Name: Fran Balkwill
Job Title: Director and Centre Lead for the Centre of the Cell, Centre Lead for Centre for Cancer and Inflammation
Department: Blizard Institute, Barts Cancer Institute
Type of Engagement: Outreach, Science Communication
Publics: School Children, Young People
Fran is the Director of Centre of the Cell, a biomedical science centre for children, educational website, and widening participation and outreach project in Whitechapel. Since its opening in September 2009 over 108,000 people have participated in Centre of the Cell activities, with 81% of primary schools and 100% of secondary schools in the local borough of Tower Hamlets participating in activities.
A wide range of activities are available to attendees including the Pod Show, an immersive theatrical experience using sound, lighting, film, digital interactive games and objects to educate, inform and engage. Many feature footage of scientists describing their work, and involve games. The games are based on real QMUL research and matched with films of real university staff and students.
The Centre of the Cell website features free teaching materials, interactive games and more information on medicine and medical history, extending the reach of the project beyond the geography of the centre.
Their Youth Membership Scheme also offers work experience placements, revision and mentoring sessions, careers workshops and volunteering opportunities for young people aged between 14 and 19. Through this, teenagers have created joint activities with the centre, such as the ‘Spores, Sores and Sickly Bugs’ show (read a blog post on what the project involved here) and WW1 Whitechapel Medical Marvels Trail Map.