Bringing the magic of biomedical research to the low vision community

An artist's impression of a dendritic cell. Dendritic cells are the 'sentinels' of the immune system, constantly sampling the environment and presenting antigens to the immune system.


Outreach programs at universities often involve displays, exhibitions, lectures and other forms of public engagement.  Researchers within the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) are developing an innovative program targeted at those who have low vision or are blind, by hosting a Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day at Monash University Clayton on Thursday 31 May, 2018. Complete with tactile 3D models, 2D graphic displays, olfactory displays, large print and braille formats, the event will be specifically geared to a low vision/blind audience.

Professor Jamie Rossjohn, Head of the Infection and Immunity Program at the Monash BDI and ARC Australian Laureate Fellow and Investigator within the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, considered it was important to hold an event that would engage the blind and low vision community with biomedical research. A conversation with his administrative assistant, Ms Sabrina Constantin, who has low vision, reinforced Professor Rossjohn’s desire to hold such an event.

“Just imagine how great it would be for kids with vision impairment to be inspired and be given the chance to follow a career path in science,” Ms Constantin said.

Professor Rossjohn recruited an artist in residence, who is legally blind, to produce art that could explain infection and immunity to the blind and those with low vision and provide expert advice for the activities for the exhibition.

The artist, Dr Erica Tandori, has a PhD in visual art and ophthalmology, where she used art to articulate the processes of her own vision loss caused by juvenile macular degeneration.

In collaboration with researchers at the Monash BDI, Dr Tandori is producing tactile art and models that detail aspects of vaccination, the evolution of flu viruses, and the process of how our bodies recognise pathogens.

Exhibition visitors will have access to 3D models of viruses, different immune molecules and antibodies as well 3D model displays of parts of the human body. Participants will also be able to experience Monash University’s CAVE2 facility which is a 360 degree immersive experience that will have immune molecules projected onto enormous surround-screens.

“The exhibition includes soft toys of bacteria and antibodies, so that people can experience different textures,“ said Dr Gabby Watson, who is coordinating the day.

“All of the models will be accompanied by descriptions in both large text and braille. One of our small group activities will involve smelling different microbes - we are trying to engage as many of the senses as possible! We are encouraging everyone to attend, as we have activities that will appeal to all,” Dr Watson said.

When: 8.45am - 1pm, Thursday 31 May
Where: G54, 19 Ancora Imparo Way, Monash University, Clayton (accessibility and parking information can be found on the event flyer, click to download)
Register: Click here
Enquire: BDI-SSDD@monash.edu