UCL Computer Science


UCL Computer Science outreach round-up Bloomsbury Festival 2021

23 November 2021

Bloomsbury Festival 2021 took place from Friday 15 to Sunday 24 October with the theme ‘Shining Light’.


Bloomsbury Festival 2021

For the RadioTherapy Image Computing Group (RTIC) Bloomsbury was a wonderful opportunity to meaningfully engage with the public and share our enthusiasm for the research we conduct. The diversity of the public that we could talk to allowed us to get a better perspective of how people understand radiotherapy, what their main concerns and misconceptions are and how we can help broaden their knowledge and get them excited about scientific progress in healthcare technology. 

We particularly appreciated the opportunity to liaise with a younger audience of school children and hope that through games and scientific demonstrations we were able to show them that science is remarkably interesting and entertaining. We very much look forward to more in-person public engagement activities in the future! 

As the theme for the 2021 Bloomsbury Festival was ‘Shining Light’, the lung contingent of the Quantitative Imaging Group (QIG) aimed to illuminate the lungs - in every sense! We used glow-in-the-dark paint, balloons and sponges to represent how the lungs work, and to demonstrate what the lungs look like in medical images. As well as illuminating the lungs, we wanted to get across our enthusiasm for our research which involves using MRI techniques to assess lung function. Spotting the difference between CT or MRI scans of healthy patients to those with a lung disease was a great way to engage younger audiences.  

QIG’s brain division aimed to create an immersive set “Games with Brains”. We developed a spot-the-difference app designed to demonstrate how different MR images can provide contrast between healthy and diseased brains, we mimicked brain connections using microscopic polymer fibres, and even ran live image-guided surgery sessions to remove blackberry “tumours” from jelly brains! The interest shown by the audience was rewarding; we hope they maintain their scientific curiosity, particularly in medical imaging. Overall, we enjoyed participating in the Bloomsbury Festival and are looking forward to next year! 

Bloomsbury festival presented an excellent platform for the Progression of Neurodegenerative Diseases (POND) group to showcase some of our recent work in Alzheimer’s disease modelling. Alongside other ‘games with brains’, we used 3D printed brains to give the audience a chance for some hands-on understanding of different types of Alzheimer’s disease, and how these types affect different brain regions.

It was fantastic to see individuals from a wide age range participating in the game, understanding how Alzheimer’s disease impacts the brain, and asking questions about the different brain regions and how each of these contribute to the brain’s function. From our side, the festival was a great opportunity to gauge public interest in neurodegenerative disease research, and to improve communication skills.