Summer Science 2021 research groups

Nineteen research groups from across the UK will be demonstrating their research through innovative digital experiences, from escape rooms and quizzes to virtual tours and digital games.  

This year you can explore all the cutting-edge research through our interactive Summer Science hub, with four exciting zones: View from above, Urban landscape, Under the skin and Forces of nature

View from above

Hubble's legacy

How has Hubble transformed our view of the Universe?

Over its 30-year life, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided an incredible window into the Universe, allowing space scientists to explore where no person had explored before. Taking us to the outer regions of our own Solar System to the very edge of the observable Universe, the spectacular images generated from the telescope have inspired millions of people across the world.  

It still continues to make important discoveries today and has left big shoes for its successor telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, to fill when launched in 2021. 

Take a historical journey through some of Hubble’s greatest achievements and explore how it is able to capture such beautiful pictures of our Universe. You can also have a go at creating your very own space image.

Watch the lightning lecture

Our breathing Earth

How do we track and trace carbon from Space?

Planes, trains and automobiles, as well as factories, household heating and farming, are all sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. And, with CO2 being a key greenhouse gas, it is crucial that we learn about its movements to better understand climate change.  

Using cutting-edge technology like satellites, lasers and drones, a collaborative team of institutions, led by the University of Edinburgh are tracking and following where CO2 comes from, how it moves and where it may be stored.  

Discover how our Earth ‘breathes’ by examining real-time satellite maps of CO2 across the world and explore the carbon cycle to learn about its impact on our climate.

Watch the lightning lecture

Your place in the Universe

Where do galaxies come from?

It takes one glance up to the night sky to see the millions of stars and celestial objects that make up the galaxies that light our Universe. Take a closer, and longer, look and you’ll discover that that there is still much to learn about our cosmic backyard, starting with the most fundamental musings about its origins.

Meet the out-of-this-world team from Durham University who are using supercomputers to answer these very questions.

Take an augmented reality tour of the Universe where you will put your galaxy spotting skills to the test to find and identify special star systems.

Watch the lightning lecture

The ExoMars Rover

Has there ever been life on Mars?

There might not be little green men, but there have been tantalising hints such as the recent confirmation of ancient lake deposits, that indicate there could once have been life on Mars.  

Discover more about this mission to drill for ancient life on Mars, as researchers from across the UK and European Space Agency demonstrate the science behind the ExoMars Rover, much of which was built in the UK and due to launch in summer 2022. 

View a 360º model of the Rover and the UK built camera and Raman Spectrometer and listen to some of the scientists involved in developing the cutting-edge technology for its on-board instruments, that will equip it to explore and drill into the Martian landscape. Plus see if you can beat the Who wants to be a Martian Million quiz

Watch the lightning lecture

Urban landscape

Smooth operators: transforming surgical robotics

Would you trust a robot surgeon?

Surgery has come a long way from the days of bloodletting and saws, but operations performed entirely by robots are still a long way off, not least because of the ethical and legal challenges involved.  

But there are other ways to incorporate robots into surgery. Scientists at Imperial College London are designing new ways to integrate robotics into surgical practice, such as controlling a robot by tracking the surgeon’s eye movements.  

Test your eye control and have a go at controlling a surgical robot based in London from the comfort of your own home.

Watch the lightning lecture

Microbes that manage our waste

How can microbes turn rubbish into riches?

Microbes are too tiny to be seen, too little to be heard. Small, but mighty, these tiny living microorganisms are a key part of the process of turning waste into renewable energy wonders through a process called anaerobic digestion.  

University of York researchers are getting up close and personal with microbes to analyse their DNA so that we can better understand them and maximise their energy-producing efficiency. 

Find out how they do this by stepping into a virtual farm world into the shoes of these scientists and work your way through a series of mini games to see if you can produce enough sustainable energy to turn on the farmhouse lights.

Watch the lightning lecture 

A breath of fresh air

Will we breathe fresh air again?

Pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can have severely negative impacts on human health and the environment. Caused from the combustion of fossil fuels, these gases make up the most toxic components in smog and affect highly populated cities and countries.  

Researchers from the University of Manchester are developing pioneering metal-organic frameworks (or MOFs) to trap harmful pollutants from the air. The trapped gases can then be recycled to form chemically useful products. 

Test your wits against their virtual escape room to see if you could save a city from pollution and explore how a lab in North England is leading the charge to tackle air pollution and generate fresh air again.

Watch the lightning lecture 

Sensing danger

Could you tell a landmine from a bottle top?

An estimated 60 million people still live with the daily risk of landmines and unexploded bombs.  

Finding and removing these dangerous items presents a serious challenge when they are buried in the ground. Enter researchers from the University of Manchester who are pioneering cutting-edge detection technology to aid the humanitarian demining movement.  

Discover how their ground penetrating radar and electromagnetic inspection techniques are working to clear the world of landmines by 2025. Test how accurately and quickly you can clear a field of landmines, though be careful not to waste time on clearing rubbish...

Watch the lightning lecture 

Eagle inspired engineering

Would planes be better if they were more like birds?

Whether wind, rain or shine, birds have remarkable ways to cope with tricky weather conditions. 

Studying eagles and owls, researchers at the Royal Veterinary College and University of Bristol are investigating how birds use clever aerodynamic tricks to reduce drag and stabilise themselves in gusty conditions whilst in flight. By looking at how they fly in these conditions, the researchers are using nature-inspired engineering to design safer and more energy efficient drones and unmanned aircraft. 

Discover how state-of-the-art bubble tracking technology are providing insight into how owls fly and see if you can fly as well as an eagle in windy weather in their bird flight simulator. This insight may even lead to the next generation of aircraft that we see in our skies today. You can even see up close how birds negotiate gusts by diving into a barn owl Augmented Reality experience.

Watch the lightning lecture

Under the skin

Growing new body parts

How can stem cells heal the human body?

Stem cells are the metaphorical chameleons of the human body, with the ability to replicate themselves and morph into other types of cells found within the body. And with this power, comes the virtually limitless opportunity to use them to heal or replace damaged tissues and cells with healthy ones. 

Scientists from King’s College London are working to understand how stem cells work, grow and behave and how they can be harnessed to repair or replace tissues damaged by trauma or disease.  

Join some famous faces to make biomaterial slime at home, try your hand at cell transplantation in an online game that allows you to be a citizen scientist and discover the true potential of stem cells.

Watch the lightning lecture 

B.O and beyond

Why are humans smelly?

Body odour, otherwise known as BO is a problem familiar to everyone - that distinctive smell after exercise, or in stressful situations. We all naturally produce body odour, but did you know that it is actually a result of bacteria in our armpits breaking down molecules on our skin?  

Researchers at the Universities of York and Oxford are showing how BO is linked to your individual underarm environment and are using the results to develop new ways of tackling this stinky side effect of sweating. 

Chomp your way to body odour victory in the Bac-Man game, a re-imagined version of the classic Pac-Man arcade game or take the BO quiz and see if you come out smelling of roses or just whiffing a bit.

Watch the lightning lecture

Exploring cancer landscapes

What makes up a tumour?

Far from being a single solid lump, tumours are complex systems made up of different types of cells, including healthy ones. We still know very little about how these different cell networks interact, and how this cancer ‘landscape’ affects tumour growth and resistance to treatment.   

Meet the Manchester team using advanced technologies to study these systems, exploiting potential weaknesses to explore novel treatment routes and ultimately help improve cancer care.  

Explore what a tumour is made of, to help identify better treatments. Have a go at matching patients to the best treatment in the tumour landscape game.

Watch the lightning lecture

Personalised printing for pills

Can we print your perfect pill?

3D printed pills that can release medicine when and where we want certainly sound like something out of a futuristic science fiction movie. However a team of researchers at the University of Nottingham are using state of the art manufacturing methods to make personalised medicine a reality.  

