Dr Michelle Dickinson loves science and has dedicated her life to it.

In fact, the senior engineering lecturer at the University of Auckland is so keen to share with the world her love for the discipline, she's set her own hand on fire - by lighting a harmless-looking pile of methane-filled bubbles.

Not as some kind of protest, but as a way of showing that science can be fun and safe.

"It shows that if you trust the science, things are not that dangerous," she said, adding that she didn't recommend people try this particular experiment at home.

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Michelle Dickinson demonstrates part of her Extravaganza of Explosions show. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Michelle Dickinson demonstrates part of her Extravaganza of Explosions show. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Dr Dickinson also wants to let the young women of the world know that science and engineering is not just for boys - "It's good to have a female in the lead. Think of shows like Cosmos and MythBusters - they're all men. If girls don't see women doing science or engineering, then they won't think about doing it themselves."

As part of one of the Auckland Arts Festival's White Night family events this weekend, Dr Dickinson will perform a series of experiments at the Town Hall in a quest, under the moniker 'Nanogirl,' to find her superpowers.

In the process, which she calls "an extravaganza of explosions," she'll blow things up, blow things over, and blow people's minds, while exploring the wonders of cloud power, wind power, magnet power and fire power.

Nanogirl's performance is one of many events that will be part of 'thinkScience' day on Saturday, March 14.

Michelle Dickinson demonstrates part of her Extravaganza of Explosions show. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Michelle Dickinson demonstrates part of her Extravaganza of Explosions show. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The day will also include two 'Science in the City' panel discussions, which take place in the Paradiso Spiegeltent on Saturday at 11am and 12.30pm.

Some of Auckland's top thinkers will be on the two panels, with the first exploring how science can predict and shape the future of the city and the second looking at how ideas and innovations can change the world.

Before that, from 10.30am see the results of Dr Siouxsie Wiles' challenge to a group of artists and illustrators to create living works of art using nothing more than a cotton swab, a solution of harmless glowing bacteria and a collection of petri dishes.

The glowing masterpieces will be on display in the basement of Q Theatre until midnight.

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And at Aotea Square, between 10:30am and 12:30pm, festival goers can try their hand at creating their own work of art as part of family day, or get their photo taken by the light of glowing bacteria.

• Find Nanogirl, and 5000 ping pong balls for a surprise experiment, on Saturday at the Auckland Town Hall at 5pm. Tickets from $12.
• Catch the two panel discussions in the Paradiso Spiegeltent on Saturday at 11am and 12.30pm. Tickets are $10.
&bull: From 10.30am see the results of Dr Siouxsie Wiles' challenge to a group of artists and illustrators to create living works of art using nothing more than a cotton swab, a solution of harmless glowing bacteria and a collection of petri dishes. FREE
• Between 10:30am and 12:30pm at Aotea Square, try your hand at creating your own work of art as part of family day, or get your photo taken by the light of glowing bacteria. FREE
• From 10.30am to 12.30pm it's family garden time which features fun science activities with real scientists for kids and parents at the TimeOut Festival Garden in Aotea Square.