Tag Archives: presenting

Colin Stuart

Speaking to… Colin Stuart

“network your backside off, particularly if you’re just starting out. The amount of opportunities that have come my way because of a Twitter conversation or a chance meeting in the pub etc is pretty high”

 

Colin-Stuart-science-communication
Colin Stuart

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

Name?

Colin Stuart

Where are you based?

London

Who do you work for?

and myself

What type of science communication do you do?

A mixture really. I am part presenter, part writer. At the Observatory it is face-to-face communication – presenting planetarium shows, showing people the stars and planets through telescopes, running interactive school workshops and teaching adult evening courses about the latest developments in astronomy. On the freelance writing side it ranges from “typical” science journalism, through to writing educational resources for charities and then onto books.

Who is your main audience?

I wouldn’t say I have one. Over the course of a week I could be singing nursery rhymes about the planets to five-year-olds in the planetarium or speaking to the retirees who often come along to the adult evening courses. I could be writing an article for a specialist science website, but equally I could be writing a feature for The Guardian or New Scientist aimed at the general public.

How did you get into it?

I did a degree in astrophysics and I got to that point in my studies that I think a lot of people get to in the middle of their second year: what am I going to do next? I’d always loved astronomy since I was a kid but by that point I’d realised I no longer wanted to be a researcher. I thought about other ways that astronomy could feature in my career without having to be a research scientist and I’d always been quite good at public speaking and writing so I thought maybe I could do that. I honestly had never heard of the term “science communication” before. But when I thought about what that sort of stuff might be called I googled those words and a whole host of information poured out. I found the Science Communication MSc at Imperial very quickly and within a few days set about getting the sort of experience that would make sure my application was successful. Part of that was volunteering at the Observatory and that has led on to a part time job there.

Why do you do it?

For the love of it (most of the time!). Astronomy has always been my passion and passion can be infectious. I wanted to share my love of the universe with others and get across that sense of awe and insignificance that astronomy is so good at delivering. At the same time it keeps me honest. My job forces me to keep up-to-date with the latest research and I get to talk to some of the scientists doing some really cool research. Basically I get to geek-out on a daily basis and get paid for the privilege.

 

Why do you think science communication is important?

Well first there are the clichés. That science is funded by taxpayers and so taxpayers need to be engaged in science. That our world is becoming increasing scientific and so people need to be more engaged with science and perhaps we can inspire the next generation of scientists by grabbing their attention early. Those things are all true in varying degrees. But the more I do science communication the more I think that the answer is because it is real. Particularly for my line of work in astronomy, we’re finding out the ways in which our universe really works and often that is so far removed from our everyday experience of the daily grind. Science communication, done well, can offer the same escapism as novels or movies with the added bonus of being real. If that doesn’t sound too pretentious! That’s certainly what got me hooked as a kid. I could read story books, but I could also read equally exciting books about the planets and their moons but the latter stories weren’t make-believe.

What do you love about science communication?

The fact that I get to immerse myself in science every single day. And the fact that you can often see the effects of a job well done. If a kid gasps during a planetarium show because you’ve shown them something that’s blown their mind or when an adult laughs at one of your jokes – I’ve been doing it five years but that still gives me a buzz. I also love the fact that I am always learning, about astronomy but also about ways to communicate. I am a much better presenter and writer than I was five years ago, but I know I’ll go on improving because there is always something to learn or another way to look at things. I also still love getting my head around a new concept, just as I did at uni.

What has been your favourite project?

That’s a tough one. What I do can be so varied that it is hard to compare projects, but I think it was writing my first book. As as writer I have always dreamed of having a book out there on the shelves and that’s nearly a reality as The Big Questions in Science is published soon. It is co-written with two good friends – Hayley Birch and Mun-Keat Looi – and it tackles twenty of the biggest unanswered questions in science today detailing the efforts of extravagant millionaires, biologists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, philosophers, explorers and engineers to push the boundaries of our knowledge. My chapters tackle concepts like dark matter, dark energy, exoplanets, antimatter, parallel universes, time travel, alien life, black holes, wormholes and quantum physics and so it was really fun to write.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I am currently trying to get a kids book on astronomy off the ground, so watch this space!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Work hard, the competition is becoming increasingly fierce. Love what you do, you’re going to be spending a lot of time doing it so you better enjoy it. Practice, a lot. You might think you are good, and you might be, but you can always be better. Lastly, network your backside off, particularly if you’re just starting out. The amount of opportunities that have come my way because of a Twitter conversation or a chance meeting in the pub etc is pretty high. There are plenty of opportunities out there if you do enough digging.

You can follow Colin on Twitter at @skyponderer or find out what he’s up to on his website.

Sarah Cosgriff

Speaking to… Sarah Cosgriff

Sarah-Cosgriff-science-communication
Sarah Cosgriff

There are still many ways to communicate science that I want to try!”

 

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

Name?

Sarah Cosgriff

Where are you based?

Warwickshire.

Who do you work for?

Freelance.

What type of science communication do you do?

All sorts – I present, podcast and occasionally write.  I also run a postgraduate event called PG TalkFest which involves postgrads presenting informally to other postgrads – the aim is to give them some experience before presenting to the public.  I’m also a STEM ambassador so I go into schools to talk about science and careers.

