Cristina’s blog about “Crystals made of tears: from misery to cheer”

Why did you take part in this event? (Describe your participation)

“Crystals made of tears: from misery to cheer”  is an outreach event that took place at “The Devereux” pub in central London. The outreach event had the purpose of presenting our network and giving an overview of membrane protein crystallography. What is best than having all the ESRs from RAMP in London to talk about that?

I believe that outreach activities are quite important in science, to promote awareness and trust in scientific research, and, why not, hopefully, inspire a new generation of scientists. 

Some of us already had experience with going to schools or science exhibitions, but this event allowed us to try something new, a different kind of “public outreach”. The purpose was to show what science is, try to interest people in our field and attempt all this in an informal and chilled out environment. So, we thought, why not having science with wine/beer and pizza in a pub on a Friday night?

During the event, I was more involved in the organization and logistics of the event. That means, for example, finding a venue, keeping in touch with the Imperial College London and University of Surrey outreach teams, coordinating with the speakers, finding sponsors for the refreshments (HUGE thank you to Molecular Dimensions and ITN RAMP), etc. So all that fun stuff! 

– What was the most exciting presentation? Tell us why?

We decided to have 4 different talks during the evening presented by different RAMP ESRs, after a short introduction of the event. The talks were structured as a “story” in order to guide the audience through membrane protein crystallography. First of all, we started from what membrane proteins are and where we can find them, moving on to how we isolate the specific protein of interest, what is a protein crystal and how we try to obtain it. Then we explained what X-ray crystallography is and finally the importance of our field in everyday life.

All the talks were absolutely brilliant. Some speakers used props and demos to explain the key concepts, that made the presentation very catchy and interactive and allowed us to engage the audience as much as possible. Even though the talks were prepared separately and we only had a couple of evenings for “rehearsal” before the event, the story flowed perfectly from one topic to the following one.

In your participation, is there something you would do differently? If yes, what and why?

The evening went very well, despite it being our first attempt. Maybe a few things could have been a little bit smoother and achieved with less stress, but we were a great team, we all worked hard, the venue was great, the audience was interested, so I think it can be considered a success!

What did you enjoy most (scientific and non-scientific)?

Even though at times it was a bit intense, I liked helping in the organization. Especially with Virginia (who did a truly amazing job), I saw this event initially as an idea, then taking shape and then becoming a new and exciting experience. In fact, after talking about it for a while and trying to plan every detail, it was quite interesting to see everything fall into place.

The other thing I enjoyed most was to get to know people with different backgrounds and have the chance to have a chat with them during the evening. One of the best examples is when, at the very end of the evening, a lady said she had never met a “scientist” and she wanted to take that opportunity to thank us all for our efforts and contribution to scientific research.

Has this experience encouraged you to actively participate in other events of this kind? And if so, when and where do you plan to go and what are you going to do there?

As I said, I really enjoyed this event in all the different aspects from the organization to the talks to the beer/wine involved! I think that, if I have the opportunity of getting involved again, I would really like to.

I have to say that none of that could have happened without team-work. The event was a success because, despite us experiencing “misery and cheer” wherever we are in the network, I truly believe we are a great team!