Science events for the public


A series of science events for the public beginning late this month will tap into a huge influx of scientists during Queenstown Research Week.

The inaugural ”Question It” public outreach programme aims to capitalise on the presence of an expected 1000 scientists in the resort over five days from August 30.

It will cover topics as diverse as the ”love drug” oxytocin, Ebola, the science of beer and genetic engineering.

One of prime movers is the Catalyst Trust, a Queenstown community group with the stated aim of putting on provocative and out-of-the-ordinary events.

Chairwoman Cath Gilmour says she offered the trust’s help to Queenstown Research Week organiser Peter Shepherd last year when he told her he wanted to run a public outreach programme alongside the scientists’ meetings.

They then got the organisers of the New Zealand International Science Festival on board – it is an off-year for the biennial Dunedin event – as well as the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic.

Gilmour says there’s nothing else like it in the country.

”The two groups that we mainly wanted to get were kids – to get them interested in the idea of science as their career – and also the general populace because science is pretty damn important for the country.

”Hopefully it will be well supported, because we’d like to make it annual.”

New Zealand International Science Festival organisers had special expertise in staging popular science events, some of which they were bringing to Queenstown.

One was ”Dining in the Dark”, where a three-course meal is served to blindfolded diners, allowing them to experience how their remaining senses compensated when one was shut down.

There will also be two free, hands-on workshops for years 7-8 Wakatipu school pupils.

The mostly free events will be held at the Queenstown Memorial Centre or St Peter’s Church hall.

Now in its 25th year, Queenstown Research Week is the country’s largest annual scientific gathering.

It consists of co-ordinated but independently run meetings covering subjects that include molecular biology, pharmacology, brain research and nutrition.

Its anchor events are the Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting, the Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research and the New Zealand Medical Sciences Congress.