European Researchers Night in Newcastle – A Valuable Experience

Its human inbuilt habit to inquire about the things which strike his mind or about the things his mind unable to form the reasonable arguments with himself. It is the human observation that makes him powerful and creates new knowledge. It is also a common understanding that you learn faster if you observe things properly by exposing yourself to new ideas. With diverse experience which came from observations, you become capable to think about a problem from many different angles. For different age groups, from younger to older adults, the idea behind learning new things is the same. Like for children, they already start learning from mother’ comb, when they came to this world, they learn by observing their parents. Therefore, the observation is a powerful tool that can enhance your knowledge and give you awareness about the issues surrounding you. Based on this theme, a European Researchers Night was organized so the public can get awareness from the new research in many different fields, which can make their life better. In other words, this night was organized to give enough exposure to the young adults so that they can make their minds for contributing to the scientific world or at least get the motivation to keep themselves on the right track for their future development.

           These night-events held all over Europe on the same day (September 28th, 2018). The experience shared here is form night in Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom. The venue of the night was “Great North Museum, Hancock, Newcastle Upon Tyne”. The event was in the evening from 18:00 to 22:00. To organize this event, different researchers who are under Horizon 2020 program got an invitation to participate in this outreach activity to showcase their innovative research. Agenda finalized and activities of every participating site were discussed on phone and through email correspondence. Researchers tried to show something interactive, which can engage people and they can experience themselves closely about the ongoing work. Our site planned to discuss the Keep Control projects through a poster, also made a video to display the Brain and movement (BAM) research group from Newcastle. In order to get the attention of the people, we also brought an automatic hand dynamometer to measure the hand-grip strength. By which we can show them how strong they are by comparing their strength values with the age normative data from a larger study.

             To have an appropriate representation, I need to have a good team. Which can help me in explaining different stuff to the public. I asked different search fellows and succeeded to get Veerle (Keep Control Fellow) on board with me to participate as she was here in Newcastle for her secondments. In addition, those Keep Control Fellows who were doing secondments in Kiel, Germany also participated in the researcher’s night there. To have more member in my team, I circulated an email to my research group to join me, and Philip Brown a senior physiotherapist in my group was also willing to join me. Now my team was in perfect shape, I have the Philip who can deal with the hand dynamometer to measure the grip strength better than I can and Veerle who can help me in explaining the Keep Control projects to the general public. In return, Veerle also planned to recruit some subjects for her study from the public who will participate in the night event. Now my team was finalized and duties were assigned. Next step was to prepare the material for the European night.

                  During the night, we need to represent all the Keep Control Projects. Therefore, we decided to make a poster along with a video. Video should be eye-catching for the children by showing state of the art equipment along with the team photos. In addition, measuring the grip strength can engage the general public. The major hurdle was designing the poster to incorporate all the 12 Keep Control projects. After different iterations, we finalized the poster that is given below.

Poster_KeepControl-Researcher's Night_NewcastleA poster representing all the Keep Control Projects

               The place assigned to us during the event was interesting. Our desk was close to the Hadrian Wall also called the Roman Wall, which was the northern limit of the great Roman Empire. The combination of history with modern research was giving a unique flavor to everyone. Which gave a potential opportunity to every person, how we are progressing over the passage of time and our every action in research is to make their lives better. Especially the Keep Control Project, which is focused on overcoming the gait and balance deficits in the elderly. By this project, the elderly can maintain their dignity without taking help from an external source. This project is investigating all the aspects of gait and balance in normal healthy person to an individual who has the neurodegenerative syndrome. Due to this research area, our desk was a good point of stoppage for every elderly, who came there with their children.

IMG_1891Hadrian wall in the museum

                  Interaction with the people during the event was exceptional. During such kind of event, people consider us doctors, even though my background is engineering. Still, we try to answer them based on our limited knowledge. However, it is always good to share their problem with other for a better feeling, so we listened to their medical history about their gait and balance. In our team, we had senior physiotherapist Philip Brown, who can handle the medical terms that we do not know, or at least he can give them an expert suggestion. Veerle and I were explaining the Keep Control Projects to the public and most of them were interested in knowing how strong they are as compared to an age-matched person. In this case, Philip measured their grip strength with the hand dynamometer. From this interaction, we learned several things which can later help us in our research career.

IMG_1889Veerle is explaining about her studies

                    The experience we got from this night was richly rewarding in many aspects. One of the major aspects was the problems they are facing and what kind of facilities they have. In addition, what they want to keep proper gait and balance. As a researcher, it is important to know their problems first; this will have a huge impact on our research-working environment. First, it will give us the motivation to speed up the research to provide them the solution as soon as possible. Second, we will come to know either we are putting our efforts in the right direction or not. Third, you also get new ideas to work on in your future research, as you can see future problems by having direct interaction with them. In addition, you learn many things automatically without even knowing about them.

European researchers nightCombined team picture who participated in the European Researchers Night

               In total, 771 people participated in this researcher’s night in a period of 4 hours. This shows the interest of the people in science, also the parents’ willingness for their children to pursue their careers in innovative research. We got fantastic feedback from people about our research projects. People were willing to take part in any ongoing research to help us to make this society a better place.

 

Written By: Rana Zia Ur Rehman, Veerle de Rond

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