Cheltenham Science Festival showcase for Swansea researchers

Researchers from Swansea University will join forces with celebrities such as anatomist and broadcaster Alice Roberts, historian and TV presenter Suzannah Lipscomb, and BBC Bang Goes the Theory presenter Liz Bonnin, to showcase their world-class work at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival 2014 this week.

The University is again a Major Supporter of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, which runs until Sunday, June 8, and features wildlife expert and CBBC Deadly Pole to Pole presenter Steve Backshall and BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Richard Bacon as its guest directors.

The festival’s organisers have selected three of the University’s most innovative and exciting research areas to feature in its diverse programme of events, which covers everything from the origin of the universe and the future of the World – to the science of cake, cocktails and cats.

Representing Swansea University this year are Nick Owen, Dr Ian Mabbett, and Dr Richard Johnston from the University’s College Engineering, and Dr Andrew King from the University’s College of Science.

Sport and exercise biomechanist Nick Owen, who has worked with UK Sport, British Skeleton, Welsh Rugby Union, Ospreys Rugby, Bath Rugby, and many others, will be taking part in two events.

The first event, which has already been selected as a ‘Director’s Pick’ by Steve Backshall, features anatomist, artist, author and broadcaster Alice Roberts and focuses on the sports anatomy of a ballerina and a rugby player to show how the different muscles work.

In the second event, which features historian and TV presenter Suzannah Lipscomb, Nick Owen will help unlock the Tudor time capsule secrets of Henry VIII’s warship, the Mary Rose.

Mr Owen, based within Swansea University’s Research Centre in Applied Sports, Technology, Exercise and Medicine (A-STEM) group, led recent work to discover more about the lives of the medieval archers on board the ship, including the reconstruction of the face of one of Henry VIII’s elite archers, who drowned aboard the Mary Rose in 1545.

Dr Andrew King leads the SHOAL (Sociality, Heterogeneity, Organisation And Leadership) research group at Swansea University’s Department of Biosciences, which investigates collective animal behaviour in a variety of species and contexts.

Dr King will be taking part in an event with BBC Bang Goes the Theory’s Liz Bonnin, which will examine what we know about how intelligent and social animals are.

Dr Ian Mabbett and Dr Richard Johnston of Swansea University’s Materials Research Centre will be exhibiting in the Festival’s Explore Zone, in association with the Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC), which this year has a focus on ‘Materials, technology and cutting-edge research’.

Drs Mabbett and Johnston will be exhibiting their advanced materials research, which they also showcase through their Materials: Live! project, including some interesting smart materials and including testing materials live in their exhibition space.

Professor Steve Wilks, Head of Swansea University’s College of Science and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Designate), said: “As a Major Supporter of the Festival again this year, we aim to increase awareness of the University’s research excellence at the world’s largest and most prestigious science festival.

“Communicating and disseminating the impact and value of the leading-edge research we undertake here in Swansea, in collaboration with partners world-wide, is crucial.  Participation in the Festival again this year, highlighting the fields of materials science, sports and exercise science, and biosciences, provides an ideal platform for us to engage with the public to do this.

“We are rightly proud of our ground-breaking researchers taking part this year and we look forward to what promises to be another exciting year for Swansea University at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival.”

The Swansea University researchers and their events which feature in this year’s festival are: 

  • Sports Anatomy: Live (selected as a ‘Director’s Pick’ by Steve Backshall)

Date: Thursday, June 5

Time: 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Venue: Winton Crucible

In this anatomy lesson with a difference anatomist, artist, author and broadcaster Alice Roberts will paint the bodies of a ballerina and a rugby player to show how different muscles work; consultant radiologist at NHS Gloucestershire Iain Lyburn will compare this with their MRI scans; and Swansea University sport and exercise biomechanist Nick Owen explores the differences in their musculature, an intricately fascinating network within our bodies. 

  • The Mary Rose: A Tudor Time Capsule

Date: Friday, June 6

Time: 2pm – 3pm

Venue: Helix Theatre

The salvaging of Henry VIII’s warship, the Mary Rose, was one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology.  Mary Rose Trust curator Alexzandra Hildred, historian and TV presenter Suzannah Lipscomb, and Swansea University sport and exercise biomechanics expert Nick Owen delve into what we have learnt from this valuable Tudor-era time capsule. 

  • Animal Behaviour and Intelligence

Date: Saturday, June 7

Time: 10am – 11am

Venue: Pillar Room

As the dominant species on the planet, we tend to think we are the smartest and most sociable animals around – but maybe other mammals aren’t that far behind! BBC Bang Goes the Theory’s Liz Bonnin talks to Swansea University behavioural ecologist Dr Andrew King and University of York evolutionary psychologist Katie Slocombe about what we know about how intelligent and social animals are and whether chimps can talk. 

  • Explore: Materials, technology and cutting-edge research

Dates/Times: Saturday, June 7, from 12pm – 8pm and Sunday, June 8, from 12pm – 6pm

Venue: Explore Zone, in association with the Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) 

Dr Ian Mabbett and Dr Richard Johnston of Swansea University’s Materials Research Centre will be exhibiting in the Explore Zone, showcasing their Materials: Live! project, including some interesting smart materials and including testing materials live in their exhibition space.

For full details of the Festival’s programme and ticketing information, visit http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science/.


For full details of the Festival’s programme and ticketing information, visit http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science/.