The proliferation of science fiction in film and visual media brings scientific topics to large audiences, inspiring many people to develop a serious interest in scientific studies. Increasingly, science fiction is being used as a tool in the teaching of science and visual media provide excellent opportunities to foster student engagement and encourage reflection. In this article, we critique science fiction film in terms of ‘reel’ versus real science, highlighting how it illustrates scientific advances that are important in nanobiotechnology, molecular biology and biochemistry.
The contributors to this discussion teach in three different Faculties at the University of East Anglia (UEA) – Science, Arts & Humanities and Medicine & Health Sciences. They have each used science fiction to explore learning outcomes in their distinct teaching practices. The discussion below highlights how contemporary science fiction can operate as a touchstone for debate that informs biochemistry teaching. Laura, Helen and Richard have all studied basic sciences, gaining PhDs in various aspects of biochemistry and molecular biology, and each have taught undergraduates and postgraduates at UEA. Helen and Richard are based in the Faculty of Science. Laura is based in the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, and uses her interest in science communication to explore university teaching practices that involve science fiction. Christine gained a PhD from her research of technology and performance in science fiction film and is based in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.