Community partnership work leads to award recognition for Dr Jean-Christophe Denis

03 May 2019

The Community Partnership Award recognises innovative and fruitful approaches where University staff and students work in partnership with the community on activities which lead to positive social impact. For his work around science engagement in the Craigmillar Community,From left to right, bottom to up: Dr. Amy Tyndall and Dr. Cathy Southworth (MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine), Dr Jean-Christophe Denis (School of Physics and Astronomy), Bob Giulianotti (White House Café) and Thomas Lindsay (Castlebrae High School)

From left to right, bottom to up: Dr. Amy Tyndall and Dr. Cathy Southworth (MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine), Dr Jean-Christophe Denis (School of Physics and Astronomy), Bob Giulianotti (White House Café) and Thomas Lindsay (Castlebrae High School)

Dr Jean-Christophe (JC) Denis received the Community Partnership Award, alongside his partners, at a ceremony organised in St Cecilia Hall last month by the University’s Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

Dr Denis has been working since 2017 as Ogden Outreach Officer for ECFP, the School of Physics and Astronomy and the National Biofilms Innovation Centre.  After meeting colleague Dr Cathy Southworth from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, discussions between them led them to the organisation of the first ‘Craigmillar Community Science Festival’, in partnership with the local schools and a local community café, the White House. The first festival was a big success, with over 100 attendees and excellent feedback from all involved. It has since turned into an annual event, with the third festival (which has expanded from one afternoon to three days of activities) taking place last week. The festival is now a partnership between the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the School of Physics and Astronomy, Castleview and Niddrie Mill Primary Schools, Castlebrae High School, the Craigmillar Library, the Community Alliance Trust, Glasgow Science Centre and the White House Café.

An original aspect of this festival is its strong focus on the community: the local schools are involved in its preparation. This year, Dr Denis (who is a Craigmillar resident) and physics and astronomy undergraduate outreach students led a science club for primary 4 and 5 pupils in Castleview Primary School, with weekly school visits for over 2 months before the festival. The pupils enjoyed doing a variety of activities, and then chose their favourite activities to present and deliver at the Craigmillar Community Science Festival. Thanks to a Principal Teaching Award Scheme grant, Dr Denis also setup science mentoring sessions and a science club delivered by second year undergraduate students in Castlebrae High School. This included many soft matter physics related activities, which are extremeley appreciated by children and adults alike. Indeed, soft matter physics makes for very hands one activities, using everyday products and connecting easily with daily life, while the underlying physics is very rich and complex.