The second Biology Week is running from the 12th to the 18th of October 2013. The Week is a Society of Biology initiative and a celebration of all aspects of the biosciences.
At The Open University we are celebrating the biosciences by offering a free event to local secondary schools, supported by The Physiological Society. The event includes talks from some of our academic staff, interactive displays and laboratory tours. In addition, we have taken this opportunity to bring together some existing resources - some reflecting the talks on offer; some taking a journey further into the biosciences.
If we think about biology, it will probably mean slightly different things to different people but certainly we might all think about our own bodies and how they work. This is certainly as good a starting point as any and the study of Human Biology is very popular.
If you'd like to learn more...
The sense of smell and sniffing out disease
The sense of smell, termed olfaction, is very old in evolutionary terms. It involves sniffing, which causes air containing molecules of the odorous substance(s) to pass over receptor cells called olfactory receptors that are housed within the nasal cavity.
Despite its evolutionary age, and in contrast to the other sensory systems, smell is poorly understood and a lot more difficult to quantify.
However, researchers are actively investigating smell, both in terms of how it works and its applications in health.
At our schools’ event Dr Claire Turner focusses on the sense of smell and describes how some diseases have specific odours associated with them. She describes how this is now being exploited as a novel means of diagnosis.
For example, she will describe how dogs can be used to sniff out cancer and how electronic noses and other devices are now being used to detect the odour signature of different diseases.
At our event for schools, students will hear about the different tissues and organs within the body and how they heal - or not - after being damaged. In this talk Dr James Phillips gives an overview of how tissue engineering and regenerative medicine can be used to build replacement tissues and what challenges arise in trying to do so.
Whilst the biological processes underlying tissue trauma and repair are of course very important, the experience of the individual suffering the trauma and those treating them is also important. Indeed, traumatic injury causes millions of deaths and disabilities globally.
The impact of diet
Most of us are aware that our energy levels and overall health can suffer if we do not stick to a healthy diet. Indeed, obesity represents a significant health problem.
But what many of us may not be aware of is that physiological aspects of eating relating to reproductive events. Dr Vicky Taylor will give a talk to visiting students which takes them on a journey from pre-birth to death, looking at key time points and influencing factors that potentially impact on your health and quality of life.
Biology beyond the laboratory
For many people biology is something you study using text books, but in the present day, far more biology is learnt from the common forms of media than a text book.
To illustrate the importance of the media in disseminating science to wide audiences, students at our schools’ event hear from Dr David Robinson who has spent much of his career working with the media to deliver high quality science material.He has worked with the BBC on a range of high profile productions including Frozen Planet, Coast and the Life series by David Attenborough.