Self-made shape

Every year, more than 20 scientific research groups set up eye-catching and engaging exhibits at the Royal Society as part of the organisation’s Summer Science Exhibition. This week-long celebration of science is a free event open to all and has activities for people of all ages.

In 2016, the John Innes Centre’s Coen Lab, where I did my PhD, got to take part in the exhibition, presenting our work on how plants grow and develop.

Working towards the exhibit was a huge group effort and we all worked hard to come up with a name for the stand, suitable activities and resources, and a video to advertise our presence at the exhibition.

My role was to design the stand itself. I worked with several members of the lab whose work would be represented on the exhibit and designed a large backdrop that showed how plant cells divide to form 3D shapes.

The Self-Made Shape stand for the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition in 2016.

A panel on the right of the stand contained three lightboxes to show some of the lab’s stunning images: a microscope image of the carnivorous plant Utricularia gibba‘s inect-catching traps; a developmental series showing how snapdragon flowers grow to reach their complex 3D shapes; and another microscope image showing the directionality of plant cells.

The stand also featured pottery as an illustration of how different shapes can be made, a computer game allowing visitors to play around with the rules plants use to make their shapes and very popular activities.

The exhibit was very well-received and we engaged with hundreds of people from all over the UK about our research.

We were also invited to take the stand to Science Uncovered, an evening science exhibition at the Natural History Museum, which was great fun.

And in October 2016, we exhibited the stand locally at the Norwich Science Festival.

It was wonderful to be able to share our science with the local community – and to give the stand its third outing!