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Mystery-solving scientist on bill for Big Science Event

Professor Jenny Clack will be talking about her mystery-solving work as part of Sunderland College’s Big Science Event

A renowned palaeontologist, who solved one of the greatest mysteries in the history of life on earth, will be sharing her insight at a Sunderland College public event.

Professor Jenny Clack, a world leader in the study of fossils and evolutionary science, made the fascinating discovery of a 360million-year-old Acanthostega specimen, nicknamed ‘Boris’, which has offered dramatic evidence of how fish made the transition from sea to land: from animals with fins to legs.

The celebrated scientist, whose life studies were the feature of BBC4 programme ‘Beautiful Minds’, will be one of the distinguished contributors at Sunderland College’s Big Science Event.

This annual event showcases the vast range of careers available to young people who study scientific subjects, and features scientists who specialise in everything from medicine and dentistry to astronomy and space to geomatics and chemistry.

Professor Jenny Clack, curator of vertebrate palaeontology at Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, said: “My subject, the life and times of long extinct vertebrates, is one that I think is accessible to the public, and is one of the best ways to introduce young people to science. I hope my talk will encourage the students at the college to join the scientists of the future.

“My talk will describe some of the Late Devonian fish-like tetrapods that I have worked on, and what happened at and after the end-Devonian mass extinction, with the help of some new fossil evidence from the Borders Region that our team has been finding.”

The Big Science Event will also welcome TV’s Brainiac professor John Kilcoyne, from Sunderland University, who will be performing wild and wacky chemistry experiments to demonstrate the wonders of science.

And the fun doesn’t stop there as Newcastle University’s Street Science Team, made up of 20 undergraduate and postgraduate students, will be using common household objects to create entertaining and simple science experiments.

Many of the event’s contributors are former Sunderland College students who now work in the field of science, such as Danny Morland, a consultant anaesthetist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary; Alistair Ford, a lecturer in geomatics at Newcastle University; Caroline Rudland, a senior medical physicist at Sunderland Royal Hospital; and Alison Brundle, a scientist at Northumbrian Water.

Representatives from Sunderland University, Durham University, Newcastle University and Dundee University will also be on hand to offer advice and guidance to people interested in studying a science subject.

Marianne Hill, Sunderland College’s curriculum leader of science and maths, said: “We are very excited to welcome so many esteemed scientists to our Big Science Event, which really does show the breadth and range of options open to young people who want to pursue a career in science.

“There will be lots of hands-on activities which show the fun and exciting side of science, as well educational and informative talks. We have found that by meeting real life scientists, it provides encouragement and assurance to young people when choosing their future courses and careers.

“There is currently a national shortage of young people with STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering) skills and so the study of these subjects will not only lead to exciting employment prospects but contribute towards improving the economy of the country.”

The Big Science Event is primarily aimed at Year Ten and Eleven students and their parents, however people of all ages are welcome to attend.

It takes place on Wednesday, February 11 from 4-7pm at Sunderland College’s Bede Campus.

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