Last night Warren and I attended Admiral’s After Hours Does Cancer Research at Techniquest in Cardiff Bay. This subject is extremely close to my heart, having seen my Father face cancer for several years towards the end of his life.
I felt incredibly passionate and emotional about attending, but we weren’t too sure what to expect. We arrived to a bustling queue of people and when the doors opened it was such a happy swarm of people passing through we couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement. We were given an information leaflet before we entered which had all the times and costs for the night.
Tickets are £5.50 each and proof of age is required because, and this was the first exciting thing we discovered, there is a bar open in the coffee shop serving a lovely selection of alcoholic drinks! We collected our tickets, bought some drinks and made our way into the wonderful world of Techniquest.
If you’ve never been before, Techniquest is an educational science centre charity, normally open during the daytime. There are experiments around every corner, from gravity to speed, it has it all. Check out my Splendiforous Science Show post for more information!
The After Hours events bring with them a sense of magic. There are various stall dotted around in between the various activities, and there are lots of presentations and games to take part in. Our first stop was with
Cancer Research UK, where I donned a blindfold and picked out the spiky viruses from the box of ‘normal’ shaped cells. Then I had to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells, and guess what? I couldn’t. As I stood, cider in hand, realising the reality of cancer, well it was a sobering moment indeed.
Our next stop was with Wales Gene Park, who were utterly adorable. The lady on the stand explained DNA to me in a succinct and simple way and I actually understood it! Then she encouraged us to make a DNA strand with beads; I found out later I’d chosen Dolphin DNA and Warren had chosen Cat DNA.
Before we left the ladies were kind enough to give us two sets of DNA Origami, something I’ll be having a look at with the kids in the next few days 🙂
Check out our DNA bracelets…
After this we spent a little time talking about samples and Warren had a go at freezing flowers in liquid nitrogen to show the effects if the sample isn’t protected by a layer alcohol first. Pretty scary!
Then I had a go at adding a liquid to another liquid without mixing the two (and then ‘downing it’ of course!)…
This was fascinating and it was great to have a go with specific tools and talk to the people behind the scenes about their day-to-day jobs and their passion for their work.
Time flew and it was soon time for us to attend a free Understanding Cancer Research Talk with Professor Andy Sewell all about Cancer Immunology. There were four talks available on the night and they were all free, as long as you booked them in advance at the front desk. Andy was very friendly and provided user-friendly slides as he talked about the cells in our body and the developments and research currently under-way with regards to tackling cancer. It was pretty mind-blowing, that’s for sure!
We had a little break between this and the next activity, so it was time to look at a few more stalls. We headed on over to play hook-a-duck with NHS Wales, where we discussed (as Andy had touched on in his talk) specifically tailored treatment for individuals with cancer. I found this quite emotional, because it was the first time I really accepted that some cancers have no proven cure and then chemotherapy is usually used in the hope that it will lengthen life, but in the process the patient would become very poorly.
Soon enough we were able to take part in my favourite session of the night, making our own DNA necklaces. ‘Genes in a Bottle’ was £1.50 per person and needed to booked ahead. We arrived at the lab and donned our labcoats and protective gloves before being told to chew our cheek for a bit before spitting into a little bowl. Gross but great. Once I’d done the gross part, it was time to get scientific. We added a lysis buffer, protease and salt solution and then we popped it in a warm bath!
After a few minutes we took them out of the bath and added ethanol. Then we watched the magic happen! Seeing strands of your own DNA really does blow your mind! All that was left to was to turn it into a necklace! I had a little help with mine (I’m not very steady handed!) and this is how it turned out…
Can you see my DNA?!
We carried on wandering around after this and met a few other lovely people on more fantastic stalls around the place. We chatted about chromosomes and we had a go at feeling for prostate cancer (on a plastic model, of course!) and we even signed up with Health Wise Wales to be part of any suitable cohort studies in the future.
To end the night we went along to ‘Escape from the Lab’, an interactive group game where we had to find and solve clues to escape the lab! This cost £1.50 per person, pre-bookable at the desk. We didn’t know anyone in the group but we all worked together (honestly, all I did was find a key!) and we escaped! It was a great way to finish off the night, and oh what a night it was!
This was a really interesting and interactive event, with so much to do (we missed a few talks and stalls we were so busy!), see and learn! I really would recommend this for anyone and everyone to try out. Each time is different, with different themes and activities, so it really means you can go to them all! I certainly cannot wait for their next one in November.
Disclosure: We received free entry and activities in exchange for review. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.