The Night Of Science

Yohan Frei
5th year PhD student, Francois’ Karch lab, Department of Genetics and Evolution, Faculty of Science
Research focus: Molecular genetics of the bithorax complex in Drosophila

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A month ago, an open-air “Night of Science” took place at Perle du Lac. This is an interactive exhibition: Scientists bring their facilities outside and show their science to everyone. The exhibition took place over the weekend and Yohan Frei was one of the few PhD students from the Biology Section of UNIGE who participated in it.

– So how was it, the “Nuit de la Science”? What did your lab show there?

Our lab works on Drosophila embryogenesis. Our stall was basically binoculars with CO2 flypads and we showed multiple basic fly mutations: color of the eye, wings etc. All those basic things that you normally learn about Drosophila during your Bachelors.

– And how did people react to the flies?

Actually, people were very enthusiastic to see small flies with magnification. For us it’s everyday work, and we are not that ecstatic to see a wild type fly anymore. But all people, from teenagers to old grandpas, were very interested!

– Were you motivated to participate?

I was not really motivated to go to this fair at first. It was a full weekend and I wanted to enjoy this sunny time with my friends watching the World Cup  (Sweden played against England and Russia against Croatia). But my parents told me – and I have no memory of such a thing though – that when I was a kid, I was very happy to go to science fairs, and that it is normal to give back to society, so I should not complain about it.

– That’s cute!

I have to admit that it was very easy and pleasant to do. I do not regret my participation at all! A lot of people came to me and asked what we do in the lab.

– And what kind of questions did they ask?

Oh, I got a bunch of strange questions like “why you guys do experiments on animals such as…something impossible that they saw on a science-fiction movie?” And also “ why do you do experiments on animals instead of cells or plants?”

Also, they were surprised that most of the science done in a laboratory is to explore and understand things and not to create monsters like in movies. Everybody was open-minded and very happy to have answers to their questions. Some were surprised that we don’t know as much as what is claimed in movies, some others were curious about why we manipulate the genetics of this or that.

– It seems like this event helps people to see that we, researchers, aren’t that weird, right?

Yeah! In the University, we sometimes complain about how people believe what they see in media or in movies about scientific experiments. After the “La Nuit de la Science”, I disagree with them. I saw that people are really curious! And they don’t believe anything they see in media, they are ready to hear every side of the story. But science is not that often explained in a proper way, and people cannot guess the truth.

I think people are very happy to talk to somebody who, every day,  goes to the laboratory, does experiments, attends seminars etc…

So I must say it’s really a pity that only few PhD students were there.

– Is it actually possible to participate if you don’t speak French? That could be a problem for many students.

My feeling is that about 30% of people spoke English there. Knowing this, you can choose if you want to participate or not. But if you are learning French, that would be a great occasion for you to practice it.

– So you would encourage people to do it?

I think it is as rewarding for the public as it is for the organizers. If you have the opportunity to participate in this kind of event, you definitely should do it!

 

The Night of Science takes place every two years. Don’t miss it!

 

– Anatoly Kozlov

 

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