On 18 and 19 June, PhD students from the Centre of Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at University of Portsmouth participated in the Great Exhibition Road Festival (GERF) in South Kensington, London. The event was a celebration of science and arts providing people and communities of all backgrounds the opportunity to explore ideas and engage in exciting science-related activities. As “Future Explorers”, families connected with STEM research and the latest developments on environmental sustainability: major concerns revolving around the environment were addressed in a way that promoted hope. The students helped children of all ages to understand the fundamentals of environment-related research: through the translation of their complex research into easy-to-understand activities that inspired participants from diverse backgrounds. This activity was part of CEI’s engaged research programme, which works to promote public discussion in their work on developing enzymes that degrade plastics.
During GERF, SoCoBio PhD student Konstantinos Tornesakis ran an activity explaining the process of enzymatic degradation of waste plastics. The participants created their own enzymes with colorful pipe-cleaners and used them to “chop” “plastic” polymers into monomers for reuse. Doing his PhD under the BBSRC’s ‘Life Sciences for Renewables and Clean Growth’ theme, Konstantinos is using computational and experimental methodologies to determine the thermal stability and binding properties of enzymes that degrade plastics. With the support of SoCoBio DTP and CEI, he was able to convey his enthusiasm for plastic-degrading enzymes to many children, who were also excited to use their enzymes to break down plastic.