The Association for Science Education


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Theme editorial: Public Understanding of Science

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: Michael Hal Sosabowski

Extract: In the times in which we live, it is now not uncommon to become aware of science ‘breakthroughs’ on Twitter, Facebook or other social media platforms. These media can, on first inspection, convey an air of authenticity to the reader. It is equally common for stories that appear in this way to be just as quickly debunked, leaving the public uncertain and unsure about who or what to believe. The real science gets mixed in with the fake science and pseudoscience and it becomes ever more difficult to differentiate between them...

We are all mutants

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: David J. Timson

Extract: Mutations can cause genetic diseases and the vast majority of these have no effective treatment. They raise some difficult questions on the boundaries of science and social science. Selective breeding to ‘improve’ the human race (eugenics) is often regarded as a Victorian relic or Nazi fantasy. Yet, three fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted each day in the UK. Recent research suggests that the average human has around 60 mutations in their DNA; it seems that we are all mutants. A better understanding of the science will help us make better decisions about these difficult issues.

Prions: protein rebels with a cause!

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: Karen E. Marshall and Louise C. Serpell

Extract: Traditionally we consider infection to arise from viruses, bacteria and parasites. Prions are infectious proteins without any nucleic acids, and therefore do not represent living things. Despite this, they have the ability to replicate themselves and cause diseases such as mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encepthalopathy) and human Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD). This article discusses how prions were first discovered and what has since been elucidated about their effects in various organisms. The mechanisms of protein misfolding in relation to prion biology are also examined.

Public participation in insect research through the use of pheromones

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: Deborah Harvey, Erik Hedenstrom and Paul Finch

Extract: In a project to determine the UK distribution of a conservation-status beetle Elater ferrugineus, 300 volunteers were recruited and supplied with traps containing a female pheromone that is an effective attractant for adult males. The occurrence and distribution of the insect were extended from previously estimated values and shown to be limited to a south-eastern area of the UK. In an attempt to account for the distribution, it was compared with a number of factors including climatic and habitat suitability. Of these, a major proportion of the variation in the distribution of E. ferrugineus was explained by temperature; that is, the beetle is restricted to an area delineated by a mean maximum summer temperature of greater than 21 °C.

An overview of some natural products with two A-level science club natural products experiments

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: Michael Hal Sosabowski, George W.J. Olivier, Hala Jawad and Sieja Maatta

Extract: Natural products are ubiquitous in nature but do not form a large proportion of the A-level syllabuses in the UK. In this article we briefly discuss a small selection of natural products, focusing on alcohols, aldehydes and ketones, and alkaloids. We then outline two natural product experiments that are suitable for A-level chemistry clubs or similar. Experiment 1 is the isolation and analysis of caffeine from tea, and Experiment 2 is the extraction and characterisation of a volatile oil, eugenol, from cloves. These experiments include a variety of laboratory techniques, including steam distillation, determination of melting point, thin-layer chromatography and column chromatography, infrared spectroscopy and ultraviolet spectrophotometry.

Popular science writing can be murder

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: John Emsley

Extract: Chemists have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to writing for the public in a way that will get them interested in our science and what it offers. Yet, as those in the media know, nothing sells better than shock-horror stories. I believe it is possible to take advantage of this ‘hook’ to catch people and introduce them to chemistry by talking about murders carried out with toxic molecules.

Demonstrating the study of the science of asthma management and formulation design in pharmacy to year 7, 8 and 12 students

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: Geeta Hitch, Saeid Rajabnezhad, Matthew Lam, Tara Hadley, Carlos Molina, Mohammed Maniruzzaman, Bugewa Apampa and Ali Nokhodch

Extract: Often school students have no idea of how the sciences they study can be used in the pursuit of a career such as pharmacy. The authors, all based at the University of Sussex, developed a series of experiments and clinical activities for year 7 and 8 (ages 11–13) and year 12 (ages 16–17) students based on the science that underpins the management of asthma and linked this to the current core curriculum for their newly developed Masters in Pharmacy (MPharm) degree programme. The experience was designed to demonstrate the benefits of the use of integrated sciences in the management of asthma by pharmacists. Students from both age groups enjoyed these activities and would consider studying pharmacy at higher education level, appreciating the range of skills and knowledge involved in the study of pharmacy.

Using simulation to facilitate understanding of medicines

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: Greg Scutt and Marcus Allen

Extract: Over the course of the last few years, clinical pharmacists and scientists at the University of Brighton have developed a learning activity that uses a state-of-the-art patient manikin to demonstrate how an understanding of the scientific process can aid patient care. Using this approach, student pharmacists are able to identify problems related to patients’ medicines and propose appropriate interventions.

Mini-lectures: a taster to engage the audience for the main event

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: Matthew J. Ingram, Simeon Crane, Alan Mokree, Marion E. Curdy and Bhavik A. Patel

Extract: This article explores the use of pre-recorded video mini-lectures to support and enhance traditional face-to-face lectures for undergraduate students. Mini-lectures guide students through key concepts so that they can understand and assimilate key content before attending lectures.

Soapbox Science: promoting women in STEM

Issue: October 2017 366

Author: Katy J. Petherick, Nathalie Pettorelli and Seirian Sumner

Extract: Set up in 2011 in the UK, Soapbox Science is reaching across the globe, highlighting women in science and the research they carry out in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Events turn busy city centres into places of discussion, debate and demonstrations. Soapbox Science brings the science directly to the public, breaking down barriers to enable researchers to discuss their research with anyone and bring everyone a step closer to the latest discoveries that are changing our understanding of the world.

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