New centre invites children into the amazing world of science

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Centre of the Cell -- a unique children's science education centre -- will officially open its doors for the first time today (Thursday). The centre will be unveiled by Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton.

The aim of the Centre is to inspire young people to take an interest in science, to improve their knowledge of science and perhaps to lead them to becoming scientists themselves one day.

Centre of the Cell -- a unique children's science education centre -- will officially open its doors for the first time today (Thursday). The centre will be unveiled by Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton.

The Centre is the first in the world to be based within a working medical school research laboratory, at the Whitechapel campus of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, University of London.

It will offer children and teenagers a fascinating insight into what scientists actually do and how their work influences real life, through a series of exciting interactive games.

The Centre is free to visit and can host 40,000 visitors each year. Centre of the Cell's major funders include the Wellcome Trust, the London Development Agency, the Mercers' Company and Queen Mary, University of London.

Centre of the Cell is a giant orange 'pod' suspended within the atrium of the RIBA award winning glass Blizard Building. Visitors will approach the pod via a colourful glass walkway and, as they enter, look down on the scientists working in the building's vast subterranean laboratory.

Once inside, visitors gather around a central 'nucleus' for a powerful audiovisual display, projected around the walls of the pod, which introduces them to cells - the building blocks of life. The nucleus then opens to reveal interactive games; visitors can try their hand at virtual experiments, observe real body parts and diagnose disease using high-power microscopes. This combination of digital technologies and real-world science creates a science education experience not available in the classroom or anywhere else in the world.

All of the scientific content in Centre of the Cell is based on the cutting edge medical research conducted at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. During every school session at the Centre, children will get to meet researchers based at the Medical School and ask questions about their work. More than 80 top scientists and researchers have contributed to the world class content of the Centre.

Professor Fran Balkwill is Director of Centre of the Cell and a leading cancer researcher in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. She says: "I am so thrilled that Centre of the Cell is now open. This is a unique way for kids to get engaged with science. There's a lot to learn about science here and children will learn in a way that's meaningful and fun.

"The aim of the Centre is to inspire young people to take an interest in science, to improve their knowledge of science and perhaps to lead them to becoming scientists themselves one day."
The Centre is especially for children aged 9 to 16, the topics are linked to the Science National Curriculum at Key stages 2, 3 and 4, and cross-linked to Maths, English and Citizenship curricula.

The location of Centre of the Cell is pivotal to its mission. Tower Hamlets and its neighbouring boroughs are among the most deprived areas in the UK. The Centre aims to improve attainment, raise children's aspirations, increase the number of young people studying science and healthcare and contribute to the regeneration of east London.

Local children and young people have been central to the design and development of the Centre with more than 8,000 pupils from schools in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham contributing to every step of the design and content.

Hasib Hikmat is Head of Science at Bow Boys School and a Trustee of Centre of the Cell. He says: "It's so exciting to be involved in Centre of the Cell and having the Centre on our doorstep is a real bonus. Children's responses to the Centre have been wonderful - everyone has come out excited and keen to learn more about science."

Attendance is by invitation only. To reserve a place or recommend a colleague, please contact Kerry Noble on 020 7882 7910 or email k.noble (at) qmul.ac.uk

Embargoed images and video of the Centre of the Cell are available on request. Please email [email protected] or call 020 7882 7910.

Visit the Centre of the Cell website at: http://www.centreofthecell.org.uk/

To view a virtual tour of the RIBA award winning Blizard Building, visit: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/about/campus/whitechapel/virtual/med_tour.html

Notes to Editors

Visiting information

Visiting Centre of the Cell is free but because it is inside a working laboratory which is not open to the public, visitors must book in advance. Each visitor session runs for one and a half hours with 30 to 40 visitors per session. Sessions can be booked on Centre of the Cell's website, http://www.centreofthecell.org.

The Centre is also open during Open House London (http://www.openhouse.org.uk/), when visitors can come without booking between 10am and 3pm on 19 and 20 September on a first come first served basis.

Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry is the medical school of Queen Mary, University of London.

Based at sites in Whitechapel in East London and Charterhouse Square in the City, the school delivers world-class teaching and research to a population where diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, TB and cancers are prevalent. The school works in partnership with NHS hospital trusts including Barts and The London, Homerton, Newham, Whipps Cross and Queen's in Romford.

Research is at the heart of the school. A recent assessment of research-focused UK universities placed the dental school joint first in the country and the medical school in fourth place, ahead of all others in London. Each year, the school attracts over £40 million pounds in research funding into areas as diverse as cancer, sports medicine, neuroscience and infectious diseases.

The school has 1,000 academic and research staff, 2,300 undergraduate and 1,000 postgraduate students. It is made up of six world-leading institutes: the Institute of Cancer, the Blizard Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, the Institute of Dentistry, the Institute of Health Sciences Education, the William Harvey Research Institute and the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.

The London Development Agency has provided nearly £700k to support the development of the Centre of the Cell. This is an amazing new science centre for young people, helping to generate interest in science and cells. Getting young people interested in science can help children develop their skills and raise their aspirations, which will hopefully lead them to become our scientists of the future.

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