Explore hidden world of microbes in new comic book

Research led by University of Manchester scientists has inspired a comic book aiming to help young people aged 10 and above understand the wonder of microbes.

The comic book was written by author and illustrator Edward Ross and microbiologist Dr Jamie Hall from The University of Liverpool, with input from a team of scientists from the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool, York, Sheffield and Birmingham and the John Innes Centre.

Aimed at pupils at key stage 3 and above, Luna & Simon: Bizarre Bacteria and Peculiar Plasmids is available to download or print at home here. Readers can join Luna and her sulky brother Simon as they explore the wonderful world of microbes. Read about the diversity of bacterial life, and the strange ways in which microbes continue to evolve and change our world.

Professor Michael Brockhurst from The University of Manchester, who led the research, said: “It has been amazing to see the scientific ideas we test in the laboratory brought to life in Eddie’s drawings. Being a scientist is about being curious about the world around us and wanting to find out how it works: just like Luna in this story!”

“Almost everywhere we look on planet Earth, we find microbes. There is incredible diversity and amazing adaptations evolving literally right under our noses. But we usually only hear about microbes when they are causing disease. I wanted to do science communication that would reveal the microbial world as a source of wonder and awe, rather than just a threat,” says Dr Hall.

“I hope readers will see how science thrives on imagination and creativity, just as much as it needs rigour and precision. Eddie and I have been collaborating on science comics for years, since I was a PhD student and he was writing his first book on cinema, and we’ve produced several comics about parasites and stem cells. This project was particularly fun to develop, because by putting the science in the hands of Luna and Simon, we had the freedom to be a bit more playful with some of our explanations.”

Edward Ross added: “Comics are a great way to reach new audiences with science. Exciting images catch the eye and fun stories draw readers in. With Luna and Simon we wanted to capture the adventure and imagination of comics like Calvin and Hobbes and The Phoenix Comic, while bringing some truly amazing science along for the ride.”

The creators of the comic hope to inspire key stage 3 students towards science GCSEs, but the themes covered in the comic are also relevant for further and higher education students.

To access the comic and accompanying educational resources, visit the And The Microbes website.

This work is funded by BBSRC and NERC.

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