Our goal was to explore the interplay between biology and physics and create activities to share with prospective STEM students and more widely with members of the public. We developed a series of formal teaching activities utilising a novel piece of experimental equipment she called BioNetGrid. We used BioNetGrid to cover a range of physical concepts at an introductory level, such as Hooke's law, springs in series and parallel, Poisson's ratio, elastic modulus and energy distribution. We used these resources to introduce students to specific biological systems as examples, such as biopolymer networks, enabling a discussion of the importance of biophysics in research at an earlier stage in a student's academic career.
We shared the activities as part of a national physics teaching day which welcomed over 40 teachers, technicians and trainees for a day designed to support their teaching, enhance, and develop their physics skills and present new ideas and suggestions for their classroom. The event provided an opportunity to learn about biophysics-related resources which we had developed, as well as to network with fellow teachers. This early opportunity to introduce teachers to biophysics provides powerful opportunities to inspire the next generation of biophysics researchers.
The project was awarded a Public Engagement grant from the Institute of Physics, resulted in two publications in the IOP journal Physics Education, engagement with 40 physics teachers and with ~1200 members of the public at the University of Leeds Be Curious Festival.
This collaborative project was enjoyed by Ben Hanson, Christa Brown, Harry Laurent, Matt Hughes and Lorna Dougan
You can read more about the project here:
BS Hanson, C Brown, L Dougan Hierarchical Biomechanics: an introductory teaching framework, Physics Education 2020, 55:55022 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1088/1361-6552/ab9216
BS Hanson, C Brown, H Laurent, M Hughes, L Dougan Hierarchical Biomechanics: student engagement with a focus on biological physics, Physics Education 55 (2) , 25015, 2020