What Can We Learn From the History of Science?

On the 8th January, the BSA Leicester sponsored an exciting and engaging talk on the history of science, delivered by Professor Hasok Chang.

This talk touched on how past scientific endeavours are still relevant in today’s world of advanced knowledge.

It’s our awareness of experiments that have been conducted in the past that allow us to take an abstract look at how research can be undertaken in modern times.

Professor Hasok Chang with Dr Angela O’Sullivan (British Science Association) and Prof. Sir Kent Woods (President of the Lit and Phil)

Many thanks to Professor Chang for such an insightful talk.

Please follow this link to see Dr Angela O’Sullivan’s vote of thanks

If you are interested in any more of Professor Chang’s work, then check out these videos!


Science in the Park

How much do you know about science? Are you interested, or apprehensive? Do you think it’s all very complicated jargon and only for scientists? Come join us for a fun and interesting afternoon of science in the park. Sit on the grass, feel free to bring a drink or a snack, ask scientists questions, learn and exchange points of view. Everyone welcome!

Fingers crossed for some good weather!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Science in the Park

Science at your local

Come chat with a scientist over a pint

This August we are holding four pub events where you can have an informal chat with scientists and ask all the questions you always wanted to know.

Friday 7th August 5.30pm @TheSoarPoint

(The Newarke, Leicester LE2 7BY)


Dr. Ana Verissimo will talk about her research on abdominal aortic aneurysms. What is an aneurysm? How is it detected? Is there a treatment? How do scientists study the disease?

Tuesday 11th August 5.30pm @TheFont

(52 Gateway St, Leicester LE2 7DP)


Dr. Malgorzata Bednarz will talk about geology, shale gas and how tiny worms help fracking huge petroleum reservoirs.

Tuesday 18th August, 5.30pm @TheFont

(52 Gateway St, Leicester LE2 7DP)


Professor Dave Lambert will talk about how pain and anaesthetics work.

How physics and maths can help solve crimes: skid marks

The Technology Festival organized by De Monfort University this July invited students from Leicestershire to work through a series of interactive zones: Today’s World Zone, The Careers Zone and The Future Zone.

The Today’s World Zone explored how technology is currently assisting the working world to make breakthroughs – for example, how physics assists in road collisions or how computing plays a role in preventing cyber crime online.


Policy Debate on Antibiotic Resistance

Date and time: Tuesday 31st March, 3.00-4.30 pm

Venue:  De Montfort University (Leicester) – Hawthorn Building, Lecture Theatre HB 1.30

Event information: This will be a BBC Question Time style debate with a panel and questions from the audience to discuss:

‘Are new antibiotics the only way to solve this crisis?’

The debate will be chaired by Ms Marilena Ioannou (Senior lecturer in Microbiology) and the panel will include a Consultant Microbiologist, a Clinician, University Academics and a student who works in bacteriology, antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.

The debate is free of charge to attend and is open to the public, so please bring along your colleagues, friends and family.

Event Organiser: Dr. Shivanthi Samarasinghe (ssamarasinghe@dmu.ac.uk)


Infectious disease experts universally agree that antibiotic resistance is a growing and potentially devastating problem. The main issue is how to tackle the problem. A new campaign in the UK is now urging doctors and patients to minimise the use of antibiotics unless completely necessary, so that the antibiotics we already have are likely to be useful for longer before bacteria evolve resistance against them. Another view is to concede that our current arsenal of antibiotics will become obsolete at a rate which we can do little about, and the only way we are going to tackle these emerging, multi antibiotic resistant bacteria is to develop new antibiotics as soon as possible.

A problem with this is how to convince pharmaceutical companies to pursue this, when there is currently minimal need for new drugs until the old, very cheap ones become obsolete.

Public opinion is split over who should lead the charge in developing new antibiotics. A large majority of respondents in a survey for Nesta said that the Government should collaborate with private companies to develop new drugs, but how would this work in practical terms? Is our current pharmaceutical industry set up to provide protection from infections that evolve more quickly than drugs can be developed?

