Speaking about genome folding in a pub – my Pint of Science experience
It was with great excitement that I accepted an invitation to speak about my research at this year’s Pint of Science. The Pint of Science festival brings researchers into pubs to present their research, providing a unique opportunity for public to engage with scientists in a relaxed environment. I have been attending the festival since 2013 and co-organised the first “Creative Reactions” exhibition, a science-inspired art exhibition satellite to the festival, so I jumped at the opportunity when invited to talk.
On the evening, a audience of around 35 curious people awaited with drinks in hand to hear about Epigenetics from me and my Babraham colleagues Laetitia Chauve and Ferdinand von Meyenn. In my talk, I described how every cell of our body packs two metres of DNA in its nucleus, in an incredibly organised hierarchical manner. That, depending on the cell type, the way the DNA is folded changes, much like the variety of origami shapes that can be folded from a piece of paper.
I then explained how epigenetics marks the DNA so that the cellular machinery knows which DNA origami shape to fold. Finally, we covered the 'copy and paste' techniques that we currently use in the lab to map how the DNA is looped, bringing together all necessary elements for proper genetic regulation. The talk was followed by several questions from the engaged audience, which challenged my own way of thinking about some aspects of my research.
As part of the festival, I was paired with Aurora Lombardo, a fantastic jewellery maker who created a unique collection inspired by the 3D chromatin organisation (DNA folding) and in the connectivity maps from embryonic stem cells generated as an outcome of my research.