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    Great Exchanges: Imperial partners with local radio station to talk science | Imperial News

    Great Exchanges: Imperial partners with local radio station to talk science | Imperial News

    Great Exchanges: Imperial partners with local radio station to talk science | Imperial News




    Imperial partners with Portobello Radio where scientists and members of the community discuss issues that impact people’s everyday lives.

    As part of the Great Exhibition Road Festival, Imperial partnered with Portobello Radio for the second time, bringing scientists and members of the community together to discuss issues that impact people’s everyday lives. 

    After a successful debut in 2023, the second series of Great Exchanges saw radio host Piers Thompson bring together Imperial experts and local residents across three episodes exploring why we sleep, the benefits of fixing things and gut health. 

    “Everyone learned from each other as they talked about sleep, gut health and repair culture.” Piers Thompson Portobello Radio

    Piers said, “It was very exciting to produce another season of Great Exchanges in collaboration with Imperial College London, bringing together empirical evidence from research scientists at the best university in the UK with members of the community with lived experience of the issues that affect everyone’s daily lives to explore solutions. Everyone learned from each other as they talked about sleep, gut health and repair culture, providing our audience with easily digestible information and tips to improve their lives. It was the perfect lead into the Great Exhibition Road Festival.” 

    As part of the ongoing collaboration, the community radio station also hosted the Main Stage at the Great Exhibition Road Festival with Piers acting as Master of Ceremonies.  

    Imperial's Sara Wong and Berta Annucibay Soto join Lucy Woods (right) and Piers on Episode 1 of Great Exchanges
    Imperial’s Dr Sara Wong and Dr Berta Annucibay Soto join Lucy Woods (right) and Piers Thompson on Episode 1 of Great Exchanges

    Sleep researchers, Dr Sara Wong and Dr Berta Annucibay Soto, shared fascinating insights into why sleep is important – from how it can affect your perception of the world to what happens in your brain when you sleep. They were joined by Lucy Woods from Grenfell Health & Wellbeing Services. She shared her own experiences of the aftereffects of the 2017 tragedy, with the impact of the trauma causing sleep issues for many in the community. But there are ways you can train your brain to go to sleep – from swapping pre-sleep doom-scrolling for a gratitude diary to creating sleep-inducing environments that help you nod off. 

    Model bedroom designed at the Great Exhibition Road Festival
    Model bedroom designed for optimum sleep at the Great Exhibition Road Festival

    Sara said, “When we were invited to come and speak on Portobello Radio, we thought it would be a good idea because sleep is something everyone is familiar with but may not necessarily know how and why it is important. The interview itself was great, it was especially nice that they invited a local resident to chat with us, so we could really bounce back and forth about topics that were of concern and of interest to the local community. Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and would definitely do it again!” 

    The researchers ran an activity at the Great Exhibition Road Festival, exploring the topic of sleep through hands-on activities, collaborating with an artist who helped children design their dream bedrooms for a good night’s sleep. 

    Fixing as a revolutionary act 

    Elliott, Piers and Nick at a market
    Elliott Latham (Imperial), Piers Thompson (Portobello Radio) and Nick Williams (West Central London Fixers) at Portobello Road Market

    Elliott Latham from Imperial’s Dyson School of Engineering joined Nick Williams from West Central London Fixers to explore why people choose to fix items rather than buy new. Fixing is increasingly seen as a revolutionary act against over-consumption which can have wide-ranging impacts on the environment. But it’s not just the green-minded who repair. Elliott’s research project has found that people also repair for sentimental reasons or as a cost-saving alternative to buying new.  

    “This has been such an exciting project to be a part of, and it’s excellent to start sharing our results and help advance the conversation on repair,” says Elliott. “The full project results are due to be publicly available shortly. Watch this space!” 

    Does gut health matter?

    Ed Chambers and Maisie Ringer with Piers (centre) at Portobello Road Market
    Ed Chambers and Maisie Ringer with Piers (centre) at Portobello Road Market

    Dr Ed Chambers from Imperial’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, and Portobello Radio’s Maisie Ringer explored gut health and the importance of the microbiome.

    With products like kefir and kombucha rising in popularity, Ed sheds some light on the hype. But the biggest shock is the amount of fibre we should be eating for a healthy gut and how, as a nation, we are highly deficient.  

    “We are a constipated nation.” Dr Ed Chambers on Great Exchanges Imperial College London

    Thankfully, there are some easy changes we can make to increasing our fibre intake, says Ed, from swaps in our diet, to changing how we prepare our food. But there are some ways science is tackling this too, such as creating high-fibre peas. Ed took part in the Future Food Live at the Great Exhibition Road Festival where a chef had designed recipes for a healthy gut and cooked them in front of a live audience while chatting to Ed about his research.   

    “The recipes are on the website if people want to have a go at cooking bibimpap and making a smoothie bowl. Together these two meals meet the daily recommended amount of dietary fibre!” says Mimmi Martensson who coordinated the event. 

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