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National History Museum

Our team at MetaboLight had an exciting afternoon on 9 November at the Natural History Museum where we shared our work with teachers.


The event was organized by STEM Learning and the Natural History Museum, and aimed to assist and inspire teachers in creating and delivering science to their students in fun and exciting ways.


We prepared some nice experiments that can easily be reproduced in classrooms, shining various coloured lights through different liquids to demonstrate light interaction with matter at different wavelengths. We also showed teachers how a normal smartphone can monitor heart beat rate using the same principle!


We spoke about our research work to lots of people and saw a lot of interest in our demonstrations from teachers! Hopefully we helped them to inspire their students to become scientists and engineers!

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Norwich Science Festival

On 25 October, our team at MetaboLight went to Norwich Science Festival to share our work with others!


Norwich Science Festival took place over a week-long period, and we were lucky enough to be involved with this event for one of those action-packed days. With foot traffic of between 8,000 and 10,000 each day, we were in for a busy time! We got to show off our interactive exhibit that was first presented at our launch event, as well as share our work using light with the many festival-goers.


The highlight of our exhibit was using one of our compact systems to monitor brain activity. We recruited volunteers to do some mental arithmetic sums whilst we monitored their head using light. With increased brain activity, we expect to see an increase in blood flow as our brain cells need more oxygen and glucose to generate energy and we can measure this increase in oxygenated blood using near-infrared light. We saw some great results from our volunteers.


Festival organiser, Natalie Bailey, said “The footfall for the 9 days in the Forum was approx. 75,000, which just shows how much interest there is in science” and that our “stand looked fantastic and was very engaging!”


It was an eventful day – we spoke to lots of people, monitored lots of brains (over fifty) and hopefully inspired some future scientists and engineers!

London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) Specialist Lecture thumbnail

London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) Specialist Lecture

“Shining light on the function of the brain: Optics in medicine”

How can we explore the oxygenation of the brain? That’s one of the questions that near-infrared spectroscopy could answer. On Monday 7th August, Dr Gemma Bale presented a specialist lecture to the London International Youth Science Forum at Imperial College London to a group of young scientists from all over the world. The lecture covered the function of the brain, how near-infrared light can monitor changes in brain activity, and how it could be used to save lives in the future.


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The lecture began with Dr Gemma explaining how near-infrared spectroscopy works and went on to show how she uses her equipment to monitor brain injury in newborn babies. After this, with the help of a volunteer from the audience, she made an optical model of the brain (made of water, food colourings and milk) and showed how infrared light interacts with it.


At the end of the session the participants were allowed to ask questions and had an interesting discussion with Dr Gemma. They said thanks for the amazing lecture, mentioned how important this investigation is, and how this could change people’s lives. They also mentioned how much they enjoyed the lecture and we hope that she comes back for LIYSF 2018!


Written by Aranza Meza Dorantes, LIYSF Ambassador

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Year 12 Induction Day at Newham College

On 4th September, members of the MetaboLight team visited Year 12 students in Newham College, East Ham, as part of their Induction Day welcoming them back to the start of the school year.


We hosted a workshop to introduce students to the topic of Biomedical Engineering, including the work we do using light to investigate physiological changes in the body. Demonstrations included looking at absorption and scattering effects using cordial and milk, shining light through our fingertips, and asking a few brave volunteers to perform a maths task designed to activate their frontal lobe, whilst we monitored their brain activity!


We had a fantastic time sharing the work we do with this inquisitive group of students, and were pleased to see their enthusiasm and enjoyment during the session. We wish them all the best for their continuing studies!

London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) Workshop thumbnail

London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) Workshop

On Friday 28th July, talented young scientists from all over the world, taking part in the annual two-week LIYSF event, visited UCL to learn more about science research and its applications. The team at MetaboLight hosted a workshop for 30 Year 12 pupils to show them the research we are doing and how simple principles they have learnt in their science lessons can be expanded to our work.


The workshop began with an introduction to the brain, before demonstrating how we can harness the different properties of light to interrogate biological tissue and how the light coming back can be used to obtain information about oxygenation and metabolism in the brain. This all lead to guiding the students to building their own near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) machine and the culmination of the workshop was in a functional brain experiment. We used one of our commercial NIRS systems to monitor the frontal lobe of one volunteer – and as they performed a maths task, we could see a clear increase in brain activity! Success!


We thoroughly enjoyed sharing our work with an excited young audience and wish them the best for the remainder of their program!

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IoP Teacher Conference

This year’s annual Institute of Physics Teacher Conference took place at UCL, and our team at Metabolight were keen to get involved! We held a workshop for the teachers to share our work and help relate real-world research back to the classrooms.

We started the workshop introducing the basic principles of white light, before imaginative use of gummy bears and different coloured ‘finger LEDs’ helped to demonstrate concepts such as absorption and reflection. Next, we got interactive! We asked the teachers to get out their smart phones and shine the white light from their camera flash through the tip of their finger, to demonstrate how red and near-infrared light can travel through tissue (including bone). Finally, we introduced the pulse oximeter, a medical device which utilises the same concepts we use in our research. We concluded with some examples of the optical systems we are building in our team and how these are being used in the hospital to monitor brain-injured babies.

It was a great experience sharing our work with such an engaging audience, and we hope to get involved with more of these workshops in the future.

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Metabolight Launch

Wednesday 12 July saw the much-awaited launch of our public engagement project, MetaboLight. We were very excited to finally introduce this collaboration between scientists from UCL and doctors from UCLH to the public.

The evening kicked off at 1700 with some welcome drinks and the unveiling of our interactive exhibit (see picture), which will be rolled out at science festivals in the future. We then presented our branding and website design, before the premier screening of our short film explaining what our research is all about.

We really enjoyed the evening and received some great feedback to help us continue developing and expanding our project. We are now very keen for the next steps of our Metabolight journey – watch this space!


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SMASHfestUK Festival visit

On 17 February we visited SMASHfestUK, a Science, Engineering and Arts Festival in Deptford, London. The aim was to explore a local science festival to help prepare for our public engagement activities and be inspired!

Located in the nearby area of Deptford, only a stone’s throw away from UCL, we set off to discover the wonders (and horrors) of the supervolcano that was about to erupt at the festival. From volcanic rocks to survival tactics and navigating robots, all aspects of natural disaster were investigated.

It was a fun field trip, with some great interactive exhibitions and thought-provoking activities. It has certainly given us plenty of ideas for our future engagements!

UCL Launch – 17 January 2017 thumbnail

UCL Launch – 17 January 2017

On Tuesday 17 January we presented our new design and website to scientists, engineers, doctors and public engagement experts at UCL. We shared our goal for the project as being to create activities that will raise awareness, engage, share, expose and explore:


  • the science of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering
  • how we can ‘engineer’ light to monitor the brain
  • our stories of engineering and physics challenges
  • how our technologies can inform clinical decision and improve patient care


We discussed future plans for the project including: the new website, some educational short films, state of the art demonstration kits and an interactive booth for science festivals. We got some great feedback from UCL and we’re excited for a full launch, coming soon…

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