UP TO 30,000 people will come face-to-face with cutting edge research in this year’s Oxfordshire Science Festival, which starts on Saturday.

At a free public launch, from 10am to 4pm in Bonn Square, Oxford, shoppers will be asked to help hunt for giant molecules in the city centre.

The event, expected to attract 5,000 people, will also include levitating magnets, bike-powered computers, model brains and cutting edge microscopes.

Festival manager Renee Watson said: “The reason we plonk this right in the middle of the shopping district is to attract as many people as possible.

“People can come and go, and it is all free.

“The big aim is to get people to see science as not something scary that only happens in laboratories, but part of everything we do in everyday life.

“It will show how we can do little experiments at home, and understand a little bit more about how science underpins our lives.

“Hopefully, it will help people engage in very important discussions about things they read in the newspaper, and understand how to interpret that information.”

Over three weeks, 130 events will take place across Oxfordshire, with organisers hoping to reach 30,000 people.

A huge science fair will take place at Oxford Brookes University’s Headington campus on Saturday, March 12, with events for under-fives from 10am to noon, and for older children from 11am to 4pm.

And on Thursday, March 17, visitors will be able to get a glimpse of the cutting-edge research taking place at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

There will be interactive stands and a chance to meet the scientists who work at the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

The Goodies star Graeme Garden, a doctor, will be among speakers at the event.

Visitors will be able to see DNA extracted and find out how measuring eye movement is connected to Parkinson’s Disease research.

Spokesman Alison Barnes said: “We fund research under a whole range of themes: blood, stroke, cancer, wom-en’s health, vaccines, and so on.

“This will be a behind-the-scenes look at all of that, and a chance to meet doctors, nurses, scientists and researchers that work there.”

Elsewhere in the county, dozens of lectures, exhibitions, workshops and hands-on events will be staged in schools, museums, and parks. Last year, 25,000 people took part in 100 events.