Tag Archives: live events

Becky-Brooks-Science-communication

Speaking to… Becky Brooks

“people always ask interesting questions that make me think about the research in a different way. Sometimes scientists get tunnel vision with their research and I think it’s good to talk to the public about it.”

Becky-Brooks-Science-communication
Becky Brooks

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Becky Brooks

Name?

Becky Brooks

Where are you based?

Bristol, UK

Who do you work for?

I’m a final year PhD student in Biochemistry at the University of Bristol. I work on wound healing at the cell level.

What type of science communication do you do?

I do a mixture. I’ve organised and helped with science workshops in schools, given talks at events, volunteered at festivals, and more recently I’ve been writing for a science blog I set up with a fellow scientist, Emily Coyte.

Who is your main audience?

Everyone and anyone – it depends what I’m doing, and I like to present to a variety of audiences. The blog is aimed at the general public, at those with an interest in science. This year I gave a talk on my research at an event called Skirting Science which was aimed at girls aged 13-14.

How did you get into it?

It all started with becoming a STEM Ambassador through STEMNET – this is a volunteering scheme that links teachers to scientists, which has provided me with endless opportunities to go and speak to children and adults alike about my research. From there it just snowballed – I started out by helping at local science festivals on stalls, and before long I was volunteering for more and more school events and national festivals. Now science communication is a real passion of mine.

Why do you do it?

Because I get excited by science and science communication is a great outlet for that. I just want to tell everyone about it.

Why do you think science communication is important?

I think that science in the real world can be very different to how you learn it at school – I want to show people the relevance of what they learn, and also tell them what it’s actually like to be in science. It’s also important for my work, as people always ask interesting questions that make me think about the research in a different way. Sometimes scientists get tunnel vision with their research and I think it’s good to talk to the public about it.

What do you love about science communication?

That genuine look of fascination that people get, even if you’ve only managed to get it out of one person. A couple of years ago I was volunteering on a stall at a science festival held in one of the shopping centres here in Bristol. I was showing some movies of human cells moving around, and someone who was just passing by with shopping bags suddenly did a double take and came over to talk to me about it. We ended up talking for half an hour about cells!

What has been your favourite project?

That’s a tricky one to answer – I’ve enjoyed all of them for different reasons. I really loved helping out with a workshop myself and some colleagues took to the British Science Festival last year. The theme of it straddled science and art. Secondary school children had some microscope slides of human organs to look at under the microscope, and we asked them to draw what they saw using whatever they wanted – crayons, paint, and collage, whatever. The idea was to do something creative while learning about the body, which in the end seemed to work really well.

I’ve also really enjoyed writing for the blog – whenever I get inspired by something I can just sit down and research and write about it for hours.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

Other than the blog, nothing solid at the moment (very open to suggestions though!).

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Grab every opportunity, and network as much as you can, as you’ll learn so much from those that already do it. It’s a continuous learning process; I don’t think anyone is good at it straight away and it takes practise.

Don’t underestimate how useful it is helping out behind the scenes of events too. I probably learned the most from spending a week helping out at Cheltenham Science Festival as a general volunteer. I got to do a bit of everything, from moving furniture to helping out with the tech for events, but I also really got a feel for how those types of events are run and got to meet a lot of the speakers, who were willing to chat about their experiences. Above all, it was a lot of fun.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone – one of the most useful things I did recently was performing at Science Showoff – an open-mic night for science communicators that you can sign up to do. It was frightening just putting myself out there like that, but it gave me a real confidence boost.

Also, think about using social media such as Twitter to network. A lot of opportunities for me recently have come from there.

You can follow Becky on Twitter at @Becky_Brooks6 or see what she’s up to on her website.

Dr-Marieke-Navin-Science-Communication

Speaking to… Dr Marieke Navin

“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.”

Dr-Marieke-Navin-Science-Communication
Dr Marieke Navin
Credit: Jay Williams

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Dr Marieke Navin

Name?

Dr Marieke Navin

Where are you based?

Manchester

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

Rosalind Davies

Speaking to… Rosalind Davies

Rosalind-Davies-science-communication
Rosalind Davies

“children are very expressive and it’s great to know you’ve got them interested in something new.”

 

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Rosalind Davies

Name?

Rosalind Davies

Where are you based?

Birmingham, England

Who do you work for?

I’m a PhD student at the University of Birmingham researching into new hydrogen storage materials for energy storage.

What type of science communication do you do?

My aim is to get people talking about cleaner energy, especially the use of hydrogen as a means of energy storage. I do this via twitter, as well as school visits and talking to anyone who will listen!

Activities I have been involved with range from model city demonstrations at the Cheltenham science festival to acting out how a fuel cell works, and the addition of an exploding hydrogen balloon to a presentation always goes down well!

When I finish my PhD I’d love to work full time in science communication, engaging with the public and, in particular, with policymakers. I’ve just finished a summer school on ‘Getting research into public policy’ here at the University of Birmingham which has given me more of an insight into how policy is made and how to get involved.

Who is your main audience?

Most of my activities have been engaging with school children of a variety of ages but I think that communicating with adults is just as important. The main reason for this being that my research is funded by the UK taxpayer, so I think they have a right to know about the amazing things researchers like me are finding out thanks to them.

How did you get into it?

Part of my PhD involves outreach projects on behalf of the university and this gave me the opportunity to give it a go and discover just how much I enjoyed it.

After hearing about the STEMNET scheme, which aims to inspire a new generation of scientists, I became a STEMNET Ambassador and this gave me the opportunity to attend more events promoting science. I’ve also trained and volunteered as an Imagineering tutor: an organisation that runs after school clubs to introduce children to engineering as it is a subject they don’t study at school.

Why do you do it?

I love science and I love talking! A lot of people seem to have lost interest in science but don’t realise how big a part it plays in their everyday life: realising that you have re-ignited a scientific interest in someone is very rewarding.

Why do you think science communication is important?

In the area of research that I am involved with, there seems very little point in developing new ways of using and storing energy if no-one knows anything about them. I think that it is crucial to get the public excited about the technology as they will be much more likely to use it in the future.

What do you love about science communication?

Being able to use twitter to communicate to people all over the world is great – it gives everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion.

Going into schools is a lot of fun, as children are very expressive and it’s great to know you’ve got them interested in something new.

What has been your favourite project?

My favourite project has been taking part in FameLab – a science communication competition where you get 3 minutes to talk about a science topic of your choice – here is me linking chocolate with renewable energy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VVHk3g6JDI&list=PLs37dDQJZnmExMVk-inXXuU__1HhX8jsv&index=6

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

The University of Birmingham is hosting a communication competition for researchers called ‘Three Minute Thesis’ which I’m really excited about entering!

In addition to this, during the next academic year I want to become more active online, blogging on science topics.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

My best tip would be to register with STEMNET as a way to get started as they run lots of events ideal for people who are new to communicating science.

You can follow Rosalind on Twitter at @RDscience