New science centre opens in London: Centre of the Cell

By Ed Sexton | 03 September 2009
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a large orange pod like structure with black legs

(Above) The Centre of the Cell. © Morley von Sternberg

The Centre of the Cell was opened today by Blue Peter's Helen Skelton at the Whitechapel campus of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of the Queen Mary University of London.

The Centre of the Cell is the first in the world to be based in a working medical school. It is especially aimed at children aged 9-16 with topics that are linked to the Science National Curriculum at key stages 2,3, and 4 and cross-curricular links to Maths, English and Citizenship.

All of the scientific content in Centre of the Cell is based on the cutting edge medical research conducted at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. During every school session at the Centre, children will get to meet researchers based at the Medical School and ask questions about their work. More than 80 top scientists and researchers have contributed to the world class content of the Centre.

a red and blue lit room with pictures on the ceiling

(Above) The Centre of the Cell provides a fun and engaging way to learn about science. © Nick Wood for Land Design

The Centre is located in Whitechapel and Tower Hamlets and its neighbouring boroughs are amongst the most deprived in the UK. The Centre of the Cell aims to play a key role in raising children's aspirations and attainment particularly in the field of science.

"I am so thrilled that Centre of the Cell is now open. This is a unique way for kids to get engaged with science. There's a lot to learn about science here and the children will learn in a way that is meaningful and fun," said Professor Fran Balkwill, Director of the Centre of the Cell.

"The aim of the centre is to inspire young people to take an interest in science, to improve their knowledge of the subject and perhaps become scientists one day."

Local children and young people have been central to the design and development of the Centre with more than 8,000 pupils from schools in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham contributing to the design and content.

a red lit room with a picture beamed onto the floor

(Above) Interactivity is key at the Centre of the Cell. © Nick Wood for Land Design

Hasib Hikmat is Head of Science at Bow Boys School and a Trustee of Centre of the Cell. He says: "It's so exciting to be involved in Centre of the Cell and having the Centre on our doorstep is a real bonus. Children's responses to the Centre have been wonderful - everyone has come out excited and keen to learn more about science."

The Cell is a giant orange pod suspended within the atrium of the RIBA award winning glass Blizard Building. Visitors enter the pod via a glass bridge and they look down on the scientists working in the building's vast subterranean laboratory.

Once inside, visitors can gather around a central 'nucleus' for a powerful audiovisual display, projected around the walls of the pod, which introduces them to cells - the building blocks of life. The nucleus then opens to reveal interactive games; visitors can try their hand at virtual experiments, observe real body parts and diagnose disease using high-power microscopes.

For more information go to the Centre of the Cell website.

You can also experience a virtual tour of the Blizard Building via the website.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: