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Dia Aberto 2007

Bringing the public into science at ITQB

Oeiras, 30/01/007

In the 2007 edition of the Open Day, ITQB welcomed almost 1600 visitors (about 500 were children), some newcomers and some established enthusiasts of this initiative. The comments left on the visitor’s book and questionnaires were all very positive and once again the atmosphere during the Open Day was fantastic.

Further information can be found in the event’s webpage.

In 2007, the following activities were available for the public:

  • O ITQB: Os bastidores de um instituto de investigação (the backstage of a research institute)
    In this room, it was possible to envisage the context of ITQB in Portuguese institutions, its history its organization. How science depends both on scientists and a group of totally different people that support research, and what the word researcher means at ITQB (professors and students, contracted by ITQB or depending on scholarships, Portuguese or foreigners). It was also possible to appreciate how science (at ITQB and worldwide) is financed in a competitive manner, how science is evaluated (peer review) and progresses (scientific papers) and how only a very small part of the work of researchers usually reached the general public through the media that make their on judgment on the importance of scientific subjects).


  • Da Ciência à Saúde: Exemplos dos múltiplos caminhos (from science to health: examples of the multiple paths) 
    This constituted the largest exhibit room and the goal was to present ITQB research relating it with health issues. In the first stand one could appreciate how there is a whole world that we don’t see of bacteria, fungi and virus and how their presence doesn’t always mean disease; some diagnostic tools were presented and the topic of antibiotic resistance was explained. The second stand aimed at showing that even apparently fundamental research have implications in how we understand and treat diseases: topics like DNA and protein analysis or structural and functional studies of proteins were presented and explained. The last stand in the area offered a glimpse into how drugs are produced, by chemical synthesis, extracting natural compounds, using biotechnology (in yeasts, plant or animal cells or even using virus); some controversial topics, like GMOs, could be discussed with the researchers present.
  • Área das Crianças: A Ciência como inspiração (Children corner: science as inspiration)
    While this room was especially dedicated to children, it attracted public of all ages. Here it was possible to extract DNA from banana using shampoo and table salt; see a volcano in action as a result of a chemical reaction; learn that salts can aggregate to form crystals making colorful chemical gardens; observe many different cell types using the microscopes and build cell models out of play-dough; and many other activities some of which could be repeated at home.
  • Vamos falar de...: Investigadores do ITQB falam do seu trabalho (Let’s talk about: ITQB researchers talk about their work)
    Five 20 min talks were presented in the ITQB Auditorium. The public followed these presentations with interest and even though few dared to ask questions at the end, many visitors approached the researchers for further discussion. The topics presented this year were
    1. The vaccines of the future
    2. The world of plants and human health
    3. Chemistry: unpostponable challenges
    4. Antibiotic resistant bacteria in healthy individuals
    5. Healthy ice-creams. This last presentation about food additives and coloring ended with the production of ice-cream with liquid nitrogen which was truly impressive for both children and adults alike.
  • Visitas aos Laboratórios: Onde trabalhamos (Visit to the laboratories where we work)
    The visits were available to visitors upon registration and small groups were taken to visit a particular laboratory where they were acquainted with its research topics and the material and techniques involved. The visits targeted mostly teenagers and those considering a scientific career but were a major attraction to all visitors.
  • Para além da ciência: O que fazemos para além do ITQB (Beyond Science: What do we do besides ITQB)
    In this area we had an example of some of the hobbies chosen by both researchers and staff working at ITQB. The idea was to show how people doing science dedicate to different things and there is no such thing as "A" researcher. This activity turned out to be a huge surprise mainly for those working at ITQB.
    With this line of thinking, during the day there were also on display paintings by a former student at ITQB that uses science as inspiration, the molecular images produced by an ITQB PhD student, and the photographs resulting from an internal photo competition entitled Within ITQB.
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