What it means for us

Antibiotic resistance is an issue which affects almost all countries and societies, where the speed of evolution of bacteria against antibiotics is far exceeding the speed at which new antibiotics can be developed. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has already resulted in thousands of deaths in British hospitals, and few new antibiotics have been developed to reliably tackle it. If current antibiotics become redundant and new antibiotics or other methods are not found to replace them then routine procedures that we think of as ‘minor surgery’ could become life threatening. The standard of the healthcare on offer and the survival rate from common disease may lower to a point that the current generation would find unacceptable. Where should society focus efforts to solve the problem of antibiotic resistance?

 Come along and join us for what promises to be an interesting and informative debate!

British Science Week – From inside the body to outer space using the Doppler effect

Medical Physicist, Dr. Emma Chung, and juggling Astrophysicist, Dr. Mark Wilkinson, travelled from the level of red blood cells to exploring the Milky Way using the Doppler Effect. Emma showed how the Doppler Effect can be used to measure blood flow through arteries using ultrasound, with a live demonstration provided by special guests from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. The images are very dark, as the lectures were held at the planetarium (National Space Centre), but hopefully you can still see the blood vessels on top and the flow measurements at the bottom of the screen.

demoMark then went on to explore how Doppler’s theory was later extended using Albert Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity to analyse the light from distant stars.

MarkToday, the Doppler Effect provides a vital tool for mapping the motion of stars in the Milky Way and has enabled us to detect the otherwise invisible dark matter that provides the gravity that holds the Galaxy together. This talk explored what we know (and what we don’t know) about how a cosmic soup of dark matter, gas, and dust produced the magnificent range of stars and galaxies that we see in the Universe today. Along the way he showed how astronomers are using the world’s most powerful telescopes and computers to answer questions such as: what happens when galaxies collide? How do supermassive black holes grow? And what can juggling teach us about astronomy?

We have also filmed these lectures and the video will be edited soon and made available on our youtube channel, so that you can learn more about the uses of the Doppler effect in two very distinct fields: medicine and astrophysics!

These events have been coordinated by STEM Ambassador, Dr Emma Chung from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, who hopes to inspire young people to consider careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

British Science Week – Doppler day at the Great Central Railway

British Science Week  is a UK-wide programme of events and activities, aimed at people of all ages, to celebrate science, technology, engineering and maths.

Full steam ahead for this year’s first day of the British Science Week as local East Midlands students performed a classic steam train experiment on Friday 13th of March at the Great Central Railway.

This experiment was originally performed by a Dutch scientist (Christophorus Henricus Didericus Buys-Ballot) in 1845, and provided the first experimental confirmation of a physics phenomenon called the Doppler Effect. Buys-Ballot placed a group of musicians on a train and asked the driver to rush past him as fast as he could while the musicians played and held a constant note. Listeners on the platform were able to detect a change in pitch of the note (called the Doppler shift) as the train passed them. Measurement of the Doppler shift makes it possible to estimate how fast an object is moving, which is useful for detecting blood flow through arteries, speeding cars, and how fast the universe is expanding!

DopplerIn this re-enactment of Buys-Ballot’s original experiment, students used electronic recording equipment to measure the frequency of the sound from the train and calculate how fast the train was moving. For comparison, the speed of the train was measured using speed guns provided by Leicestershire County Council. This was great fun and we are in the process of editing the video, which soon will be available on our youtube channel.

Doppler’s theory was later expanded to include light (using Albert Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity) and now provides a vital tool for mapping the motions of stars in the Milky Way. This was  explored further in an open lecture later in the week “From inside the body to outer space using the Doppler effect” held at the National Space Centre Planetarium at 7:30 pm on Wednesday 18th of March.

These two events were funded by the Wellcome Trust and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and were organised by the University of Leicester in collaboration with STEMNET, the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, the Institute of Physics (IoP), Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM), Great Central Railway, Leicestershire County Council, British Medical Ultrasound Society, National Space Centre, and British Science Association.