Cape Town - Join some of South African’s top researchers shaping the future of science at Pint of Science this week.
Pint of Science is part of a global science festival which occurs simultaneously in pubs across the world, and invites the public to relax with a drink while learning about the scientific discoveries going on in laboratories, which will ultimately affect all our lives.
Event co-director Micheline Frantz said the aim is to bring conversations from the research lab into the public space.
“Living in the age of information, you can just Google what’s happening - but you don’t always have the chance to engage with the people who are conducting the research,” Frantz said. “We want to provide a refreshing experience that allows the public to know more about what’s happening in the field of science, in a way that’s relaxed and open.
“It also dispels stereotypes about what kind of personalities are required to do good science, when you’re getting to know the scientists behind the science.”
The presentations are snappy at just 15 minutes long, with time for questions and discussion (and cocktail refills) at the end of each speech. Cape Town is the only city in South Africa to host a Pint of Science event, which will fittingly take place at the Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen in Gardens, where the cocktails look like lab experiments themselves.
The event runs for three nights, with three speakers on each night following a theme. Monday night will be exploring the human body, Tuesday is all about planet earth, and Wednesday will be encompassing atoms to galaxies.
Post-doctoral researcher Rubina Bunjun so enjoyed presenting at the event last year, that she’ll be returning this year. Bunjun is based at UCT’s Department of Pathology, and will be presenting about the link between injectable hormonal contraceptives and higher risk of HIV infection.
“It’s really nice setting where a scientist is on the same level as our audience,” she said. “In this day and age there’s so much mistrust of scientists. The way the public views us is not always favourable, but when you meet us in person, a lot of the things people think are dispelled.”
Bunjun said that public engagement is something all scientists should dedicate more time to.
“The thing that drives us is we want to make lives better - what’s the point if nobody knows what you’re doing?”
She will be presenting about the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) Study, which will have far-reaching consequences for women who use contraceptives.
“Recently there’s been this uproar that there’s a possible link between the injectable contraceptive and HIV risk in women,” she said. “I’ll be talking about the big trial which will finally give us an answer.”
Other speakers include Michelle Mukonyora, who will be speaking on using scalp hair in forensics and diagnostics, Kerryn Warren on the Homo naledi project, and John Woodland, speaking about what it takes to develop new medicines from the lab to the patient’s bedside.