‘Science Bites with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’ at Pint of Science Liverpool

News article 23 May 2023

Liverpool hosted Pint of Science, an annual three-day festival that brings engaging science and latest research findings to pubs and bars across the world. Last night saw LSTM’s Drs Helen Savage, Caitlin Greenland-Bews, Thomas Hampton, and Ana Karina Pitol Garcia speaking at The Shipping Forecast pub to over 40 members of the public.

‘Science Bites with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’ was part of National Lottery Heritage Funded project called ‘LSTM-Past, Present, and Future’ which sees us reflecting on it’s a rich history whilst celebrating its global impact in its 125th year. The project aims to increase awareness and engagement in LSTM’s stories of its past and present-day scientists.

LSTM’s Dr Helen Savage and Dr Caitlin Greenland-Bews kicked the evening off with their talk “Covid-19 Back to the Future” by taking the audiences on a journey back to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown where they outlined the vital role of the diagnostics teams at LSTM, during this time, in processing the thousands of nasal swab samples collected from the people of Liverpool at the test centre in Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Helen and Caitlin demonstrated the MinION, a small portable USB sequencing platform, that helped the team sequence the COVID-19 genomic material present in the nasal swabs allowing them to determine which variants of the virus were present in the sample.

Thomas Hampton, Ear Nose and Throat Surgical Registrar and Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD Student, gave an engaging talk called “Can You Feel Me Talking?” telling the story of his research into bone conduction hearing devices in the UK and Malawi. He gave the audience a sense of what it feels like to experience hearing loss and how life-changing it can be to have access to effective hearing devices especially for the learning, development, and attainability of young children.  Tom brought along an example of the bone conduction hearing device, not dissimilar from the headphones we all wear whilst running or doing other sports making them more acceptable and appealing to people with hearing loss. One of his research participants said: “You wouldn’t be embarrassed using them because a lot of people go around with earphones anyway.”

Following a short interval which gave the audience a chance to grab a drink at the bar and explore their creative side with a fun activity, ‘Science Bites with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’ ended with a talk by Post-Doctoral Research Associate Dr Ana Karina Pitol Garcia. Ana gave an informative and engaging talk called “The Next Pandemic – Are We Prepared?” which was a nice follow on from the earlier talk by Helen and Caitlin. Ana gave the audience an opportunity to consider her idea that although a pandemic will occur again, we are better prepared given the vast improvements in diagnostics and sequencing technologies that have been made since the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the research being undertaken to improve therapeutics and vaccines. She also reassured us that we can continue to order delivery pizza, during the next pandemic, thanks to her research exploring the survival of the COVID-19 virus on cardboard boxes.

LSTM’s Public Engagement Manager, Dr Elli Wright, said: “What an amazing festival to be a part of Pint of Science is an excellent opportunity to engage with non-scientific audiences in the relaxed and informal venue of The Shipping Forecast. The speakers at Science Bites with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine gave incredibly engaging and witty talks that delighted the audiences and generated lots of questions.”

You can find out more about where the next LSTM-Past, Present, and Future event will be by following LSTM on social media (@LSTMnews on Twitter and LSTM on Facebook). You can also find out more about the other events marking LSTM’s 125th anniversary, by visiting here.

LSTM would like to thank National Lottery players for their support in enabling LSTM-Past, Present, and Future to go ahead.