27/09/2019 - Outreach

Barcelona citizens get to play with Chromatin and talk to Biologists and Designers

by LIVIA CONDEMI

27th of September 2019, Barcelona FabCafè. 

ChromDesigners take part in one activity in Barcelona that will bring Chromatin and other scientific knowledge to society. How would that go?

300 different cities all over Europe, last Friday of September, what could go on? A festival, a party? Almost right!. The European Researchers’ Night (ERN), a major event simultaneously across Europe, intends to bring science, researchers, and technology closer to the public. 

Could it be that ChromDesign does not enjoy this opportunity?! Of course not!

On the 27th of September 2019, three ChromDesign’s fellows joined the Barcelona “Nit Europea de la Recerca,” participating in the event “Who is Who in European Science?” in the FabCafè bar. We presented our research projects together with scientists of other ITN consortia and researchers working and studying in different institutes in Barcelona. 

Carla (ELISAVA – Barcelona), Michael (Institute of Human Genetics, CNRS-IGH – Montpellier), and me, Livia (Centro de Regulatió Genomica – Barcelona), were the fellows taking part in the event with a lot of help from Carolin Vogler, a fashion designer. The latter collaborated with ChromDesign in 2019 as an artist in residence.

Our main goal for the event was to share with the general public how we combine Chromatin and Design in our projects, how these two concepts are related to each other. 

How could design help our audience to associate an idea of what Chromatin is? Easy, just playing with it! 

We built up an interactive chromatin model on the wall of the bar. 

Chromatin is the DNA-proteins structure that allows the 2m DNA to fit into the few micrometers nucleus of the cells. It is necessary for the commitment of a skin cell to be a skin cell and not an eye’s one, so it is fundamental. 

We invited people to discover how Chromatin works, which is its role in the cell nucleus, and we showed them how genes “turn on and off” directly there, on the wall of the bar. 

The most exciting part – from our point of view – was the after-game moment. We started discussing with the public about our scientific projects and, even more interesting, about their curiosities. We realised how far from the “real life” science looks for the non-scientific public, how this audience is not involved in the scientific research discussions. So they cannot understand deeply the relevance and the importance that science and research have for society. 

Facing this lack of communication between these two “worlds” let us realise how important could our work be to bridge them. It is no coincidence that one of the main goals of ChromDesign is, indeed, to fill this gap.

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