Student-led ‘Physiology Challenge’ for Biology Week at the University of Leeds

Phys challengePhysiology Friday, the annual event supported by The Physiological Society as a finale for ‘Biology Week’, aims to engage with science in a novel way.  This year, the challenge was set by Dr Charlotte Haigh, an associate professor in Human Physiology at the University of Leeds, and James Croft, a final year Human Physiology student; to “design and run a fun and engaging stall for the local Leeds public at Leeds Central Library”.

Teams of six, which each contained undergraduate BSc Human Physiology students from each year, engaged the public with a range of physiology themed stands: Alzheimer’s disease and neuro-degeneration, cardio-pulmonary health, diabetes, and the science of hangovers. Rose Bavage, Outreach Officer for the Faculty of Biological Sciences, said of the event, “It always amazes me how much undergraduates want to get involved in these activities and how much effort they put into these events. We will certainly be working with more undergraduates on public events like this in the future.”

Students evaluated the success of their efforts and were marked on the quality of their presentations, impact of their projects and the effectiveness of their engagement strategy. The activities culminated in a social quiz within the students’ union bar, and marks from both the outreach project and quiz were used to select a winning team. James Croft commented, “There is a University-wide drive to promote our research findings not only within the scientific community, but also into the public eye. The week ended in a social quiz, and, aside of anything else, outsmarting some of our lecturers was great fun!”

Chris Salmon, a third year student, elected to use peak flow meters to inform the public about obstructive disorders such as asthma, and the effects of smoking, in line with the NHS’s Stoptober campaign.  He said, “It was a challenge trying to communicate principles learned in lectures to the public in a fun and easy to understand way, but we think the visitors to our stand were left feeling inspired.”

Jordan Appleyard, a second year student, designed a mountain range with the peak flow readings of famous athletes, singers, the average person and smokers to allow people to compare their peak flow readings with those of celebrities. He found the Physiology Challenge “a great way to make friends with other Physiology and Biomedical Science students in different years, and a way to engage with members of academic staff outside lectures.”

This outreach activity was a great success and introduced undergraduate students to public engagement on behalf of both our institution and The Physiological Society. We look forward to running the Physiology Challenge again in 2015.

This article was published in Physiology News 97.

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