June 15, 2021, by Lexi Earl

Pint of Science, in Greek

This blog post is written by Niki Tsoutsoura, PhD candidate with the Future Proteins Platform.

Pint of Science is a worldwide, annual science festival, communicating science in an informal setting. It started in the UK by bringing scientists to pubs and cafes to present and explain their complicated research projects in a way ordinary folk could understand. The first Pint of Science festival took place in May 2013 in just three cities (London, Oxford, and Cambridge). Now, it has spread around the world taking place in more than 400 cities. The Pint of Science festival covers a great range of research areas, divided into six themes:

  1. Beautiful Mind – neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology
  2. Atoms to Galaxies – physics, chemistry, maths
  3. Our Body – human biology, health, and medicine
  4. Planet Earth – earth sciences, zoology, plant science
  5. Tech Me Out – technology, engineering, and computing
  6. Our Society – sociology, law, history, policy

This year, due to the pandemic, the Pint of Science festival did not take place in pubs and cafes. It was an online festival from 17-19 May 2021 that everyone could enjoy from the comfort of their homes. Even though it lacked the live interaction with the audience, it was a great chance to bring scientists from across the world onto our screens.

A presentation slide with a globe and writing in Greek. To the left are two people, the speaker and the organiser.

Niki Tsoutsoura (bottom left) presenting at Pint of Science, Greece

In my home country, Greece, I was kindly asked to present my PhD research by a former university classmate of mine, who is now the co-director of Pint of Science, Greece. As PhD students, we are asked multiple times to present our research, but in most cases the audience are other scientists in similar fields. I had already realised that it is a bit of a challenge to explain my research project to friends and family but what I found more challenging was translating everything into Greek! It sometimes feels like coming full circle, considering that many scientific words in English have Greek origins. By asking fellow Greek researchers, I realised that we all struggle to explain our work in our mother tongue. On one hand, it was important to translate the scientific language from English to Greek. On the other hand, I had to include everyday words to be more comprehensive and thorough. That was the point where consulting Google was not enough so friends from Political Science came in handy.

In my PhD, I work with winged bean, an under-utilised crop grown in tropical regions. Winged bean has seeds with a high protein content (30-40%) similar to soybean. It has the potential to be a new soybean for tropical regions, where people suffer from protein-energy malnutrition. As winged bean is cultivated in humid, tropical regions, most Greeks have never heard of it before. It was a fun experience trying to connect with the audience by showing beans that are part of the Greek diet, like chickpeas. Not everyone finds a soup of chickpeas tasty, but who doesn’t like a falafel? I used examples like this to point out the important role that the food industry could play in processing winged bean seeds. For example, winged bean seed flour could be used for making pasta/noodles or the seeds could be popped creating popcorn or crisps, with higher protein content.

Niki explaining how winged beans might work like chickpeas in a diet.

It was an amazing experience to present my research project in Pint of Science Greece and contribute to science communication. A great team of PhD students from the University of Nottingham have been actively organising Pint of Science festivals and I am greatly looking forward to Pint of Science UK 2022.

Science is not only about generating knowledge, it is also about serving the needs of our society. Festivals, like Pint of Science, aim to communicate science through evidence and research outcomes, in a manner that the general public can understand and access. By raising awareness about issues like hunger, climate change and misinformation during a pandemic, academics and non-academics alike can gain a better understanding of these problems. There is a great amount of (mis)information on the internet, so I believe it is of great importance for scientists to engage with the public through events like Pint of Science.

Posted in Food ResearchOutreach and Engagement