Scientists representing the Mass General Research Institute participated in the recent Cambridge Science Festival as part of an effort to make science more accessible, interactive and fun.

Each year the Cambridge Science Festival hosts a 10-day celebration of science, technology and art in the Greater Boston area with the goal of making science accessible, interactive and fun.

Susan Slaugenhaupt, PhD (left), scientific director of the Mass General Research Institute, and other Mass General attendees at the recent Cambridge Science Festival
Susan Slaugenhaupt, PhD (left), scientific director of the Mass General Research Institute, and other Mass General attendees at the recent Cambridge Science Festival

This year, the Mass General Research Institute participated in two of the festival’s more than 200 events.

“The events were part of our efforts to spread the word about research at Mass General beyond the walls of the hospital,” said Susan Slaugenhaupt, PhD, scientific director of the Mass General Research Institute. “At a time when science seems to be constantly under fire, it was great to connect with so many people who are enthusiastic about research.”

Bringing Science to Kids

Mass General researcher Nitya Jain, PhD of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center, and her team set up shop at the Science Carnival and Robot Zoo. This day-long family-friendly event featured over 100 interactive booths from a variety of organizations including local hospitals, schools and universities, scientific nonprofits, and pharmaceutical companies.

Visitors to the booth took a quiz to find out which type of microbe best fits their personality, saw a demonstration of how T cells help to fight harmful bacteria and viruses in the body, and created their own microbe cultures by swabbing the inside of their mouths with a Q-tip and applying the saliva sample to an agar plate (small plate with bacterial nutrients) that they could take home with them.

Giuseppina (Giusy) Romano-Clarke, MD, used clever drawings to explain her work with babies.
Giuseppina (Giusy) Romano-Clarke, MD, used clever drawings to explain her work with babies.

Over 350 kids and families visited the booth over the course of the day. Dr. Jain and her staff spent the day translating a complex topic (immunology) into a concept young children could understand.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to do something I am truly passionate about — bringing science to little kids,” Dr. Jain said.

Science Slam Challenge

The Mass General Research Institute also hosted a Science Slam at the Asgard Irish Pub and Restaurant in Cambridge to provide investigators with an opportunity to practice their skills in effectively communicating their science to a wide audience.

Researchers were given five minutes to informally provide an overview of their research and its significance without using slides or scientific jargon. The presenters included Giuseppina (Giusy) Romano-Clarke, MD, an attending physician at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children Newborn Services Department. She used clever drawings to explain her work in changing the way babies get evaluated and treated for possible infection.

Other topics included using ketamine to treat depression, understanding cancer biology and metastasis, and using electrical stimulation to change brain signals responsible for cognitive processing involved in solving conflict.

Eight researchers from Mass General shared their work with a packed house of science enthusiasts.

The Research Institute: Saving Lives Through Science

mghri_220aThe Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute is the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with a community of more than 8,500 people working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments.

Our researchers work side-by-side with physicians to pioneer the latest scientific advancements for curing disease and healing patients in Boston, across the United States and around the world.

To learn more about the Research Institute, please visit our website.