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The Thanks for the Memories public engagement programme – bringing together the worlds of immunology research and music composition for secondary school students in Manchester and Oxford – had a fantastic day with Manchester Co-op Academy students at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester on Friday 8th March.

Audience of schoolchildren watching Paul Klenerman speak about viruses.

Students across four schools in the Co-op Academies Trust have already been working with composer and project co-lead Dr Zakiya Leeming over the last month to develop their original music writing skills. Kick-starting British Science Week, the Thanks for the Memories team worked with the Trust’s Director of Science, Sam Mortimer, to launch the science component of the project for all students involved.

The day was jam-packed with workshops exploring the topic of immune memory. This included a talk and Q&A with project co-lead Prof. Paul Klenerman on how the immune system forms memories in response to past infection or vaccination to help to protect the body against future disease, a session by project facilitator Dr Rachel Hindmarsh exploring the history of inoculation, and a chance for students to debate current challenges and controversies around vaccination – as well as several hands-on games modelling how the immune system works (including with lightsabers!). The T4TM team were delighted to be joined by fellow Wellcome-funded PhD students from the University of Manchester, who were invaluable in fielding students’ questions and inspiring them about a future in science research.

The Co-op Academies Trust students will now take what they have learnt from these science workshops back into the music room: working with Dr Zakiya Leeming to compose original pieces of music in response to the topic of immune memory. These compositions will be performed at the Royal Northern College of Music by RNCM musicians in May, in a celebration of the students’ achievement in the project.

The Thanks for the Memories team are also looking forward to launching a parallel project with students from Greyfriars school in Oxford in the Spring. 

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