Superlab Education and Engagement – Case Study
The new Castlebrae Community Campus officially opened to students in April 2022 and offers state of the art facilities and amazing learning spaces for young people, including a new Superlab.
Dom Cairns-Gibson was recently appointed as Education and Engagement Development Officer (Castlebrae Community High School and Edinburgh BioQuarter) and tells us what is ‘an absolute dream job’ for him, at the interface between cutting edge research on Edinburgh BioQuarter and the neighbouring community in STEM engagement.
What is your career background and what attracted you to this position?
My background is in chemistry – with a particular focus on nanotechnology. During my undergraduate I worked with Dr Jessica Rouge at the University of Connecticut, USA on DNA nanoparticles. This led me to a PhD with Professor Scott Cockroft, the University of Edinburgh, where I studied protein nanopores.
During my PhD, I was awarded a public outreach scholarship, which allowed me to dedicate time to various engagement projects. In particular, I enjoyed working with school students and showing them how dynamic and exciting STEM can be. Alongside this, I was an active member of the School of Chemistry Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee.
My current role as an Education and Engagement Development Officer is an absolute dream job. I sit at the interface between cutting edge research on Edinburgh BioQuarter and the neighbouring community. I was attracted to the prospect of working in a community focused role, whilst also using the STEM skills and knowledge I developed during my studies.
What is the story behind the creation of a Superlab at Castlebrae Community High School and what benefits does this bring for young people and the community?
The Castlebrae Superlab is the product of years of hard work and is a collaboration between Edinburgh BioQuarter, Castlebrae Community High School and the neighbouring community.
Dr Cathy Southworth and her colleagues on BioQuarter have worked tirelessly to build lasting connections with local communities. Back in 2017, plans were put forward to build a brand new school for the Castlebrae community. As part of this, a Science Superlab was proposed given the connections and proximity with Edinburgh BioQuarter– this would provide state of the art facilities for young people, and a space for the community to come together and engage with STEM.
In April 2022, this development came to fruition and the Castlebrae Community High School opened its doors. Funding was secured to create the role I now hold, so that the Superlab could be used and developed to its full potential.
Tell us about your new role and the key objectives…
In my role, I will be leading on the development of an operational model for the Community Science Superlab. This is a unique project and I will be working to demonstrate its value and provide a strong case study for future endeavours.
I will work collaboratively with researchers on BioQuarter to help them showcase their phenomenal research in a way that is accessible to the wider community. In addition, I will be working alongside the STEM department at Castlebrae to develop a programme of events that complements and enhances the curriculum. This work is part of the ambitions of Edinburgh BioQuarter to be a good neighbour to the communities that surround its location.
What are your looking forward to most in your new role?
One of my key plans is to develop a Science Club for the school. This will be a chance for young people to meet staff and students from Edinburgh BioQuarter and the wider University of Edinburgh, to get hands on experience with experimental work and chat about all things STEM.
I can’t wait for this to get up and running and to share my enthusiasm for science.
What have you been working on during your first few weeks and what activities are being planned?
My first few weeks on the job have been a whirlwind and I have loved every minute of it. The Superlab is a collaborative project between Edinburgh BioQuarter and Castlebrae and I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting members of both communities who I will be working with in the coming months.
Going forward, I will be developing workshops and programmes that will sit within the curriculum and enhance the learning experience for students of Castlebrae. Alongside this, I will be putting together a programme of events for the wider community to engage with – this includes science-art pop up galleries, pop-science seminar series and Science clubs.
What have you enjoyed most about working on Edinburgh BioQuarter and within our wider community so far?
I have enjoyed getting to meet everyone! I couldn’t have hoped for a more welcoming environment, and the enthusiasm from the community for the Castlebrae project has been astounding. Also, I am a big fan of the coffee machine.