Slime, supercomputers, and pond lurkers at this year’s Summer Science Festival

The annual Summer Science Exhibition is the Royal Society’s week-long free festival celebrating the cutting edge of UK science.

Visitors will be treated to the science that’s shaping our future, and get to talk to the people making it happen.

Three exhibits will feature experts from Imperial College London out of 20 groups in total. Imperial research groups come from the Departments of Bioengineering , Materials , and Life Sciences.

Here is a roundup of what to expect at each exhibit.

Nurturing nature’s innovations

Aeons of evolutionary trial and error have driven life’s success on earth. Basing their work on this fact, Imperial’s Dr Adam Celiz and team shows how we can tap into slugs and insects’ natural-born expertise to help humans.

The Nurturing Nature’s Innovations stand, led by Dr Celiz of the Department of Bioengineering , will demonstrate how to make medical glue using slug slime as a blueprint. The chemical makeup of slug slime, which is water-proof, makes it perfect for closing internal surgical wounds and even using on sticking plasters.

The team includes experts from the Natural History Museum (NHM), who will demonstrate how we can learn from dragonflies’ flying and hunting abilities to improve the performance of micro-drones, mini wind turbines, and visually guided robots.

Dr Celiz said: “We’re really excited to show our research with the NHM. We hope to inspire the next generation of bioengineers by showing how nature can give us design principles that we as engineers can harness for new, innovative bio-inspired technologies.”

GET INVOLVED:

  • Get up close to slugs! Then make your own slug slime
  • Take a look at incredible dragonfly specimens from the NHM
  • Experience a fly’s-eye-view, and try a movement challenge in a virtual reality headset

Code for creation

Materials are more than clothing textiles and bricks and mortar - they make up everything we create, from aeroplanes to mobile phones and solar panels. Science and industry are always trying to improve these materials, by making them last longer, perform better or be less likely to fail.

At the Code for Creation stand, students and academics from the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Theory and Simulation of Materials at Imperial will show visitors how recent advances in materials modelling and the power of supercomputers can be harnessed to get the best out of materials, or even discover new ones.

GET INVOLVED:

  • Race against a supercomputer to solve a maze
  • Explore how fusion reactors of the future may be able to heal themselves from defects
  • Design a new material and ask Thomas the supercomputer to test it

Life in a warming world

Imperial and Charters School, Berkshire , are investigating the impact of climate change on freshwater habitats like streams, lakes and rivers, which are important hotspots for biodiversity.

At the Life in a Warming World stand, learn the importance of links between individual organisms in building successful ecosystems. Guests can also discover what lurks in their local ponds and rivers.

Dr Emma Ransome from Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences , who leads the research, said: “We’ve been helping the school improve their skills and scientific techniques, but they developed the idea for their project themselves. Our understanding of how climate change will impact these important ecosystems is limited, so they really are at the forefront of research.”

GET INVOLVED:

  • Go pond dipping at the exhibition
  • Spy on freshwater invertebrates through a microscope
  • Play a food web game

The exhibition is free to attend and runs Monday 2 July - Sunday 8 July.

Applications for scientists to showcase their research at next year’s Summer Science Exhibition are already open.