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The NCBE at Reading

The Department of Typography at Reading takes up most of an old wartime edifice which also houses some music pratice rooms (not a bad thing, most of the time) and the small but highly acclaimed National Centre for Biotechnology Education . To the staff in Typography right next door, the NCBE is seldom seen, seldom heard; there are however some fascinating areas of overlap between the two entities, and plenty at the centre to interest several of us graphic communication people next door, especially the ones interested in science, education and diagrammatic representation!

The NCBE is a longstanding (and since the early 1990s, entirely self-funding) research centre at the University of Reading that specialises in the development of educational materials to teach areas of biology such as evolutionary biology and biotechnology. They develop and run workshops, produce (international) literature, and create kits for experiments and activities involving everything from splitting up DNA with various enzymes to growing mushrooms on loo roll (toilet paper for us crass North Americans).

The NCBE's extensive (and non-University branded) website seems to be an important resource. Its pages include full access to publications relating to practical workshops, including well-illustrated teacher and student guides. And there is an interesting though aged commemoration of the discovery of the double helix, which includes a page of DNA ephemera, enough to get the Typography pulse racing in itself! Unfortunately, though the writing is congenial and accessible, navigating through the site feels a bit like wading through porridge. Like many 'mature' websites it contains some legacy components. This probably reflects the NCBE's somewhat oddball status within the University.