Monthly Archives: June 2015

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have a head for science, or you’ve got two left feet…even if you’ve never ceilidh-ed before, everything will be explained, so by the end of the night, everyone will be dancing!”

lewishouA Scottish folk dancer and science collided to give you Science Ceilidh! An evening of dancing, music and culture at this year’s festival.

Lewis Hou is a neuroscience researcher, science communicator, fiddle player and founder of the Science Ceilidh Band. He will be coming to the Lancashire Science Festival hoping to get everyone on the floor, dancing, and learning some science through Scottish folk dance!

After Lewis graduated with a background in biological sciences and neuroscience, he continued to work using brain imaging analysis to try and understand how brain shape is different in different psychiatric diseases as well as in other species. Alongside this, he began working with Edinburgh International Science Festival leading a biomedical surgery workshop “ER surgery.”

After a few years he then developed his own engagement activities which combined his own interests to engage people in the sciences. As a fiddle player and folk dancer with his own ceilidh band, eventually his two passions converged, leading to the Science Ceilidh!

He currently spends his time working in neuroimaging with Professor Neil Roberts (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Tim Crow (University of Oxford) looking at structural brain asymmetries and their relationship to language, evolution and mental disorders.

Most of the engagement projects Lewis does are based on biomedical sciences using different immersive and creative methods. This includes using music and dance (Fiddling in the Brain and Dissect the Beat shows, Science Ceilidh), immersive theatre (Deadinburgh, New Atlantis theatre shows) and comedy (Famelab).

He said:I enjoy getting to meet and engage people from all walks of life and places in the world! I’ve worked in science festivals and workshops from Thailand to Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi to India, and I love the fact that everyone, no matter what background, is interested in understanding the world around them through the universal languages of science, music and laughter!”

Lewis believes that science communication is all about breaking stereotypes and the key message is that everyone can engage in science on some level, and even enjoy it! He told us, “Too often do I hear people say ‘Oh I don’t do science’ as much as ‘Oh, I don’t dance!’ As the science ceilidh tries to show, everyone can do both!

We asked Lewis what he is looking forward to at this year’s festival and he said that although Scotland is his home, he was actually raised in Liverpool and so is excited to be bringing the Science Ceilidh to the North West of England, where there is such strong science and indeed, folk music traditions too!

He also said: “I’ve heard that there’ll also be the science of cocktails straight after our ceilidh, so definitely will be looking forward to a wee tipple….for science of course!”

Tip for anyone wanting to get into science communication:

“See what’s out there! There’s so much great, innovative science communication out there, go out and experience it and be inspired. When you’ve done that, think about your passions, and see whether there’s anyway of combining your passions with science communication in new, personal and unique ways. Don’t try and work out what the world needs, work out what makes you awesome, because what the world needs is more awesome people.”

Below is one of his neuroscience songs, check out his work on Youtube and keep up to date with Lewis on Twitter.


“It was already too late for me, I was going to be a scientist…”

Jon Wood - Half Baked HeroesTo celebrate the 350th anniversary of the oldest science journal from the Royal Society, science presenter Jon Wood will be touring the country and joining us to perform at the Lancashire Science festival.

His science show, Subliming the ridiculous, will show us how we moved from the mysteries of alchemy to the science of chemistry; how we disproved the classical Greek elements, earth air, fire and water.

It all started when he was younger, his father gave him a set of small tools and he started taking things like old water pumps apart and putting them back together again. After this happened he said: “It was already too late for me, I was going to be a scientist.”

“It was a random nine year old girl visiting my university who asked me, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” She inspired me to move to what I do now. I design and perform science shows for schools and family audiences, while helping scientists and engineers translate their research into activities that everyone can understand.”

As well as performing Jon spends his time delivering hands-on workshops, making short films and science busking to anybody too slow to get away. His favourite project to date is his ‘Half Baked Heroes’ show.

He said: “Just as I was inspired to study science by what I found around the home, I’m sharing some of my favourite ‘kitchen based’ discoveries. Who would have thought that we could learn about physics, chemistry and biology from fruit and veg.”

Science communication is important because it can be in a language we all speak, it can be translating the complicated words that researchers use and telling stories about the fascinating work they do.

Jon added: “Sometimes those stories have pictures; sometimes they are songs; sometimes they have jokes; sometimes they have really loud bangs or things that make you go ‘hmm’. Science communication is as creative as science is and who knows where the next brilliant idea will come from.”

