Pokémon Go beyond the screen

As a son of scientist, I had lots of opportunities to get in touch with science as a child, and unlike most children at my age, l used to spend a great deal of time in my father’s laboratory. The magic of experiments deeply attracted me and gradually I fell in love with science.

I did however share a passion with most other children around me – playing Pokémon Yellow and watching Pokémon cartoons. I always loved all the amazing creatures, and my favourite was Charmander. But all good things must come to an end, and as I grew older my fondness for Pokémon faded and the pressures of reality set in.

But my passion for science continued, and I completed my bachelor and masters degrees in science from Xiamen University, China. Now I am doing my PhD with the Xu group at UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).  My research aims to use clay nanoparticles to induce a potent immune response even better than commercial products. Based on our findings, an affordable, safe vaccine approach could be expected in the near future, to provide an efficient intervention by terminating pathogenic E-coli infection, reducing medical costs and possibly even saving lives.

Unless you have been completely unplugged for the past few months, you would be aware that Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm, rekindling all our childhood memories and attracting players all over the world, including me.

So imagine my enthusiasm when, a few weeks ago, while doing transmission electron microscope work, I noticed one of the nanoparticles looked very familiar. It was the Pokémon Poliwhirl, waving his hand at me. I was so excited that I added in his missing face and limbs, completing the image.

I wanted to share my find, so I entered it into the AIBN science image contest. To my delight, it won the Creativity Award.

Working in science can be stressful and exhausting sometimes. When the pressures mount, give yourself a break from doing experiments for a while and play some Pokémon Go, relax and you’re your mind. You might find a balance between life and science and enjoy it. And keep your eyes peeled, because they are waiting for us everywhere.

Last updated:
20 September 2016