The Compass

Designed with Leicester, for Leicester: let your curiosity lead the way

The British Science Festival invites you to take a journey of exploration at The Compass. A unique spectacle of story, sound and light, The Compass is an immersive, projection mapped installation, bringing to life how we navigate knowledge, and how scientific research can be a compass to guide our curiosity.

British science researchers are revealed as pioneering explorers on voyages of discovery, with new horizons to explore. Just as a compass helps us plot a course, find our bearings, and explore new worlds, The Compass shows us that scientific endeavours resonate directly with our own lives; blending research stories with those of young people in Leicester embarking on their own scientific journeys.

As you explore the installation, you will hear the voices and stories of researchers working in the UK who started their science endeavors from all four corners of the globe. Their diverse real-life experiences have helped to shape our ambition of celebrating British science research.

Venture inside The Compass by day to interact with stories from across British research, projected as flowing, animated journeys. Then marvel at The Compass by night as it ignites in a spectacular projection, as we navigate knowledge together.

During the day you can enter the Compass at any of its four points. The journey within the compass guides you through four themes. Like science research there is no right or wrong journey, only different starting points.

  • Origins and destinations: Where research takes you – What inspires and drives our researchers, and creates a sense of wonder?
  • What affects true north: When have things gone off course or altered their path?
  • Wider world impact: How is their journey shaped by the world around them, and how does knowledge ripple out into the wider world?
  • Progress: How do they know when progress has been made and decide what to push forward?

See section ‘Navigating stories’ below for more detailed information on these themes.

Want to dive deeper into the adventure? Ask our navigators to point you towards the mini projectors!

The Compass has been commissioned by the British Science Association. The installation is being designed and created by artists, Illuminos, and the BSA are working with locally-based social enterprise and event production specialists, Inspirate, to bring the project to life.

Share your images and tag us: #BSF22 @BritishSciFest

Warning: please note that this installation includes projections and may not be suitable for those with photo or visual sensitivities. It does not use strobe effects. Visitor discretion is advised.

British Science Researchers

The Compass celebrates British science by bringing to life the thoughts, hopes and dreams of researchers from across the UK.

Thank you to all of the researchers who took part in this project:

Dr Amit N. Pujari

Biomedical Engineering

University of Hertfordshire


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Professor Turi King

Genetics and Genome Biology

University of Leicester

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Professor Timothy O'Brien

Astronomy and Astrophysics

The University of Manchester

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Dr Soozana Puvanenthiran

Biological and Medical Sciences

Oxford Brookes University

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Sara Niksic


MedILS and University of St Andrews

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Professor Sara Goodacre

Evolutionary Biology and Genetics

University of Nottingham

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Dr Ryan Pink

Molecular Biology and Genomics

Oxford Brookes University

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Professor Robert Young

Quantum Physics

Lancaster University

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Dr Penny Trayner

Paediatric Clinical Neuropsychology

Paediatric Neuropsychology Services Ltd

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Dr Noelia Dominguez Falcon

Pharmacology and Molecular Biology

University of East Anglia

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Professor Mike Wood

Science, Engineering and Environment

Applied Ecology

University of Salford

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Dr Maria Walach

Cosmology and Planetary Physics

Lancaster University

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Lucy Eckersley

Wild Animal Biology

Royal Veterinary College, University of London

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Dr Laura Wolz

Astronomy and Astrophysics

The University of Manchester

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Dr Joanna Sadler


The University of Edinburgh

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Dr James Andean

Computing, Engineering and Media

Music Technology

De Montfort University, Leicester

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Dr Dana McGregor

Molecular Biology

Rothamsted Research

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Daisy Shearer

Photonics and Quantum Science

University of Surrey

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Professor Ashleigh Griffin

Evolutionary Biology

The University of Oxford

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Professor Andy Miah

Science, Engineering and Environment

Future Media

University of Salford

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Navigating stories

The narrative of The Compass explores the following four key pillars of Science Research.

Origins and destinations                                                             

Where research takes you: What inspires and drives our researchers, and creates a sense of wonder?

