Questers, are you ready...

Explore the science behind Cambridge in a new interactive trail

From Dorothy Hodgkin, who identified the structure of insulin, Rosalind Franklin, whose part in discovering the double-helix structure of DNA was for a long time unacknowledged, and Alan Turing, who devised a theory of morphogenesis, Cambridge has long been home to scientists that have paved the way for many life-changing and world-leading discoveries

Led by Dr Amy Foreman, Research Associate and Project Manager at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, The Great BioQuest is made up of three separate trails of different lengths which take you on a whistle-stop tour show-casing the impact of past discoveries on the work that takes place at the Gurdon Institute today

The idea for the Great BioQuest came during first COVID-19 lockdown when Amy was new to the city and spent her allotted outside time exploring the local area. “At the Gurdon, we are always trying to come up with new ways to engage with the public,” said Amy. 

“There are so many discoveries that have been made in this city that are directly relevant to the work we do and the methods we use.” It seemed like a family-friendly walking trail could be a fantastic way to engage.

“The trails are a novel opportunity to give more of a human story behind the biological research at the University, both past and present.” 

Dr Amy Foreman

Choosing one of three routes – the worm, the fly and the frog – with each starting at the Museum of Zoology, questers are given a riddle; solve the riddle to unlock all three trails and be guided between each of the points on your chosen route

But with a city bursting with scientific discoveries, how do you choose what to include?

“It was a combination of finding the key landmarks in the city and the research which has had the most impact on the work we do here at the Gurdon today,” said Amy.  

The trails include both well-known local discoveries, and ones you may not have heard of before. You will find out more about key figures such as Dame Anne Mclaren whose pioneering research helped develop human in vitro fertilisation (IVF) as well as Frederick Sanger, two-time winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and recognised by many as the “father of genomics” for his work on DNA sequencing. 

The trail premiered at the Cambridge Festival in 2022 and received some great feedback: 

“Thanks so much for setting it up - what a lovely idea and we so much fun on a sunny afternoon” 
“I learned so much and loved the riddles!” 
“Great to get to know Cambridge and science fun facts!” 

Key to helping turn The Great BioQuest into a reality was the University of Cambridge Public Engagement Starter Fund.

The fund is an opportunity for University of Cambridge researchers to apply for small grants to undertake innovative public engagement with research activities.  

“Without the funding from the Public Engagement Starter fund, amongst others, we would not have been able to produce the trails. The fund has been incredibly helpful and an essential part to the project’s success,” said Amy. 

“The Public Engagement Starter Fund is an essential source of funds for smaller public engagement projects such as this. It is great to see the fund being used to share our research, our University spaces and our City with our community. It’s also good to see it being matched against other funding sources to amplify what our researchers can do.”

Dr Selen Etingu-Breslaw, Public Engagement, and Impact Manager at the University of Cambridge. 

“It is brilliant to see innovative and fun projects such as The Great BioQuest using the starter fund to reach and share research to new audiences.” 

Trail information 

The trails have been designed to suit everyone in the family! Younger players can answer the ‘Young Explorer’ questions, while more experienced players can challenge themselves to solve the “Pro-Explorer” riddles. 

The trail is fully accessible, and everything is at street-level. If you would prefer not to use your phone, you can download the trail PDF here.

The worm route will take around 30 minutes, the fly route around 45 minutes and the frog route one hour but as there is no time constraints, you can take part at your own pace. 

Race to the end or have a leisurely stroll – it is entirely up to you. 

The Great BioQuest was created by Dr Amy Foreman (Brand lab group) with contributions from PhD students, Postdoctoral Researchers, and the Public Engagement Team at the Gurdon Institute.

The project has been funded by the University of Cambridge Public Engagement Starter Fund, The Genetics Society Public Engagement Fund, and The Gurdon Institute Public Engagement Seed Fund. 

Illustrations by Claudia Flandoli

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