Bottoms up at HMRI Open Day!

Sep 23 2017

As a fantastic free school holiday event showcasing science, innovation and wellbeing, the 2017 HMRI Open Day on Friday 6th October will have medical research covered from top to bottom … literally.

Organisers are expecting more than 3000 people to visit the HMRI Building on the John Hunter Hospital campus, with a huge variety of interactive events planned to suit all ages and interests.

For example, kids and adults alike are sure to be ‘moved’ by an informal yet informative display dedicated to the importance of poo. Toilet jokes aside, researcher Bridie Goggins says the semi-serious message is that “what goes in affects what goes out”.

“We’re drawing attention to diet and the seven types of stools on the Bristol Stool Chart, along with gastrointestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and bowel cancer,” Ms Goggins said. “On the fun side, children can make poo out of plasticine and try to guess the length of the gastrointestinal tract.”

HMRI’s Mothers and Babies research group has the ‘Womb Room’, another family-friendly exhibit that explores the miraculous nine-month journey of an unborn baby from embryo to birth.

Dr Luke Hesson, visiting from UNSW’s Museum of Human Disease, will reveal the science behind fictional Zombies, which is set to pack out the HMRI lecture theatre from 10am. In the reading corner, researcher Emeritus Professor Eugenie Lumbers will read her whimsical children’s book Mystery in Mer, which is set in the waters of Port Stephens.

Kids can also learn fun facts about the heart and blood with a simple model comprising a jar, a balloon and straws to represent the arteries. That’s good to know before getting into some pulsating physical activities with the Healthy Youngsters Healthy Dads and DADEE (Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered) programs.

The University of Newcastle’s SMART (Science, Maths And Real Technology) science shows will include laser lights, chemistry experiments and the lovable SMARTbots robots, while the full-size robotic exoskeleton HELLEN will be displayed to promote its Australian-first clinical trial for lower limb exercise and neuro-rehabilitation.

People who are otherwise confined to a wheelchair or scooter after stroke can be overwhelmed with emotion when they first get to stand in HELLEN. Accompanying this will be a stroke risk checking station.

For those concerned about dementia care, the ACcORD group plans to highlight the research projects currently being undertaken in the Hunter.

“HMRI was built by the community, for the community, so the Open Day is an excellent way of showcasing the incredible range of world-class research being done in the Hunter … from cancer to asthma and stroke to healthy eating,” HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson says.

“There will be booths, research sessions, science activities and lab tours taking place throughout the day, so hopefully we can stimulate a passion for science and show people first-hand how their support is making a real difference.”

Discovery Seminars are running throughout the day, each featuring two researchers discussing the latest research and clinical practice. Topics include children’s health (Jordan Smith, Tracy Burrows), mental health (Kerry Inder, Robyn Rosina), gut health and the microbiome (Simon Keely, Marjorie Walker), cancer (Nikki Verrills, Jarad Martin) and stroke research (Rohan Walker, Heidi Janssen).

Open Day hours are 10am to 4pm on Friday 6th October 2017. With on-site parking being limited, shuttle buses will run half hourly from McDonald Jones Stadium, starting 8.00am. Visitors are also encouraged to use public transport services connecting with John Hunter Hospital.

Hunter Medical Research Institute is at Lot 1 Kookaburra Circuit, New Lambton Heights.

More details and event registration at

* HMRI partners with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.