Take a step into their lab and learn about how, and why, they are working to create 3D printed medication that can be personalised according to an individual’s needs. Try your virtual hand at making personalised 3D printed pills for a queue of patients at the Polypills Pharmacy, but be careful, the clock is ticking.

Watch the lightning lecture

Merging minds and machines

Would you connect your brain to the internet?

Imagine a world where you could upload or download information directly from your computer to your brain. In fact, directly connecting a human brain to an electronic device is already a reality. Cochlear implants and deep brain stimulators are already in use around the world to help individuals with hearing loss or movement disorders.  

With technological advances progressing at an unprecedented rate, it is becoming more possible to tap into the brain using devices known as neural interfaces, or brain-computer interfaces. 

Researchers at Imperial College London are working to develop safer, smaller, simpler interfaces that interact with the body’s nervous system to improve the life of brain injury patients. Explore how they do this and play their minigames to discover how scientists can recognise and categorise signals coming from single neurons (spike hero) and how each brain is unique and therefore each implant needs specific calibration before being able to work (Brain Vector). 

Watch the lightning lecture

Forces of nature

Last day of the dinosaurs

What did the last day of the dinosaurs look like? 

Causing devastation on a global scale, mass extinction events such as the Chicxulub impact ended the reign of dinosaurs 66 million years ago and wiped out around three quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth.  

Palaeontologists from the University of Manchester are exploring a newly discovered impact site called Tanis in North Dakota which could hold the key to understanding the events that killed these prehistoric creatures.   

Walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs and find out what really happened on their last day on Earth. You could also discover how understanding our past may help us to prevent the extinction events that are happening today.

Watch the lightning lecture 

Beware: floods ahead

What happens when we have too much water?

Is there such a thing as too much water? Flooding causes global devastation every year, and the exact location of floods is often very hard to predict. Enter scientists from the University of Reading who are using the latest advances in earth and climate sciences to help provide early warnings of flood events, sometimes even before the rain starts to fall. 

By predicting floods earlier, aid agencies can send essential flood relief where it is most needed and help the communities who are most impacted by these potentially life-changing events.  

Explore how the team help divert disaster across the world and put your flood prediction skills to the test in a virtual flood simulator.

Watch the lightning lecture

Blue carbon and changing seas

Can nature help us to tackle the climate emergency?

You probably already know that nature is in trouble, with increasing global temperatures, more extreme weather events and continued loss of biodiversity. But did you know that nature may also provide a solution to the climate crisis?  

Meet the researchers at the University of St Andrews who are studying how coastal landscapes, particularly saltmarshes, can play a crucial role in the fight against climate change.  

Get to the root of the role of carbon in the Earth’s climate and discover how carbon capture and storage solutions provided by nature will be essential in mitigating and adapting to climate change in the coming years. 

Mining a sustainable future

How can we mine our sustainable future?

Modern life would be unrecognisable without the rare minerals and metals mined from the Earth. From mobile phones to electric cars, we rely on unusual elements such as lithium in our devices, and they play a significant role in the green technologies the world needs to adopt in order to tackle climate change.

But how can these minerals and metals that are so critical to our future energy technologies be part of the sustainable world they will power – how should they be mined, and can they be recycled? 

Explore the green technologies and the rare minerals and metals they require, then discover the journey these resources make from out of the ground and into green technology to find out how researchers are making mining sustainable.

Watch the lightning lecture 

The bee trail

What's a bee's favourite flower?

Pollinators such as bees are essential for our food security. They are responsible for sustaining most of our fruit and vegetable supply and contribute around £700million to the UK economy each year. But biodiversity loss is dramatically decreasing our bee population, and the impact could be devastating.

Conservationists are on a mission to find out what wildflowers are important for the survival of these creatures. By using real time DNA sequencing, they are gaining insight into the plants that bees pollinate and how this changes over time and in different locations.   

Join the trail to discover how bee populations have changed over the past 200 years and what you can do to save the bees in your area. Create your own bee hotel and take part in the first ever citizen science project exploring the use of bee hotels across the country.

Watch the lightning lecture