Friday, 7 October 2016

Do Scientists Dream of Synthetic Sheep?

On 27 September RSC Belgium members and friends were treated to a highly entertaining and informative presentation by Dr Jack Heal at the British School of Brussels. Initially a maths graduate Jack is now a post-doc researcher in a multidisciplinary group working on synthetic biology at Bristol University. But his presentations combine serious science and a stand-up comedy style. Jack has even starred at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The event also featured the prize-giving for the top scorers in our 2016 Chemistry Challenge. You can find more information on the winners here.

Jack took us through the history, issues and ethics around synthetic biology together with a glimpse of what this new area of science can do for us - and also what it cannot - introducing many of the leading personalities involved in the field with the aim of answering the question: Do Scientists Dream of Synthetic Sheep?

The large audience really appreciated Jack's broad overview of the recent history and development of synthetic biology and were taken from the Human Genome Project to CRISPR (or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) in 50 minutes. On the way, we considered important questions such as: What is a spider goat? Can we create artificial life? And why haven’t we made Jurassic Park yet? Jack's presentation was greatly appreciated and all agreed that they had been both entertained and enlightened. A lively question and answer session followed.

This RSC Belgium event was free to all, however there was the opportunity to contribute to a charity that Dr Jack supports: the 'Against Malaria Foundationthat helps protect people against malaria by supplying and distributing insecticidal nets. On the night we were able to raise over €280 for this great cause. Our thanks to all who donated! You can also donate directly to the charity via its web page.

The event was also the venue for the presentation of certificates and cash prizes to the winners of our 2016 Chemistry Challenge competition (see separate article) including the Keith Price Prize for the best overall performance in terms of chemical knowledge.

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