Sept. 21, 2019

HPI helps the UofC’s Faculty of Science to “Takeover” the Calgary Central Library!

HPI Community Engagement

On September 21st, 2019 twenty-one HPI trainees, along with Dr. Derek McKay, Dr. Constance Finney, and Dr. James Wasmuth joined over 200 faculty, staff, postdocs, and students from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Science to take over the Downtown Calgary Public Library for a day of science outreach and community engagement.

“It’s a Science Takeover” was the title of this one-of-a-kind community outreach event that occurred in conjunction with Beakerhead and Science Literacy week, a national initiative to improve scientific understanding and encourage public participation in science. “Takeover” really was an appropriate term for an event that saw all 4 floors of the Central Library buzzing with science activities including: making elephant toothpaste, solving mathematics puzzles, gardening in space, launching rockets, writing science fiction, touring volcanoes, unravelling the mysteries of the quantum realms, exploring the depths of the oceans, and – of course – interacting with parasites.

HPI set up shop on the second floor with the largest (I believe!) presentation at the event. At this HPI station, our wonderful volunteers (supported by Dr. Derek McKay) expertly explained the complexities of parasite life cycles and host manipulation, demonstrated the dangers of drug resistance, played games to depict where parasites take up residence within host’s bodies, presented real-life parasites both macroscopic and microscopic, and introduced Calgarians to the parasites within our own backyard using an adorable (and deceptively simple) Giardia bean-bag toss game. Due to the warm invitation and expert knowledge-sharing of our cadre of volunteers – thousands of inquisitive Calgarians left the library more informed about the curiously complex world of parasites and host-parasite interactions.

As HPI volunteers were busy with one-on-one engagement up on the second floor, Drs. Constance Finney and James Wasmuth presented an open-to-the-public-talk about the constant battle for supremacy between parasites and the immune system. This fascinating subject matter (augmented by, I’m told, some shameless self-promotion by Dr. Wasmuth) drew in one of the largest crowds for any of the talks presented that day. I would like to publicly recognize Dr. Constance Finney and Dr. James Wasmuth for volunteering many of their off-work hours to preparing and presenting this talk – thank you to the both of you!

Overall, the Central Library estimated that approximately 5,000 people – representing the vast diversity of the City of Calgary – interacted with the Science Takeover that day, making this extraordinary event one of the most effective platforms for public engagement in which the HPI has participated. I would like to extend both appreciation and congratulations to all HPI members and volunteers for making this event such a resounding success. I am enormously excited to see this event grow into a regular fixture within the Calgary community and look forward to HPI’s involvement next year!