The outdoor immersive experience begins with Tim O’Brien from Jodrell Bank saying that we are all made from stars; atoms formed billions of years ago. From here, we take our first steps and see the importance of curiosity, as Noelia Dominguez Falcon says: ‘I was one of those kids that always asked “why?” to my parents’. Ashleigh Griffin remembers looking at dominant cows as an 8 year old on her parent’s farm, and Ryan Pink talks about being in a bike shop and seeing the importance of taking things apart and working them out. Lucy Eckersley’s collections of conkers bring to mind Darwin gathering samples to study. It is these inspirations, the places we set out from, that help shape our journeys. Soozana Puvanenthiran remembers that she ‘was like the swan who never knew how to swim in our family, so I had to figure my way through this’.

The compass swings and we move to destinations: those questions that drive our researchers, and the sense of wonder felt across different disciplines. Andy Miah is inspired through his bad handwriting to explore how technology can augment humanity. Amit Pujari thinks we are slowly becoming cyborgs, Daisy Shearer sees the importance of resilience through her autism diagnosis. This resonates with the vast and the tiny. The pull of magnetic fields across galaxies and the pull of enzymes around cells. How a cancer cell is blocked in Soozana’s work, and how Chernobyl creates monitoring opportunities through its exclusion zones. Sara Niksic’s work on whale culture and song connects with Penny Trayner’s exploration of the human brain. Laura Wolz measures galaxies while Daisy Shearer and Rob Young measure single atoms and the spaces between them. The vast canvas of things to discover is weaved.

What Affects True North?                                                     

When have things gone off course or altered their path?

The Compass swings again and we explore the critical importance of observation; of seeing deviations and differences when a theory is tested. Feeling the element of surprise. The nuances of the natural world, from Sara Goodacre’s flying spiders to Ashleigh’s meerkat collaborations that benefit the group not individuals.

We find systems that are connected in far greater complexity than imagined: within Dana McGregor’s circadian rhythms in grass, and Jo Sadler seeing microbes make foreign DNA proteins. Throughout research the prediction and the result is tested and retested, and researchers care deeply about what they discover. Noelia’s stem cells are like a cherished pet. Penny’s deejaying becomes a powerful psychological tool. DNA is like a piece of fabric, woven with threads from our different ancestors.

Wider World Impact
How is their journey shaped by the world around them, and how does knowledge ripple out into the wider world?

As the compass swings, our researchers ponder the context of their work, the applications of it and its connections to wider society. Mike Wood finds incredible natural beauty and hope in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, as Laura sees new laws of physics emerging from exploring dark matter. Dana can make black grass glow to aid crop growth, and Daisy marvels at the technology that enables quantum computing.

Andy sees physical and digital environments becoming indistinguishable, as Amit sees our movement as tied to our identity as human beings. The Scottish wildcat for Lucy becomes emblematic of climate preservation, as Soozana sees cancer cells that look angry, that have tantrums. Each area of orientation resonates with others in a collective movement to map our world and improve our futures.

Progress and Triumph
How do researchers know when progress has been made and decide what to push forward?

The Compass swings one more time, and our researchers take us into their moments of triumph and revelation. They share their thoughts on the world of research and how it can inspire others. Amit sees the entire world of neurological signals contained in the trunk of a baby elephant, while Daisy champions the benefits of neuro-diverse research teams in solving problems differently. Through leading by example Noelia wants to open the door of research to young women that don’t know where to go, or feel that they don’t fit in that world.

Turi King sees the simple truth that we are all related to each other. The joy in cross discipline collaboration is championed by Rob Young, while Maria Walach sees her work with the Northern lights as continuing a research that reaches back to medieval times and beyond, to the lights of the gods. To be awe-inspired by science is the greatest thrill to these researchers. And as Tim remembers that moment when what you imagined might be true, is revealed as true in reality, we come full circle. The Compass rests.

Young People’s Steering Group

For the purpose of creating a board with diversity of experiences and insights, the young people’s steering group was established. The group gave valuable input on all facets of the art installation; from supporting the commissioning and initial concept stage to developing concepts, and shaping its path. The group felt strongly that it was crucial for them to represent young people and to ensure that the installation’s vision was in line with the needs and aspirations of young people across Leicester and beyond.

More about the British Science Festival

The Compass is just one of the 100+ events and activities being held in Leicester this week as part of the British Science Festival. With events on topics such as parenting, dark matter and microplastics, as well as exhibitions and takeover events at the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, the LCB Depot and Leicester City Centre, there is certain to be something for everyone at the Festival.

Find out more and book your tickets at

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