With the disruptions caused by COVID-19, it has been a few years since ARMI’s last ‘Opening the Vault’ which invites members of the public for a “behind-the-scenes” look at the Institute. Last week marked the return of the event. If there were nerves or dusty science communications skills among ARMI’s cohort of volunteers, you couldn’t tell, as ARMI and the Convergence Science Network welcomed over 40 people to the sold-out event.
“It’s critical to maintain a relationship with the general public,” explained Institute Director of Research, Professor Peter Currie. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, awareness of biomedical research and its impacts on our community’s health has never been higher. But so has misinformation. As such, we have to inform people of our research activities and how their contribution, whether through tax and public funding or philanthropy, is helping us achieve our goals of better understanding the human body and how to harness that to improve the lives of patients.”
The night’s science-curious group ranged from primary school children to retirees in their 70s and were treated to a tour of ARMI’s high-tech facilities while chatting with ARMI scientists about their research projects. Always a popular stop, AquaCore helped visitors understand the importance of animal models, such as zebrafish and salamanders, in studying regeneration and stem cells. Visitors were treated to a walkthrough of the aquarium and the phenotyping laboratory.
On show were also ARMI’s powerful imaging capabilities, with a station dedicated to live imaging of the early mouse embryo. Not only did this demonstrate the amazing evolution of imaging technology over recent years, but also how important the tool is in providing spatial context and the need to understand development in 3D. Station 3 took advantage of the heightened public knowledge about the body’s immune system and summarised ARMI’s current work in developing immune-based therapeutic proteins to improve tissue healing. With a clear clinical application, the research resonated strongly with the night’s visitors.
“It was exciting to see young and old at the event. Making science accessible to all is imperative, especially when it comes to inspiring the next generation of researchers,” said Convergence Science Network Convenor Luan Ismahil. “The ‘Opening the Vault’ events provide a welcoming and safe environment for people to explore what happens in labs and science facilities across Melbourne. Science communication and public engagement are at the core of the Convergence Science Network ethos with more events planned for 2023.”
Thank you to all ARMI researchers and staff who volunteered their time and shared their passion for science, Luan Ismahil from Convergence Science Network and ARMI’s Jane McCausland for organising the event, and all attendees!