04 May 2022
The Royal Society has revealed the programme of exhibits for the Summer Science Exhibition 2022, its annual showcase of the UK’s most exciting science in the heart of central London.
From Wednesday 6 July to Sunday 10 July 2022, this completely free event brings together some of the UK’s world-leading researchers for five inspiring days of cutting-edge science, interactive experiences, and a weekend programme of activities and workshops for all ages.
Returning as an in-person event for the first time since 2019, visitors to Summer Science can once again meet the scientists – 500 scientists from sixteen research groups selected from universities and science institutions across the UK.
Quiz the scientists about the research on display and find out what it is really like to be a scientist protecting our planet, working at the cutting edge of green energy technologies, researching meteorites or extreme space weather, and protecting humanity from the next pandemic.
Cosmologist Professor Carlos Frenk, Chair of the Royal Society’s Public Engagement Committee, said: “We are very much looking forward to opening our doors this summer to visitors of all ages to take part in an exhibition that features the ideas and people behind some of the most inspiring science in the UK.
"The importance of science to society, and in our daily lives, has never been as much in evidence as in the past two years. The exhibition explores the science at the heart of some of the biggest issues of our time.
"We have carefully curated a selection of 16 brilliant, interactive exhibits on a variety of topics, from identifying and tackling disease, to understanding how creatures large and small travel the ocean, and designing the green energy technologies that will power our cities in the future. There will be something new for every visitor of any age to discover, so come along to Summer Science with your friends and family.
"The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to meet and engage with the researchers who are playing a leading role in shaping our future.''
If the previous two years have taught us anything, it’s that we really can’t take our health for granted. These exhibits are a chance to find out how science can keep us healthy and treat diseases sooner.
If only there was a way to sniff out diseases before they happen: Cue the Disease Detectives. These scientists are at the frontline of combatting the world’s deadliest diseases using some of the most innovative and surprising ways, from understanding how malaria can alter a person’s body odour to make them more attractive to mosquitoes, to using dogs to sniff out COVID-19 and malaria.
What if we could heal our bodies by remote control? Meet the researchers who are developing treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s, osteoarthritis, or even a broken leg, by injecting stem cells into the body, using magnets to steer them to a specific location and remotely activating them.
Humans controlling machines with their minds and robotic limbs have long been the subject of science fiction, but the Summer Science Exhibition is a chance to get hands-on with the technology making it a reality.
How quickly could you learn to control an extra body part? The Third Thumb is a ‘hands on’ exhibit which will allow visitors to experience life with a third thumb – and try it out in games testing your dexterity as part of a project trying to understand how the brain responds to new body parts. The research aims to improve the prosthetic limbs of the future. Thumb war, anyone?
Controlling things with your mind may seem an activity that only occurs on the big screen. However, researchers are creating ways that we can interact with the world by using just our thoughts. Brain-Computer Interface technologies translate brain signals directly into action and can improve the quality of life and independence for people with physical disabilities. Why don’t you put your thinking cap on and control a computer, or a game – using your brain activity only. Or you could operate a robot on the exhibition floor using muscle activity alone with electrodes placed on your hand.
Preserving our planet
We face a sixth mass-extinction that threatens life on our planet. Meet the researchers taking part in the largest biology project since the Human Genome Project: sampling the DNA of the 70,000 animal, plant, fungus, and protist species in Britain. Hopefully we will be able to protect, enjoy and benefit from our home-grown biodiversity long into the future.
Humans can impact the way that creatures large and small travel the ocean. From biofilms to whales, they all have a story to tell – how they move, why they move and the obstacles that stand in their way. You can watch how sharks travel the ocean and learn how we can protect the oceans’ travellers.
To replace fossil fuels, solar power is a key technology in a sustainable society. Meet the researchers developing new light-powered technology by using dyes from cherries, blackberries, and blackcurrants to convert light into electricity in a much more efficient and inexpensive way.
Young Scientists of the Future (weekdays only)
The Young Researchers Zone will showcase some of the fantastic research that is being undertaken by school students across the UK as part of the Royal Society’s Partnership Grants scheme. Hear from the students generating solar energy in Zambia, increasing yields in hydroponic plant farming, and stopping our homes from flooding, and get hands on with some of the investigations they are undertaking.
Weekend events programme (9 – 10 July 2022)
Visitors can also drop into an exciting programme of special weekend workshops and activities for all ages and interests (Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 July 2022).
For those interested in the tales of science past, the Royal Society’s expert library team will delve into the Society’s mind-boggling collection of artefacts and archives to curate a new marine biology exhibit for Summer Science.
For younger guests and families put on your goggles and join us in our makerspace to see what scientific creations you conjure up. Or walk a nature trail around St James’s Park to learn about the wonderful creatures that are part of the city’s ecosystem. Explore how animals use their whiskers to understand the world around them in a fun craft workshop where you will make your own whisker mask.
Visitors can also join the Pirbright Institute and use their skills to navigate an outbreak of a deadly zoonotic disease in an escape room-style activity, set inside 'Doctor Zoo's travelling science lab. As one of Dr Zoo’s assistants, you will try your hand at different scientific skills to help evade the deadly disease in the Doctor Who-esque room. Work against the clock to crack the final code and evade the virus.
Can’t make it? On Saturday 9 July 2022 we will offer a live streamed session directly from the Summer Science Exhibition floor, with interviews and hands-on demos that will give you the opportunity to see and experience the buzz of the live exhibition.
