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IMechE Christmas Lecture main

Professor Pete Vukusic showcasing some of his knowledge to curious minds.

Family fun at University of Exeter and Institution of Mechanical Engineers Christmas lecture

An interactive family-friendly Christmas lecture, organised by the University of Exeter and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, explored the production of colour in nature and the new technology it has inspired.

Professor Pete Vukusic, Professor of BioPhotonics at the University, took his audience on an amazing journey through the world of natural of colour and how light can be manipulated. This included Isaac Newton’s early experiments with prisms, and the brilliant blue iridescence in the Morpho butterfly’s wings – the inspiration for an eye shadow now made by L’Oreal.

Children were put at the centre of the fun during the lecture, called Light Fantastic: The Science of Colour, painting their faces with UV reactive makeup and taking apart glowsticks to find out why they fluoresce.

The event was held at the Streatham Campus and organised by the Department of Engineering.

More than 200 people attended, including representatives from engineering companies. They enjoyed mince pies by the University’s Christmas tree.

Professor Vukusic said: “It was a privilege and delight to spend an hour in the company of so many interested and enthusiastic children, students and their parents at this Christmas lecture, discussing, demonstrating and learning about the science of light and colour.

“The participation and voice of the fantastic young audience made this lecture an especially fun-filled and lively learning event. I hope the children and their parents will return to the University on many more occasions and that these visits will help to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Professor Vukusic was introduced by John Earp, Chair, Institution of Mechanical Engineers Devon and Somerset committee at the event, held on Thursday, 10 December.

John Earp said: “This was our first attempt at a classic family Christmas lecture and we were delighted to work with Professor Chris Smith who is a committee member. The event proved to be an amazing success far exceeding our expectations in terms of audience numbers.

“The presentation itself by Professor Pete Vukusic was excellent and his ability to engage with the younger members of the audience was just what we wanted.

“If just a few of these young people decide to study science and engineering as a result it will be judged an outstanding success.”

The event was chaired by Professor Chris Smith, Deputy Associate Dean Research (Industry), College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

Professor Chris Smith said: “This was our first Christmas Lecture, and hopefully won’t be the last. I really enjoyed Professor Vukusic’s talk, but I suspect not as much as the children in the audience who were bursting with questions and answers for him.

“I’ve never seen a better live demonstration of how to communicate science and engineering to children, and slightly older people too. As engineers and scientists, my colleagues and I all want to show people what we do - though that isn’t always easy. Professor Vukusic showed us how to do it last night.”

Date: 18 December 2015

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