He said what really makes him “chime” is the fact thatthere is nothing more satisfying than seeing parents push their children to the front so they can be ‘entertained’, only to find that they themselves creep closer and closer, because they have caught a glimpse of something they themselves don’t understand. Within no time, the parents are fascinated and have been inspired to try out some science with their children when they get home.”

We asked Jon what he is looking forward to at this year’s festival, he said: “A festival is exactly that, a huge party. Think Brazil and Rio… but with marginally less feathers.

“A city full of overexcited scientists are coming to see you for a few days. They want to show you what science has been up to. Yes, we’re up early; yes, we’re up late; yes, we get tired. But all that hard work is made up of the things we love doing. What’s not to like?!”

Keep up to date with his work and upcoming projects by following Jon on Twitter.

Tip for anyone wanting to get into science communication:

“Be yourself, look at what hobbies/interests/passions/unusual skills you have and see whether you can tell a science story using what you love doing already. It won’t be perfect; nobody is a natural. It takes a little training, a lot of practice and the willingness to never stop learning.”

Jon Wood - Subliming The Ridiculous

“It was inevitable that my love of science discovery, magic and communication would crossover…”

Matt PritchardAward-winning magician and science and maths communicator, Matt Pritchard will be performing two of his shows at this year’s festival. We caught up with him in the run up to the festival…

It all started with his Atomic Physics Ph.D, his supervisors were keen to communicate the original research they were doing and one of the most enjoyable aspects for him was the science outreach.

Matt was given the opportunity to participate in the university open days and Christmas lectures. The ‘Lab in a Lorry’ and ‘Meet the Scientist’ projects were launched during that time and he got to be one of the first round of trainees.

After graduating he spent a year training on a Drama and Theatre in Education course which exposed him to performing shows in schools and theatrical direction skills.  Matt then started working part time in the Education team at Thinktank Science Museum where his days were spent presenting workshops and shows classrooms and theatres.

Ever since he was a kid, his passion has been magic and illusion. Alongside the above experiences Matt used his time off work to perform at parties, weddings, stand up comedy clubs and touring his theatre shows around the UK festivals.

He said: “It was inevitable that my love of science discovery, magic and communication would crossover. I’m fortunate to be in the position to earn a living and travel the world doing all three in my Science Magic Shows.”

Most of Matt’s work now is presenting shows and workshops, combining his love of magic with science and maths. A science festival is a fantastic opportunity for both visitors and participants to explore and discover new things in a really fun and enjoyable format.

Matt said: “The LSF brings together some of the country’s best science presenters and combines that with the cutting edge research being done at UCLAN. I come away from the festival inspired and having learnt loads.”

As well as performing Matt also provides consultancy and training, his motivation for turning into a full time freelancer was a commission from the ss Great Britain trust to write and deliver a KS3 science magic show inspired by Brunel.

We asked Matt what he is most looking forward to the festival, he said: “I visit a lot of science festivals and the LSF has to be the friendliest and best organised festival I’ve experienced. I love meeting old friends and making new ones. For 2015 one of my highlights will be seeing the giant dinosaurs that will be roaming campus!”

He believes science communication is simplifying the complex and communicating it in an original and creative manner. For him there is something special in presenting to children. They still have innocence and curiosity that by the time they turn into adults has been beaten out of them. Inspiring curiosity, wonder and playfulness in an  audience is a major motivation for him.

He said: “One of my pet hates is when I attend a science day in a school and the kids have been encouraged to turn up dressed as scientists. You look out over a school hall full of mini ‘mad science’ Einsteins and Big Bang Theory nerds. The teachers tend to actively reinforce this bad stereotype by dressing up in the same.

“As science communicators we have to fight this idea that scientists are either in the super intelligent elite or the socially inept geek (or both). For me science is a way of thinking not a career and anyone can be a scientist by exploring the amazing world we live in.”

Follow Matt on Twitter  to keep up to date with his latest news and events.

Tip for anyone wanting to get into science communication:

Follow your passions. Feed and invest in your passions (books, videos, site visits, conferences etc.) Grasp every opportunity and gain lots of experience. Put in the work. Reflect on what you do. Learn from mistakes. Pick yourself up when it doesn’t work out. Study other communicators (not just scientists). Be yourself. Attend the BIG event (British Interactive Group). Don’t get your audiences to cheer like pirates.”

extra sensory deception ed

“The main reason for science communication engagement is to pass on the enthusiasm of science…”

huwWe caught up with astronomer, presenter and adventurer, Huw James who will be performing his latest live show Limitless at this year’s festival.

