Coccus Pocus 2020: A Halloween Story Competition About Microbial Biofilms
In autumn 2020, the University of Hull launched an exciting scary story competition for Halloween: Coccus Pocus 2020! The event was organised for a second time, following a successful run in 2019. The competition was supported by the National Biofilms Innovation Centre as part of our #BiofilmAware campaign, which is all about helping people to understand what biofilms are and why they are so important.
Four academics and researchers from other UK universities kindly offered to act as Coccus Pocus Ambassadors, communicating the event at their institutions: Dr Morgan Feeney from the University of Strathclyde, Dr Leena Kerr from Heriot-Watt University, Dr Nadia Andreani from the University of Lincoln and Mr Giridhar Chandrasekharan from the University of Warwick.
The contestants were encouraged to write a short horror or sci-fi story between 500 and 2,000 words, including themes of antimicrobial resistance and/or microbial biofilms. The evaluation committee ranked stories according to the intrigue of their plot, use of language, character description and scientific soundness.
First prize (a £100 Amazon voucher) was awarded to Farhana Alam Burnett, a microbiology PhD student at the University of Birmingham. Her thrilling story, Persisters, is about a domestic fungal biofilm that does much more than smell bad! Amisha Sathi, an undergraduate from the University of Warwick received the second prize (£30) for her story Abnormal, where the protagonist fights a horde of slimy hostile creatures in a post-apocalyptic horror setting. Finally, Bethany Pearce, again an undergraduate student from the University of Warwick was awarded the third prize (£20) for her story Day 0, which tells us a tale about a patient suffering from an antibiotic-resistant superbug infection that spreads rapidly all over the hospital.
We aspire that the competition will be held again and again around the country and even abroad, aiming to increase public awareness about the important problem of AMR and biofilms and boost the enthusiasm of young people about the fascinating field of microbiology.
Coccus Pocus will run again in October 2021. This time we will also approach secondary schools and colleges, introducing a 12-17 age group (with the same prizes).
Can you think of any biofilm or AMR-related scary stories? Would you like to be one of our Coccus Pocus Ambassadors for your school or university? and…which university or school will claim our next trophy?
Please contact Dr Georgios Efthimiou, Lead Organiser and Lecturer in Microbiology, University of Hull with any questions.
The competition was supported by NBIC’s Public Engagement and Outreach Fund, which offers grants up to £3,000 twice a year to support biofilm-related public engagement and outreach activities. If you want to find out more about our next round of funding, please contact us.