“We need to give people confidence to question what they read about or hear in the media and empower them to make informed decisions about important matters that affect them.”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Dr Marieke Navin
Dr Marieke Navin
Where are you based?
Who do you work for?
I work at the Museum of Science and Industry as the Manchester Science Festival Director
What type of science communication do you do?
I am involved in informal learning, that is everything outside of the classroom. This includes festivals, weekend and evening events, science in unusual spaces, science across all art forms…anything that is science outside of a formal or classroom setting
Who is your main audience?
Families are a core audience, but so are young independent adults who are looking for an alternative night out and older adults are a real growth audience for us.
How did you get into it?
It all started for me when I was doing my PhD. The Institute of Physics sent a box of simple, everyday kit called “Physics in a box” to the physics department at Sheffield university and one of the lecturers talked us through all the demos you could do. I was hooked! I went on to get a grant to make 20 more boxes and trained undergraduate students to take them out into schools. Subsequently I came runner up in the Famelab competition, a national competition whereby you have 3 minutes to wow an audience about science. I won the heat in York (talking about my area of research, a type of particle called neutrinos as well as the Big Bang). I competed in the grand final at Cheltenham science festival which opened my eyes to the world of science communication and that was the first time I realized you could enter this field professionally. This lead me to landing my dream a job as a science communicator at MOSI, which I did for 6 years before being promoted to the Manchester Science Festival Director earlier this year.
Why do you do it?
I have an absolute passion in disseminating science to a wide audience. I love the challenge of breaking complicated subjects down to the core ideas, finding the relevance and interest to people who might not consider that science is for them, or that they are able to understand it.
why do you think science communication is important?
Apart from the need to inspire the next generation of scientists, we need to give people confidence to question what they read about or hear in the media and empower them to make informed decisions about important matters that affect them. It’s also vital to spread the word of the joy of science!
What do you love about science communication?
I love the challenge of it; finding the hook or the angle with which you’ll engage the audience and looking at different creative ways to bring science to life. I love the variety of it; physics will always be my first love but this year for example I’m involved in a lot of neuroscience communication which is fascinating and not something I would have the opportunity to work on normally. I love the community of science communicators; there is always a pool of talented people with which to collaborate with, bounce ideas off, commission for projects and even go out for a beer with. Finally I learn something new everyday and coming to work is a pleasure rather than a chore.
What has been your favourite project?
One of my favourite projects was called Super K Sonic Booom and was the first large-scale art meets science installation for the Manchester Science Festival, back in 2010. An artist designed a recreation of a huge particle detector called Super Kamiokande in Japan, which was the experiment that I worked on during my PhD. It was amazing to be able to share this with a wide audience and bring to life this otherwise quite abstract detector in a visual and extremely loud way.
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
Yes, the Manchester Science Festival 2013 (24th October – 3rd November). This will be the seventh Manchester Science Festival but my first as the director (although I am the only person who has worked on all the Festivals since its inaugration in 2007). I am so excited to share the programme which I’ll be launching at the end of August. I can’t wait.
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
My number one tip is to stay in science and communicate as part of your job as a researcher.
You can follow Marieke on Twitter at @lisamarieke