Huw will be pushing the limits of the human body in his show for the curious minds. With live demonstrations and eye-opening experiments, this on stage theatre show is suitable for those fascinated by science.

After graduating university, Huw went on to work at his local science centre before learning the do’s and don’ts of science communication while working at Science Made Simple. His job now takes him all over the world and as well as taking his expertise to the stage and screen. Huw is enthusiastic outdoor adventurer and gets involved with surfing, rock climbing and other sports.

He said: “For me the main reason for science communication engagement is to pass on the enthusiasm of science, the knowledge and the impact this has on people who don’t know or understand what science is about. I get to make these shows and it’s nice to have a job were you can to continue to learn.

“STEM engagement is so important because we need more people, we are starting to see people take it past university, trying to get more women involved, having a diverse group of people creates diverse knowledge.”

Packed full of live demonstrations and jaw-dropping experimentation, LIMITLESS pushes both the boundaries of live science shows and those of human physiology. He will be reaching out to the curious minds of the audience “people that ask, are intrigued and eager to know even if its not necessarily about the science.”

We also asked Huw what he is looking forward to at this year’s festival, he said: ”  I’m looking forward to seeing different people at the festival, I’m always excited to see Jon Wood and the Science of Construction sounds pretty good,  dinos have also always been a passion so they should be good fun.”

To see what Huw is up to and any other projects he is involved in take a look on his website or follow him on Twitter.

Tip for anyone wanting to get into science communication:

“Don’t forget that there’s not just one way into it, there’s the science part and then there’s others who take a different route, anyone can do it as long as they want to, you just have to believe in yourself.”



Professor Peter Main from the Institute of Physics will give a talk entitled:


To celebrate Women in Engineering Day on the 23 June, UCLan’s Athena SWAN is welcoming Peter Main from the Institute of Physics to give a talk at lunchtime. Peter’s talk will begin at 1.3pm and will be preceded by a buffet lunch, where staff and students have the opportunity to meet and chat with him.

In the last thirty years, there have been hundreds, possibly, thousands of initiatives to attract more girls into physics and engineering. During that time, the ratio of girls to boys has actually decreased. The talk will examine why so much effort has had so little effect and why many of the activities may be making matters worse. Most of the talk will be concerned with schools and colleges, where decisions are made but issues in universities and PG level will be considered too, included material from a recent report on PhD students.

Date: 23 June

Time: 1-3pm

Location: Scholars Restaurant, Foster Building.

peterPeter Main

Lancashire Science Festival Info


One week to go!

Lancashire Science Festival 2015 will be taking place next week, are you ready to walk with dinosaurs, rock out with heavy metal marine mayhem and explore the evolution of experimentation? This year’s 3 day celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is going to be even bigger and better than ever!

Below is a visitor guide for the day and a map of campus. For more information visit the website.

Visitor Guide – LSF15 (WEB)

Family Day Map – LSF 2015 (WEB)

In Certain Places – Open House


Fri 12th June, 17.00 – 19.30pm

(Also open on Tue 16th, Wed 17th and Thu 18th June, 13.00 – 16.00pm)
In Certain Places, 38 St Peters Street, University of Central Lancashire, PR1 7BS

To celebrate the launch of the Hannah Festival in the north, In Certain Places presents ‘Open House’ – an evening of artworks, interventions and performances by artists Bonnie Craig, Claire Tindale, Steph Fletcher and Cherry Tenneson, in our base in a terraced house on St Peters Street, Preston.

Cherry Tenneson will exhibit a series of limited-edition prints from ‘outward journeys must not be in the past’ – a series of signs and posters installed in Preston’s transport hubs, which will be available to purchase on the night for an affordable price. Steph Fletcher will be recruiting more people to her Anxious Workers Club, as part of her twentyfourzero project, looking at the nature of modern work. Bonnie Craig, ensconced at the house since the beginning of June, will present a new site-specific work applied to the architecture of the house, using pattern not as decoration but as design itself; and Claire Tindale will exhibit some of her miniature interiors, which juxtapose against the scale of the house.

‘Open House’ forms part of Preston’s contribution to the Hannah Festival and Directory – an annual publication and website, profiling some of the most interesting and inspiring cultural projects in the north of England. Following the ‘Open House’ event on Friday 12th, Saturday 13th sees the celebrations continue with the Harris Museum & Art Gallery’s Dying Matters activities and Birley Artist Studio’s Georgianna Cardoso Ainsworth exhibition.

For more information, visit and http://www.incertainplaces.