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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Cambridge Festival 2023

We hosted several events at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at this year's Cambridge Festival

On Friday 17 March, the Catalyst Club joined Dr Ljiljana Fruk for an informal discussion on wasps, empowerment, metaphors and experiments, in the style of traditional French Salon.

And on Saturday 18 March, we opened our doors to all, hosting a variety of hands-on activities to show how our research is tackling the biggest global challenges. 

Previous events

Catch up with our talks from previous festivals, available to view on demand on our YouTube channel.


The future of perovskites for solar power and lighting

Can aviation go green? 


Engineering biology everywhere: a threat or key to a sustainable future?

What would happen if everybody could have access to the tools to engineer biology? Would it be the beginning of the end of the world as we know it? Would it be the beginning of a more sustainable era? Would it bring fairness or increase inequalities?

Join us in this conversation to try to untangle this complex topic with sociologists, DIY biologists, journalists and documentary filmmakers.


JENNY MOLLOY is a Shuttleworth Research Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge with a track record in social enterprise and policy for the bioeconomy. She chaired the diagnostics subgroup at the UN Technology Access Partnership and is a Fellow of World Economic Forum Global Futures Council for Synthetic Biology. She is also the Executive Director of the non-profit Beneficial Bio, supporting local manufacturing of enzyme and reagents in the global South.

BETH TUCK (she/her) is the Executive Director at Genspace, a community biology lab in New York City, USA. Her background is in molecular biology and genetics, and she has been working in science education and community engagement for the past 9 years.

ANNA VERENA EIREINER is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge, where she also conveys the Science and Technology Studies Research Cluster. In her research, she explores the governance of emerging technologies, DIY practices, and open science.

JOE EGENDER is a filmmaker and actor. He recently created the Original Netflix documentary series Unnatural Selection. Prior to that he directed the short documentary My Paintbrush Bites (DOC NYC) released by The Atlantic. Joe co-wrote and produced the feature film Holy Ghost People, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival.

LEEOR KAUFMAN is a documentary filmmaker and photographer. He recently created the Original Netflix documentary series Unnatural Selection. He also directed documentary content for publications such as Time Magazine, The New Yorker, NBC, CNN, NFL Network among other international publications. Leeor started his career in Israel as a documentary filmmaker, producing and shooting short and feature length documentaries, among them the award-winning Destiny Hills. He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of Journalism and at the International Center of Photography in New York.

FERNAN FEDERICI works as an assistant professor at PUC, Chile, and as an international fellow of OpenPlant Centre for Synthetic Biology – University of Cambridge, UK. He is a member of two movements promoting open source technology: TECNOx and GOSH (Gathering for Open Science Hardware).

LENSHINA MPEYAKO is a Ph.D. candidate at Newcastle University and also a collaborator with the MboaLab (Yaoundé, Cameroon) and Open Bioeconomy Lab. She is very passionate about the development of open-source molecular diagnostic tools towards a common goal of improving the health of populaces in Africa and the world at large.

Your body on a chip

Did you know that scientists can study human organs using microchips? What functions of our bodies can be modelled with these organs-on-chips? Could these chips model the whole human body? Could they model disease and drug responses? And if so, could organs-on-chips replace animal testing for drug development? Curious? Join our talk to find out how organs-on-chips are shaking up the way new medicines are developed.

Understanding digestion in the stomach

The stomach uses strong chemicals (acids) and molecules (enzymes) to break down the food that we eat. Although digestion is one of the most important processes in the human body, it is also one of the least visible! To bring digestion to life we will perform a live experiment using commercially available products. In this demonstration we will use household vinegar and papain, an enzyme found in papaya, to show how acids and enzymes break down food in the stomach. This activity will be interactive and fun for the whole family!

After the demo, chat to our researchers and ask them any burning questions you have about digestion, studying science or life as a research scientist.


Sarah Barron, Alexander Boys, Ying Fu and Stephanie Mack 

What sensors can do for us

Sensors are around us all the time. We find them in smart phones, household appliances, buildings, on transport systems, in health care settings. The list goes on. So what can sensors do for us? This talk will explore the opportunities and challenges arising from the use of sensors and the data they collect.

Join Dr Oliver Hadeler from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and CamBridgeSens, the interdisciplinary network for students, researchers and academics interested in sensor research and their applications, for a live talk and discussion on the power of sensor technology to improve our lives. 

Demonstrating the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming

In the experiment, we have two flasks heated equally by a heating element. The main difference is that one of these flasks contain air, while the other is full of CO2. The CO2 is provided through a simple reaction between vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. In the absence of CO2, the two flasks reach the same final temperature. However, when adding CO2 to the second flask, it reaches higher temperature than the first flask. This is due to the heat entrapment effect caused by CO2.

Fuel of the future

One drop of liquid ammonia has roughly the same energy content as an entire balloon of hydrogen gas. Joseph and Collin, researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology are studying how to harness this energy and make ammonia the ‘fuel of the future’.

Joseph and Collin will explore how scientists are searching for a carbon-free fuel to meet the needs of powering our world, whilst reducing the impact of climate change.

They will also talk about their day-to-day lives as scientists and will take any questions about their work, climate change and what it's like to be a research scientist.


There are no upcoming talks currently scheduled in this series.

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