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Science on Screen

Monday 15th & Tuesday 16th of June 2015, University of Warwick

Short film of the workshop - made by Joshua Tully and Jack Peters (Chemistry undergraduates)

This two-day IATL workshop took popular scientific and 'superpowers' films and radio plays from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as a starting point to explore and explain the scientific principles behind them and their applications in the real world.

Every movie lead to an interactive lecture with discussions and 'hands on' activities about the scientific phenomena presented in the film.

There was the possibility to share impressions over lunch, to 'think out of the box' with the help of students from other disciplines and to give space to personal ideas.

Each day was closed with a visit to a scientific lab in the University where research in a field relevant to the analysed scientific topic is undertaken.

The project was designed for first-year undergraduates with diverse scientific (STEM) backgrounds and allowed them the opportunity to learn state-of-the-art scientific concepts in a different and creative way. The second day of activities was also open to first-year undergraduates from the Faculty of Arts with an interest in science fiction.

In addition, this workshop has been taken into Secondary Schools as part of an outreach programme for enthusing GCSE and Sixth Form students over STEM subjects.

Slides from the event can be found below. For further information please contact Dr Elena Riva at E dot Riva at warwick dot ac dot uk

Read all about Science on Screen in the article 'The War of the Worlds and antibiotic resistance: a case study for science teaching', featured by Dr Elena Riva and published in The Biochemist, the Biochemical Society magazine.


Programme of Activities

Day 1: 'Spiderman' and Polymers

15th of June, Humanities Studio, H076, 10.30am - 3.00pm (free lunch at 12.30pm)


The web with which Spiderman swings, slides and jumps through the streets of New York City is a long-chain polymer similar to nylon that in contact with air knits and forms an extremely tough, flexible fibre with extraordinary adhesive properties.

The viewing of the movie and the observation of the characteristics of the web will lead to a lecture about polymers and their use in our life (plastics, medical use, etc). During the afternoon students will have the possibility to visit a lab of a Materials Science group in which they will observe how polymers are experimentally made.

Day 2: 'War of Worlds', bacteria and antibiotic resistance

16th of June, Humanities Studio, H076, 10.30am - 3.00pm (free lunch at 12.30pm)


This science fiction story, in which aliens with no immunity to the bacteria on Earth were killed through the spreading of an infection, is the starting point of a lecture about microbes, genetic manipulation of bacteria and antibiotic resistance.

Students will then be hosted in the Chemical Biology facilities of the Chemistry Department and they will have the opportunity to see how bacteria are grown and manipulated.

This project has been realised with the support of the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning and the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Warwick.


Dr Elena Riva (then Chemistry and IAS), organiser of the workshop, and two student attendees interviewed by Dr Jonathan Heron (IATL).

Read the reflection of one of the students involved in the project about the two-days workshop.