinivas Group brought a unique virtual reality experience to the public as part of their innovative 'Shaping Destiny: Experiments in Embodiment' project that explores what is human and how body forms have been historically perceived.

Focusing on the circulatory system, IDRM's Drs Irina-Elena Lupu, Christophe Ravaud and Andia Redpath attended the festival as part of a group keen to provide a space where members of the public could discover how some popular bodily beliefs are wrong and why they were embraced as scientific fact in the first place. Using a variety of hands-on activities, the group demonstrated the importance of science in understanding how the body works, and how knowledge develops over time, engaging around 200 adults and children. Andia shared ancient and modern myths about the heart, as well as facts about heart development, heart disease, and broken heart syndrome. Christophe led a quiz focussed on facts about the heart and circulatory system. Irina debunked the myth about blue blood with an activity about the colour of blood in different animals.

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L-R: Andia Redpath, Christophe Ravaud and Irina-Elena Lupu. Image Credit: Louise Cotterell

 

In the second team led by Professor Snankar Srinivas and Dr Tomoko Watanabe, researchers brought together science and humanities, art and technology to festival goers. They engaged visitors about our body forms, from dynamic embryonic development processes to historical perceptions. At the start of the year, Shankar and Tomoko, in collaboration with Professor Wes Williams of TORCH, were awarded a £188k Enriching Engagement project grant to raise awareness of the biology underpinning our form, and the different perceptions of form. They went onto engage with two community groups - Body Politic and Parasol Project - to create videos of young people's movements inspired by both dynamic biology research and historical understanding of human forms. These movements were digitised to create an interactive and immersive VR experience that was introduced with the help of Srinivas group postdoctoral research scientist Dr Shifaan Thowfeequ at IF Oxford 2022. More than 70 people, aged 4 to 70, experienced the VR. Alongside this activity, Tomoko with the help of DPAG Administrative Assistant Emma Hodgkins worked with some 130 children using sticker activities to explain how embryos form, enabling them to learn how the body develops from a single cell. Alongside this, around 50 adults engaged researchers in discussions about the state of current human embryo research.

The Explorazone event offering 1000 tickets on Saturday 8 October was sold out. 

More information can be found on the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics website.

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