Saturday 6 May marked IRB Barcelona´s 2023 Open Day—an event designed to engage the public and bring science alive. Blessed with blue skies, the Institute´s flagship event kicked off at 10 am and was enjoyed by more than 900 people, spanning all age groups.
At 8.30 am, C. Baldiri Reixac was buzzing with activity as the tents for the street activities were erected, the stage was built, the chairs were set out, and food trucks offering delicious hamburgers, pancakes, and ice cream were laid out. Meanwhile, PhD students, postdocs, and other researchers were setting up a wide range of activities at the street science fair.
The so-called “crazies” (secondary school students participating in this year´s Crazy About Biomedicine Programme) were also supporting the day, getting hands-on with escorting visitors around the labs and helping with the overall logistics.
Adorned with colourful balloons, several tents in the science fair were devoted to the youngest minds, challenging them to complete multiple activities and discover science. In this regard, the public had the chance to discover how to do research with the fruit fly, observe cells under a microscope, and extract DNA from fruit.
They became little scientists for the day!
It was no surprise to see long queues forming at the tent in charge of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Kids (and adults alike to be honest) watched in awe as researchers did “magical” things to conjure up this delicious treat. Happy sticky faces tucking into little pots of the “experimental ice cream” were to be seen everywhere.
Throughout the morning, members of the public (spanning all ages) had the chance to step into some labs to learn first-hand about our research and life in the lab. Indeed, the corridors of the institute were a hive of activity as the public engaged in customised lab visits. At the quietest end of the street, “Science Snacks”—short talks given by our PhD students and researchers—gave people the opportunity to become familiar with topics related to cancer and AI.
In addition, “Science over Coffee”, a new activity launched this year, provided an informal setting in which people could sit down with a cup of coffee and learn from three of our senior research staff about “Obesity and diabetes (Dr. Antoni Zorzano), “Animal models in research” (Dr. Marco Milán) and “Gene editing” (Dr. Carme Cortina).
Moreover, this year, the street fair included a tent devoted to Careers in Science, where young people were able to find out about the training opportunities offered by the Institute and career paths in science.
The exquisite balance of outreach activities for all ages was perhaps showcased by the stage. Midmorning, it was brought to life with a fun science show given by Big Van Ciencia, a group of young scientists from a range of disciplines with a clear vocation to communicate science. The 80 chairs in front of the stage were soon taken, and lots more people watched and laughed from the shade of the trees, accompanied by the background noise from a nearby tent of balloons being inflated with helium for the youngest members of the public.
Next up on the stage, with a change of audience, was a round table addressing “The use of AI in Biomedicine”, chaired by Cristina Sáez, a science journalist for the La Vanguardia newspaper, and involving Dr. Patrick Aloy (IRB Barcelona), Dr. Begoña Román (University of Barcelona) and Dr. Esteve Almirall (ESADE Business School). The faces of those listening reflected total engagement with the debate.
At about 3 pm, the event was brought to a close with a concert by the IRB Rock Band, who took to the stage to give some excellent cover versions of songs in Catalan, English, and Spanish. Not only was this an opportunity to enjoy good music but it also gave them the chance to break the stereotype of a scientist typically held by society and further showcase the diversity of their talent.
At the end of the day, IRB Barcelona´s Public Engagement and Education Officer, Dr. Elena Meléndez, said, “The huge collective effort of the researchers, PhD students, “crazies”, and admin staff has been well worth it. It’s been a wonderful experience to take science out into the community and we look forward to making our flagship day bigger and better next year!”
Hours later, the street metamorphosed back to normality, hiding away the secrets underlying an impressive and highly popular public outreach event. The sparkle of the day faded away slowly into the warm afternoon sunshine and will be rekindled in all its glory next spring. So don't miss next year's Open Day!
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).