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September 2013

Welcome to the blog, you can read all about the latest news for the sections and take a look in our archive. Scroll through the latest posts below, or select a section from the dropdown.

By Katie Griffiths, Young People’s Programme Assistant at the British Science Association


Just over a year ago today, on 28th June 2012, the skies of Newcastle darkened and the heavens opened. Within 2 hours, 50 mm of rain had fallen, and the streets of Newcastle had flooded with water, leaving many people stranded on their way home from work. In the aftermath of this and other recent floods, experts have been asking: are sudden extreme floods like this on the rise? Today, at the Joseph Lister Award Lecture at the British Science Festival, Dr Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts at Newcastle University addressed a packed auditorium to try and answer this question.

By Lizzie Gemmell

Yesterday evening scientists and interested public gathered for the British Science Festival’s Huxley Debate, which saw Tim Spector (Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College, London) take on George Davey-Smith (Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Bristol) to debate the controversial new field of epigenetics. The session was chaired by Lisa Jardine, President of the British Science Association.

By Alice Johnson, Press Office Assistant at the British Science Festival


Unsurprisingly for me, I was a little late for ‘Blue Seas Research: Predators and prey in an ever-changing system’. Five minutes after the talk had begun; I was trying to quietly sneak in to a fully-packed lecture theatre. I was fortunate enough to have been asked last minute to attend Jonathan Houghton’s lecture and write about it. Upon entering the room, I noticed three predators staring back at me from the screen: a leatherback turtle, an ocean sunfish and a basking shark. Each marine animal represented a case study to help us understand the behaviour and threats faced by top predators at sea.

by Holly Plummer, Senior Pipeline Integrity Engineer, GE Oil & Gas.

Holly joined PII Pipeline Solutions ( a GE Oil & Gas and Al Shaheen joint venture) in 1997 after finishing a degree in Mathematic. Her first role was as a Data Analyst analysing pipeline inspection data. In 1998 she joined the Pipeline Integrity Services Department where she now works as a Senior Integrity Engineer conducting technical assessments of oil & gas’ pipelines focusing on safety and quality. During her time with the company, Holly has studied on a part time basis and gained an MSc in Pipeline Engineering from Newcastle University.

Holly lives with her partner and 2 young sons, Joseph and Alex. Outside work Holly enjoys spending time with family & friends, and keeping fit. Her latest interest is karate where she is working towards a blue belt.


Pipelines are a really efficient way of moving oil and gas from place to place and a lot of scientific knowledge goes into building them. They need to be built to last, resist corrosion so they don’t rust and withstand high pressures so they don’t crack or burst. PII Pipeline Solutions provides an essential inspection service for pipelines to make sure they are still safe and efficient, which also requires a lot of scientific know-how.

by Jennifer Toes, Press Office Assistant at the British Science Festival 2013


This afternoon the British Science Festival was illuminated by four cognitive neuroscientists discussing their research into brain plasticity and its role in our ability to learn. Brain plasticity refers to the concept that the brain can change and remap itself over the course of our lives through learning new skills and experiencing new things.

By Lucy Bain. Lucy is a PhD student at University of East Anglia, researching how our diet can influence stroke risk and risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. She is visiting the Festival as part of the British Science Association student bursary scheme.


On Sunday I went out to Jesmond Dene for a BioBlitz – for those that don’t know, a BioBlitz is an attempt to record as many living species (mammals, birds, plants etc.) in a given area – this case Jesmond Dene – in a 24 hour time period. So it's essentially a race to find, identify and record as much as possible!

By Lizzie Gemmell


Five minutes into Dr Michael Sweet’s Award Lecture at the British Science Festival and we felt a million miles from a rainy Newcastle afternoon. His talk began with a dazzling introduction into the weird and wonderful world of corals, with stunning photos of the octo-coral, the cabbage coral and even the Great British coral (a white, spindly coral found around the UK).

by Kate Prescott

Kate has been awarded a bursary by her college to attend the British Science Festival 2013. She is about to begin a degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge, and has recently launched her own blog about STEM opportunities, such as summer schools and taster days for students of all ages – www.passionateaboutscience.co.uk – to share her love of the subject and give information on upcoming events to support students from all backgrounds in their quest to become scientists! You can follow her on Twitter (@Passion_Science) or find her on Facebook (Passionate About Science).


A discussion on a Bill in the House of Lords sounds more suitable for a politics festival than a science one, nonetheless the lecture theatre was packed with people hoping to hear Lord Robert Winston's talk at the British Science Festival. Adam Rutherford interviewed the famous science researcher and communicator about his recent Bill, followed by a popular Q+A session.

by Kate Prescott
Kate has been awarded a bursary by her college to attend the British Science Festival 2013. She is about to begin a degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge, and has recently launched her own blog about STEM opportunities, such as summer schools and taster days for students of all ages –

Martha HensonBy Martha Henson, Co-Director of edugameshub.com and a freelance digital producer. She believes that one way to improve public engagement is in the development of science based games. This blog post was written as part of the series of posts on the latest Public Attitudes to Science survey being conducted by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and Ipsos Mori.


In the 2011 Public Attitudes to Science survey, typically the participants expressed an interest in science when it was presented in an entertaining way, whether that be through newspaper articles or television shows. However, very few of the participants identified games or gaming as a way of engaging with science.