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Have you heard of the Francis Crick Institute? Do you know where it is? I’d heard of it but I had NO IDEA how important it is. How incredible it is. How very very special and essential to the past, present and future of science it is… Oh, and it’s right outside Kings Cross Station. And to anyone who is not involved in or who actively takes an interest in Science, this is most probably BRAND NEW INFORMATION.

To give you a little bit of an idea why the Francis Crick Institute is so important, here are a few stats, which occur every year:

  1. 1.5 million flies are fed
  2. Billions of cancer cells must be cared for
  3. 750,000 flasks, test-tubes and beakers have to be cleaned
  4. 3,000 pieces of cutting-edge equipment need to be fixed
  5. Thousands of microscopic images are collected and analysed

The Francis Crick Institute’s new exhibition, Craft & Graft: Making Science Happen, is a celebration of all the amazing folk who work tirelessly around the clock, enabling the life-changing research to take place. And last week Isabelle and I got our science on and toddled along to their brilliant press preview…

Colin Lindley installing an early prototype of an insulin infuser pump used to deliver insulin hormone to those with diabetes Arranging fruit flies for injection Glassware en route for installation Metallic grids used by the Electron Microscopy team to image samples

The exhibition is FREE (toot toot!) and opens tomorrow! It runs from 1 March 2019 until 30 November 2019, and takes visitors behind the scenes to meet the technicians, engineers and specialists supporting science at Europe’s biggest biomedical research institute under one roof.

These technical teams are extraordinary. They prepare, process, make, mend, analyse and innovate and so often go un-cheered and unrecognised when the Scientific awards and accolades pour in. From fixing faults in complex cutting-edge technology to feeding fruit flies and operating robots, these individuals are essential to keep the labs running and science happening.

The exhibition shines a much-needed spotlight on five specialist teams who have opened their doors for the very first time…

  1. The technicians feeding and breeding over 15,000 families of fruit flies. They are also trained to perform incredibly precise tasks including hand-injecting DNA into fly embryos. Uh huh.
  2. The ‘librarian’s of life-forms’ responsible for nurturing billions of cells in thousands of flasks, plates and vials – that’s a LOT of washing up.
  3. The people who meticulously clean the Crick’s essential glassware to allow re-use and prevent any contamination – I will never complain about loading the dishwasher ever again.
  4. The mechanical and electronic engineers who race against time to fix, adapt or invent vital equipment for use in the labs…. and…
  5. The specialists preparing biological samples, from fruit flies to cancer cells, for study using powerful microscopes. Some ultra-thin samples are so delicate, an astonishing tool is used to manoeuvre them: an eyelash glued to a cocktail stick. Amaze.

Izzy and I were completely fascinated. (Isabelle was asleep for the beginning bit, but once she was awake and I’d distracted her from the coffee and pastries she was wide-eyed and staring at the lab coats, the films and the beautiful organised line and flow of everything around us. (Don’t judge me – she’s not used to that kind of order). The exhibition is unlike anything I’ve seen before and I’d imagine you’d feel the same.

So even if science isn’t ‘your thing‘, if you ever find yourself wondering who might be behind the latest groundbreaking cure or research… or even the antibiotics you just took for that bug you couldn’t shake, you’ll probably find this most enlightening. In which case, next time you’re waiting for your train at Kings Cross, instead of a spot of retail therapy, pop over the road to the Francis Crick Institute, grab a coffee from their cafe and prepare to be a little bit amazed…

Craft & Graft: Making Science Happen1 March 2019 until 30 November 2019
Open to the public: 
Wednesdays 10am – 8pm and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10am – 4pm.

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