The full list of research groups confirmed for Summer Science 2022 are:
Replacing oil - Where does the waste go from your freshly poured pint? Find out how scientists are moving away from fossil fuels and creating catalysts and fine chemicals from waste items – including your cheeky pint, and how they can help to make everyday items like our clothes, health and beauty products, food packaging, comfy chairs, televisions, and phones.
Programming Proteins – Proteins make up a fifth of our bodies and perform many functions in different living things, from aiding with digestion in humans, to producing silk in spiders. Despite millions of years of evolution, a very small proportion of possible sequences (and hence shape and function) have been explored by nature. This exhibit explores how the different combinations of protein chains can give rise to different functions, by developing computational tools. These tools can create new enzymes to replace environmentally damaging chemical processes, and can be used in medicine, agriculture, material science and industry.
Decoding the DNA tree of life – To preserve nature, discover new medicines, and stop the sixth extinction in its tracks, we need to know more about the natural world. From murky ponds to luscious woodlands, we are yet to discover all the species alive today. Meet the research groups across the UK who have set themselves the challenge of doing just that, recently discovering a brain-eating amoeba and the British Isles' smallest wasp in their quest to sample the DNA of the 70,000 animals, plants, fungi, and single-celled organisms found in Britain.
Monitoring extreme space weather – Could the sun fry chips on Earth? We’ve all had our plans sabotaged by unexpected rain, but sometimes the stakes can be higher when it’s space weather that takes an unexpected turn. Extreme space weather events can ruin safety critical systems and national infrastructure, so these researchers are looking to predict and monitor them. Find out more about their plans to develop new technology that will help us to predict and understand space weather events and have a go at a pinball machine to bombard Earth’s surface with subatomic particles.
Disease detectives – Covid has shown us that scientists are key to preventing the world’s next pandemic. This group of researchers are stopping diseases in their tracks by using state-of-the-art genetic technology, like altering the genetic code of mosquitos so they can’t spread disease. Learn all about how scientists operate when diseases may escalate and find out how attractive you are to a mosquito too.
Llamas vs viruses – Could all diseases, from Covid to cancer, be treated by llamas in the future? Enter Fifi the llama and her herd, whose tiny antibodies are helping to treat the world’s diseases in a more efficient and cost-effective way. Dr Llama will see you now…
Microbial Puppet Masters – Bacteriophages are the most abundant organisms on Earth. They can infect and kill bacteria, but also form ‘partnerships’, acting like puppet-masters to manipulate how their bacterial hosts function. Immerse yourself in an accessible, dynamic, interactive model bronchus to see how bacterial diseases in the lung are caused by “bacteriophages” – the viruses that kill bacteria.
From tree to bar: A journey through chocolate – Imagine this – you bite into a bar of chocolate, but it tastes surprisingly like coffee. Researchers are helping South African farmers identify microbes that influence the taste of the chocolate bars we all love. Give your taste buds a run for their money with a chocolate tasting session, with chocolate all the way from Trinidad.
Mind over matter – Will computers ever be able to read our mind? Researchers are improving links between the nervous system and computers, so that people with cerebral palsy and stroke survivors will be able to communicate more effectively. Put your thinking cap on and see what activities you can take part in, using only your mind and muscles.
Ocean travellers – The effects of phytoplankton moving may seem like a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the migration of a whale pod. Meet the researchers studying the oceans’ travellers in all their forms. Understand how marine structures, fishing pressure, oil spills, and warming all influence the movements of creatures large and small, and how human behaviours can help the ocean thrive.
Remote controlled healing – What if we could heal our bodies by remote control? Meet the researchers who are developing “injectable treatments” for diseases like Parkinson’s, osteoarthritis, or even a broken leg, by injecting stem cells into the body, using magnets to steer them to a specific location and remotely activating them.
The Third Thumb – We often talk about needing an extra pair of hands – but how would you fare with an extra thumb? By using a foot-controlled 3D printed thumb, try your hand at games testing your dexterity, and see how quickly you can pick up a piece of Sellotape. Understanding how we adapt to an extra digit can help to improve the prosthetic limbs of the future. Thumb war anyone?
The Story of the Winchcombe Meteorite – If you have ever stared at the sky hoping to see a shooting star, this exhibit is the one for you. Winchcombe is the first meteorite to be recovered in the UK in 30 years and these researchers are offering you the opportunity to hold the rare substance in your hands and see a replica of the meteorite crater from a suburban driveway in Gloucester.
The future of fusion – Fusion could be the solution to the Earth’s energy crisis, but how do we handle the immense temperatures involved? Participants can mimic the effects of the ‘Super-X divertor’ – a way to manage heat and bring fusion power to the grid – by steering their own infrared beams, finding out more about how it can help us build a better planet.
Berry Solar Cells –To replace fossil fuels, we need to be able to produce solar-generated electricity. Learn how dyes from cherries, blackberries and blackcurrants can convert light into electricity in an efficient and inexpensive way by making “smart zombies” – wireless devices that harvest indoor light and could even power your mobile or PC.
Smashing stereotypes – Meet the researchers showing us that groups of people are more similar in their values and other psychological characteristics than it is commonly assumed. Highlighting these similarities, for example between women and men or people who hold different political views, helps to reduce stereotypes, and improves respect.