Squishy, Smelly and Spectacular: British Science Week at MUSA

This blog article comes from volunteer Amy Cummings, who joined MUSA’s volunteer team last year.

MUSA recently celebrated British Science Week (16th March to 22nd March) with a whole range of intriguing events: allowing you to be a Doctor for a Day, learn to see beneath the surface of everyday foods with Microscopic Musings, taste some Brilliant Beer or even get up close and personal with some fantastic beasts in the Zoolab. MUSA has branched out into a new field that has given all involved an introduction to the squishy, smelly and spectacular realm of science.

As a volunteer with MUSA I am always keen to help out with events and British Science Week seemed like the perfect opportunity! As a result I found myself learning and helping others to learn how to make microscope slides and discover what are food is really made of in our Microscopic Musings event, as well as taking part in a beer tasting hosted by the Eden Mill.

Microscopic Musings

micro musings
Microscopic Musings gave us the opportunity to examine the structure and composition of the food we eat

Microscopic Musings was held on the Wednesday evening for the adult programme and gave all the chance to get under the microscope and create their own slides. By looking at different foods, condiments and even some bits of animals we learnt a great deal about the structure and composition of what we eat on a daily basis.

There were three stations, the first a comparison of the structures of salt, sugar and pepper. Where we looked at the basics of creating a slide for study and learnt the science behind the composition of salt, sugar and pepper!

The second station gave us the chance to look at the structure of carrots and potatoes but also an intriguing attempt to locate bacteria in yogurt, which had been allowed to cultivate for a week in the MUSA staff office! In order to locate this elusive bacteria we had to firstly swab the slide with yogurt, put a drop of water on it and then a tiny drop of blue stain to show up any bacteria. Which after a wee while of searching allowed us to spot some tiny little bits of bacteria (we think).

Finally, the last station was run by a group of enthusiastic neuroscience doctorate students who kindly brought some specimens from their area of study to show us. These included the spinal cord of a mouse which was so small it would be nearly impossible to see without a microscope!

Brilliant Beer

Brilliant Beer Talk
Kevin and Andrew began by telling us more about the history of Eden Mill

The second event was Brilliant Beer, hosted by the Eden Mill on the Friday evening. This was an incredibly well attended event with nearly 30 participants! It included a small introductory talk by two Eden Mill representatives – Kevin and Andrew – who led a very interesting discussion on the history of Eden Mill (formerly Eden Brewery) and their status as a microbrewery. From there they took us through the process of brewing beer and distilling gin and how they choose what flavours to experiment with, as well as their markets, casks and bottling process.

Brilliant beer
The three beer tasting was thoroughly enjoyable!

The second half of the event was a three beer tasting, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We were each presented with a small taster of three of their best-selling beers, ‘The 19th Brew’, ‘Shipwreck IPA’ and lastly a limited edition ‘Oakwood 97 Claret’. Through this tasting we were given tips on how to properly taste beer and the differences in taste, colour and scent that can be ascertained through simple tests.

MUSA has done a fantastic job exploring British Science Week this year and I for one cannot wait to see what they have in store for next year!


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