Goo, poo and who ‘nose’ what else at HMRI’s Open Day

Oct 3 2018

Goo, poo and who ‘nose’ what else at HMRI’s Open Day

The 6th HMRI Open Day on Friday October 12 will be nothing to sneeze at, nor pooh-pooh for that matter, as the region’s researchers showcase everything from the laboratory to the lavatory.

As a fascinating, family-friendly and free school holiday event, organisers are expecting more than 3000 people to visit the HMRI Building on the John Hunter Hospital campus, with a variety of interactive events planned to suit all ages and interests.

A breath of fresh air this year is a Lung Loft where visitors can learn about the bacteria and viruses that inhabit the airway. They’ll be ‘sneezed-on’ with water, confronted with slime and who ‘nose’ what else, before combating the different bugs with nerf guns.

“It’s a fun display with lots of slime but also a serious intent, which is to educate people about viral and bacterial infections, including how to treat them,” researcher Kelly Steel says. “We’ll also let people know about the importance of masks, hand-washing and simple tricks like sneezing into your elbow, which all stop the spread of airway disease.”

Last year’s super popular ‘Poo Room’ has been upgraded to a ‘Poo Palace”, taking children and adults on a sensory adventure through the gastro tract to highlight the importance of diet in gut health, while raising awareness on disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and bowel cancer.

“On the fun side though, people can learn how food goes in one end and makes its way to the other in our ‘tour’ through the gastrointestinal tract. Not to mention learning about your poo and what it can mean in terms of your health,” says HMRI VIVA researcher Bridie Goggins.

Lots of poo-themed activities are planned for outside the ‘palace’ while people are queuing.

From the University of Newcastle’s School of Psychology, Dr Patrick Cooper and Dr Aaron Wong will be playing mind games, literally, using a wireless EEG (electroencephalogram) helmet. In one case, players control a Mario cartoon character with their mind, while a project called In The Clouds sees the colour of a cloud change from grey to white or white to stormy, again using EEG.

Exercising the body, physical activity researchers will make people work for their smoothie by riding a bike with blender attached. They’ll also conduct health checks and kids sporting activities. The SMART (Science, Maths And Real Technology) science shows, meanwhile, will include liquid nitrogen among other chemistry experiments.

Younger folk will be entertained with science-themed craft, colouring-in and reading. They can pond-dip for bacteria, construct mechanical hands, or make DNA bracelets and edible petri dishes with sprinkles. There’s also a treasure hunt with special lanyards, so children can graduate as scientists for the day.

At the same time, a Super Science program will exclusively target girls aged 10-15 who are interested in STEM. It includes a private backstage laboratory tour hosted by a superhero scientist.

Dr Luke Hesson, visiting from UNSW’s Museum of Human Disease, will reveal the science behind fiction in his talk, starting 10am. It will be followed by disease-based Discovery Seminars running throughout the day, including stroke, respiratory and nutrition research.

“The Open Day is a fun and fascinating way of promoting the world-class research being done in the Hunter, while showing community members exactly how their support over the past 20 years is making a difference,” HMRI’s Acting Director, Laureate Professor Paul Foster, says.

“With booths, research seminars, science activities and lab tours taking place throughout the day, we’ve got the latest in science, innovation and wellbeing on display.”

Open Day hours are 10am to 3pm on October 12. With on-site parking being very limited, private shuttle buses will run half hourly from McDonald Jones Stadium, starting 9.00am. 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.