Bees to BO, robot surgeons to Mars rovers, explore it all with the UK’s top scientists through the Royal Society’s Summer Science 2021 digital hub

03 June 2021

The Royal Society has revealed its digital programme for Summer Science 2021, which runs from Thursday 8 July to Sunday 11 July 2021 and brings together some of the UK’s most exciting researchers for four inspiring days of cutting-edge science, online workshops, lectures and at-home activities, all completely free.

This year a digital Summer Science hub will replace the exhibition floor, bringing the country’s cutting-edge research to life through games, quizzes and interactive activities. It will also offer plenty of chances to meet the scientists and research groups, who are the stars of Summer Science, through interactive workshops and demonstrations. 

The 19 groups (listed in full below) taking part in Summer Science 2021 are selected from universities and science institutions across the UK and are demonstrating research that will transport you from the search for life on Mars, to the microbes living on our own bodies that cause BO. 

Visitors can also: 

  • Get behind the lens of a robot surgeon with researchers from Imperial College London using sight-tracking and AI to build the next generation of robot-assisted surgeons.
  • Take part in the UK’s first citizen survey of Britain’s bee hotels and hear how the team from the Earlham Institute are using pollen DNA to unravel where bees like to eat, and how we can protect them.
  • Piece together the last days of the dinosaurs and explore extinction, and its impacts, with the Manchester University researchers working to unearth fossils at a remarkable new site in the Hell Creek Formation of North Dakota, USA. 

Anyone who can’t wait for the launch of the online hub can check out the programme of events online.  

Cosmologist Professor Carlos Frenk, chair of the Royal Society’s public engagement committee said: “We are thrilled to be able to share the brilliant work and exciting discoveries of our 2021 research groups. 

“These are scientists involved in cutting-edge research projects, from working on the ExoMars rover, to building machines that can read the mind. 

“Summer Science has been reinvented many times since the first Royal Society Conversaziones began in the 18th century, but it will always be a place for innovative researchers to showcase exciting discoveries in an entertaining and accessible way.

 “While we can’t wait to welcome guests back in person at the Society’s historic building, we are now able to digitally reach thousands of people around the world who may never have been able to visit the exhibition before. I really hope you will all join us.”  

Events throughout Summer Science 2021 

Guests can dip into a host of short, online “lightning” lectures every day from the research groups and other expert speakers. Join Dr Stephen Wilkins on an interstellar journey through the ground-breaking discoveries made possible by the Hubble Telescope. Or hear Dr Laura Ruiz Cantu and Dr Yinfeng He administer an exciting dose on the future of medication and the chances of a “wonder pill” one day being able to deliver multiple drugs at the correct dose and time. 

There will also be longer talks throughout Summer Science, including scientist and TV presenter Professor Alice Roberts, who will give the inaugural Royal Society David Attenborough award lecture. 

Join famous faces at the Big Summer Science quiz 

The Big Summer Science Quiz will return this year with host, comedian and science presenter Helen Arney joined by special guests and Fellows of the Royal Society – including the Royal Society’s Professor of Public Engagement, Professor Brian Cox. 

Put your dream teams together and scribble the date in your diaries - Wednesday 7 July, 6.30pm - 7.45pm

For the whole family 

A host of family-friendly activities, quizzes, and events are also on offer for curious minds of all ages, including: 

  • ‘Weirdology’ – an event to highlight the strange science lurking in everyday things. This is a show for people who think they hate science - starring Gastronaut Stefan Gates. Sunday 11 July, 11am - 12noon
  • How can Minecraft help us understand how the minerals and metals found in your smartphone play a significant role in a sustainable future? Join us for our interactive workshop where you’ll learn just that. Saturday 10 July, 2pm – 3pm 

For older kids

  • Hear from researchers developing tools to make zoo animals’ enclosures more like their environment in the wild, and how this can help improve their welfare and behaviour. Sunday 11 July, 12noon – 12.30pm 
  • Join mathematician Dr Nira Chamberlain as he enlists the help of Captain Jack Sparrow to explain the mathematical modelling of the Pirates of the Caribbean and how this creative solution can be applied to the real world. Saturday 10 July, 12noon – 12.30pm 

Each group's work is framed around a big question they want the public to investigate and explore. The full list of research groups confirmed for Summer Science 2021: 

  • Will we breathe fresh air again? – A breath of fresh air, University of Manchester  
  • What happens when we have too much water? Beware: floods ahead, University of Reading 
  • Can nature help us to tackle the climate emergency? – Blue carbon and changing seas, University of St Andrews 
  • Why are humans smelly? – BO and beyond, University of York  
  • Would planes be better if they were more like birds?  – Eagle inspired engineering, Royal Veterinary College and University of Bristol 
  • What makes up a tumour? – Exploring cancer landscapes, Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute 
  • How can stem cells heal the human body? –  Growing new body parts, Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King's College London  
  • How has Hubble transformed our view of the Universe? – Hubble's legacy, University College London and The Open University 
  • What did the last day of the dinosaurs look like?  –  Last day of the dinosaurs, University of Manchester 
  • Would you connect your brain to the internet? – Merging minds and machines, Imperial College London 
  • How can microbes turn rubbish into riches? – Microbes that manage our waste, University of York / BioVale 
  • How can we mine our sustainable future? – Mining a sustainable future, iCRAG, Natural History Museum 
  • How do we track and trace carbon from Space?  – Our breathing Earth, UCL/University of Edinburgh / Plymouth Marine Laboratory  
  • Can we print your perfect pill? – Personalised printing for pills, University of Nottingham 
  • Could you tell a landmine from a bottle top? – Sensing danger, University of Manchester 
  • Would you trust a robot surgeon? – Smooth operators: transforming surgical robotics, Imperial College London 
  • What's a bee's favourite flower?  – The bee trail, University of Cambridge 
  • Has there ever been life on Mars? – The ExoMars Rover, University of Leicester  
  • Where do galaxies come from? – Your place in the Universe, Durham University