On Saturday 11 June, IRB Barcelona welcomed back its Open Day (full format) after a two-year hiatus because of the global pandemic.
This immersive in-person event serves to showcase not only the research conducted at the Institute but also the spirit of the organisation, perhaps best exemplified on this occasion by the enthusiastic young PhD students who volunteered to organise a wide range of outreach activities for all ages.
An even younger group of people, our “crazies” (different generations of our Crazy About Biomedicine programme for secondary school students), also gave up their Saturday (even during their exam period!) to get hands-on with the event, escorting visitors around the labs and helping with the overall logistics of the event.
To add a further dimension to the public gathering, the morning included a round table on “Cell ageing and regenerative medicine” for an adult audience. Chaired by the science journalist Núria Jar, this activity involved Dr. Manuel Serrano, head of the Cellular Plasticity and Disease lab at IRB Barcelona, Dr. Ramon Estruch, leader of the Cardiovascular risk, nutrition and ageing group at IDIBAPS, and Mercedes, a lung cancer patient. Those present learnt about factors that can be modified, namely diet, physical activity, and medicine, and were alerted to the fact that “age” is the single most relevant risk factor for the development of disease. Indeed, in the research setting, diseases are increasingly being considered to be the outcome of an accelerated ageing process in a particular organ. Special mention was given to the emerging potential of immunotherapy to cure cancer in some patients.
Down in the labs, tailor-made visits were organised for children, who were captivated by the experiments and eager to learn. Older members of the public had the opportunity to visit several labs and find out about the research underway and the techniques used, and even get some hands-on experience with pipettes and microscopes.
Up above, a somewhat ordinary street was transformed into a hub of activity. At one end, members of our PhD community gave master classes in “Science Snacks”, an activity involving short presentations on topics such as AI in biomedicine, and deciphering the cancer code. The many questions asked by members of the public afterwards indicated wide interest in the topics presented.
Further down the street, various tents bustled with activity as the youngest members of the public and their families had the opportunity to get hands-on in workshops led by PhD students. There, they learned about the secrets of DNA. As in previous years, the most popular tent was the one where kids saw ice cream being conjured up with liquid nitrogen. It is no surprise that this tent was surrounded by members of the public throughout the morning in search of some relief under a blazing sun!
Just before noon, Dani Jiménez, a popular children’s presenter on Catalan TV with a passion for science, came onto the stage. The audience was guided through the history of science and entertained by some spectacular experiments with fun effects. Kids were totally enthralled, their eyes open wide in amazement.
Next up was Dr. Francesc Posas, director of IRB Barcelona, accompanied by Dr. Joan J. Guinovart, IRB Barcelona´s outreach ambassador and former director. This short talk provided an opportunity not only to inform the public about the Institute´s missions and strategy but also answer questions.
The 2022 Open Day ended with the debut of our Interdisciplinary Rock Band, who braced themselves in full sun to deliver some great cover versions of songs by international and national groups.
With the band´s last song at about 2.30 pm, this special day slowly came to end. As the volunteers packed everything away, the street gradually emptied, returning to its unassuming sleepy state until its calling next year, in which we aspire to go even bigger. An event not to be missed!
About IRB Barcelona
The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) pursues a society free of disease. To this end, it conducts multidisciplinary research of excellence to offer pioneering solutions to unresolved medical needs in cancer and other diseases related to ageing. It establishes technology transfer agreements with the pharmaceutical industry and major hospitals to bring research results closer to society and organises a range of science outreach activities to engage the public in an open dialogue. IRB Barcelona is an international centre that hosts 400 employees and more than 30 nationalities. Recognised as a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence since 2011, IRB Barcelona is a CERCA centre and member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST).