In our U3A we are fortunate in having such a successful and popular Science Group as, according to a survey by the National U3A, only 4% of individual U3As have a Science Group; the same survey indicated that we are an average U3A which has 30 groups.
Jill Taylor, the group leader, has always had an interest in science and as we didn’t have a science group she started one in October 2008. Her first subject was Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table, which suited both those who had some science background and also those without any. Jill keeps meticulous records of subjects they have covered. Divided into sub headings (mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology and geology), subjects have included DNA, fractal art and the atmosphere – there have been so many over the years and the list itself gets you enthusiastic about the subject.
The group covers pure science and has amongst its members three pharmacists, a physicist and a microbiologist, the rest being non-scientists; although the former have the scientific knowledge it is often the questions from the latter which challenge that knowledge and introduce in-depth discussions and explanations. The monthly meetings sometimes have one person giving a PowerPoint talk followed by discussion or on other occasions Jill will ask each member to research a small part of a larger subject and speak for 3-5 minutes, an excellent way of sharing the workload and having group participation. An example of this was examining the digestive system which was divided amongst the group into mouth, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, gall bladder, colon, appendix etc. On several occasions they have invited guest speakers.
Twice a year the Royal Institution dedicates a day of lectures for the U3A; we normally have around a dozen members who attend, which includes members of the science group. This is not only an interesting day but also provides further subjects for the group’s meetings. Annually over 4 days there is a U3A Science Seminar held at the Harper Adams University in Shropshire, with 10-12 lectures, which regularly four group members have attended, and this inspires them with further subjects; cosmology, the physics of colour, and early hominids to name a few.
The group currently has ten members with a waiting list of a further seven. If a member cannot attend Jill calls in someone from the waiting list to take his or her place. In April, as a trial, the group met in a larger venue so as to accommodate those on the waiting list and depending on the success of that will decide where the future meetings will be held. Meanwhile the group remains strong. There are no qualifications to join this group, just an interest in science, and all levels are catered for.
Do visit the Science Group’s section on the website as there are reports that are well worth reading.