Tag Archives: phd

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

Paul Stevenson

Speaking to… Paul Stevenson

Paul-Stevenson-science-communication
Paul Stevenson

“Make sure it’s enjoyable to you. If it’s not, it probably won’t be to anyone else.”

 

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

Name?

Paul Stevenson

Where are you based?

Guildford, Surrey

Who do you work for?

University of Surrey

What type of science communication do you do?

Mostly giving talks and writing a blog.

Who is your main audience?

To be honest, I don’t really know who reads the blog. From some of the comments or re-postings, I know it at least includes some combination of other lecturers, also PhD students, undergrad students, and people with a general interest in science who come via internet searches.

For the talks, that varies depending on who invites me. It ranges from schoolkids either via schools or science centres, up to retired people, who seem to run a lot of events.

How did you get into it?

I suppose it was always something I thought was a good idea, but it was only when I started working at the University of Surrey, in 2000, and I got talking to Jim Al-Khalili. At the time, he was not as famous as he is now, but had already done a lot of outreach activity which had led to his first book. He encouraged me, and has provided plenty of help and guidance along the way

Why do you do it?

Lots of reasons: it’s fun to get out of the University and go and talk to people. Science is often misunderstood, but there’s a lot of appetite to understand it better, and to the extent that I can help, I’d like to try. I think it’s good to tell people what taxpayers’ money is spent on. Also, I think you have to be a bit of a show-off and like to get up in front of people. I always did amateur dramatics and things like that as a kid.

Why do you think science communication is important?

Though I do think it is the right thing to do to make sure taxpayers know what their money is used for, I think the most important thing is to try to get people to understand science, and scientific theories of the world and universe, better. Appreciating that there are ways of thinking about problems that means you can arrive at solutions that are likely to work and likely to be true and general is a powerful and amazing thing that has not always been part of human endevour. It doesn’t have to be part of all of it, but I think it’s important to share that it’s there.

What do you love about science communication?

Partly the showing-off in front of people, also the immediate interaction, the conversation and the feedback, which is much slower in my research job which works more on the timescales of writing research articles, sending them off, having them reviewed, all of which takes weeks or months. Except research conferences, which work a bit the same way as much science communication.

What has been your favourite project?

That’s quite difficult, as each one is quite different. I have enjoyed some of the things I’ve done where it’s not been me talking, but arranging events, but I suppose the taking part is a bit more fun for me. It was awesome to speak at the Royal Institution (thanks to Jim Al-Khalili for inviting me). That was years ago, now, but something I’ve enjoyed doing recently was Bright Club, which was a kind of stand-up comedy club for academics. If you search for Guildford Bright Club on the web you can find my sets.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

My main research areas is nuclear physics, and I’m planning to write a smart phone/tablet app that lets you explore lots of cool things to do with nuclear physics in what I hope is a sufficiently fun way to get people to engage with it. I spent most of my childhood in my darkened bedroom programming computers, so though I don’t do it so much now, I think I could write a nice app successfully.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

It depends a bit what stage you are at in your academic career. If you are like me, and didn’t really start doing it until you were a lecturer, then it’s quite easy – more so these days since university departments actively encourage it and usually have someone to help, so talk to them and volunteer to talk to school kids. Don’t fret when your first one comes up and give it your best shot.

If you’re a PhD or undergrad student, look out for opportunities at your uni, and also get involved with the appropriate professional society (e.g. Institute of Physics for me or other physicists). You can get in touch too with the British Science Associations, who do lots of great outreach activities and are happy to enlist the help of volunteer students. Starting to write a blog is an easy way in. Try to give it a personal flavour, so talk about yourself and your non-science interests a bit, without being to angsty, and talk about science issues that interest you. Don’t stray too much from your comfort zone – at least at first – blog about life as a student, and the pitfalls of textbooks or lecturers – things like that. Talk about the eureka moments when you understand some concept. Don’t make it too much of an exercise. Above all, make sure it is enjoyable to you. If it’s not, it probably won’t be to anyone else.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @gleet_tweet.