Who is your main audience?  

I’d like to think that it is anyone – some of what I do is for the science community and I also communicate to a general audience of all ages. It really depends on what I’m doing.

How did you get into it?

It was one of those by chance things – I went to a careers evening at my university and someone talked to me about their career in science communication. Before that point I thought it was mainly media but it turns out it was a much bigger world than I thought! Some months after that, I left my PhD and realised that I wanted to become a science communicator. I started looking for opportunities.  I started off by getting in touch with a science communication group called EUSci in Edinburgh for podcasting and I’ve been a correspondent for them since. Around the same time, a contact emailed me asking me to fill in a spare slot for Science Showoff, and my presenting has gone from there. Since, I’ve been taking up opportunities as I go and I learn more and more about what’s out there.

Why do you do it?

I really enjoy it – I particularly love presenting. I think it’s great that I get to talk about the stuff that I’m interested in. I also find it really rewarding – to be able to increase someone’s interest in science is a great feeling.

Why do you think science communication is important?

I think it’s really important for the public to understand what research has been done and why as it will affect them. Science can be sometimes seen as a bit scary. The sort of comments I get regularly from people are “I was never good at science at school” or “I’m not clever enough to understand that stuff” when I mention my biology background. If a person feels this way, they may feel reluctant to read science stories which may affect them. I also think that science is misreported a lot – luckily there are great science writers out there who want to correct this.

What do you love about science communication?

I really appreciate the creative side of science communication – every time I do something, I think of ‘how can I get this across to the audience?’ and really challenge myself in the different ways I could do it. On top of that, I get a great feeling from someone who says to me ‘wow, that is interesting’.

What has been your favourite project?

I think it’s been PG TalkFest – I’ve set up a place where other people can practice speaking and it’s wonderful to see how they do it. I feel that I’ve been able to pass on my presenting experience but have also learnt from the presenters.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

In a few days I’ll be doing an ecology workshop in a school, the following week I’ll be doing a Cafe Scientifique in my area and I’m trying to get into festivals. I’m also planning to put together an interview I conducted with an PhD student a couple of weeks ago. There are still many ways to communicate science that I want to try!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

There are so many different ways in which you can do it, so you’ll be able to find something that suits the amount of time you have and the kind of person you are. See what is already out there – on the internet or maybe where you work – and just give it a go! Also try to get some contacts by attending events or follow people on Twitter. I was able to start presenting thanks to a contact I had.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @Sarah_Cosgriff 

Huw James

Speaking to… Huw James

“It takes me all over the world, talking about stuff I love to talk about, that’s really exciting to me.”

 

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

Huw-James-science-communication
Huw James
Credit Elin Roberts

Name?

Huw James

Where are you based?

Cardiff, Wales.

Who do you work for?

I work for the people! I run my own business out of that there Cardiff in Wales. Have worked for many great people in the past though, all much nicer than my current boss.

What type of science communication do you do?

I do live interactive shows, writing, producing and presenting them. Have recently moved into some more TV and Radio work as well. If I was going to give my Science Communication a “type”, I’d say Progressive House or Nu-Disco?

Who is your main audience?

Main audiences are Secondary school students, mainly because that’s my favourite audience. I still do primary too though, and do a lot of family audiences at Festivals and the likes too. Becoming more often now, my audience is a camera lens or a microphone. But I doubt I’d ever leave live presenting altogether, you get an instant feedback from audiences that just aren’t there with any other media.

How did you get into it?

As most Welsh Sci-Commers, I went down the “experience” over “academia” route, and after Uni went straight down to Techniquest Science Centre (the longest running Science Centre in the UK) to hand in something that resembled a CV. Luckily, with a background in Astronomy and Space Science, they rang me before I could even get back on the motorway! From there I headed to Science Made Simple where I learnt a lot about the Dos and Don’ts of Sci Comm and how to manage projects and write shows.

I definitely think that route was right for me, but a masters route may be right for the next person, some people do it mainly because it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge for them, and a challenge for the higher education system.

Why do you do it?

Honestly I do it to inspire people. Most of the things I do in a professional capacity is because I’m just an ordinary guy but I can do some amazing things. And the truth is that every ordinary people can do amazing things, everyone is special, the only difference is a mental blockade that stops people pushing harder for what they want. People regularly say “I can’t do that” when they really mean “well, I can’t really be bothered to do that”. Especially this new generation, there are so many that aren’t problem solvers. Would love to inspire more of them to be patient and achieve what they love.

Why do you think science communication is important?

Science Communication isn’t the only kind of communication thats important. People today need to be more informed on every level, about everything. Unfortunately, SO much goes on in the world today, its tough for someone to know everything.

I often describe Science Communication as one of the Welsh Valleys. Whenever anyone says “the valleys” to me, I automatically think of mine. But there are many valleys, and others will think of theirs. Whenever someone says Science Communication to me, I think of Live Shows in Schools and at Festivals. That arm is important to give teachers and parents something they don’t have time, energy and resources to do. We’re an aid to the curriculum, an aid to learning.

What do you love about your job?

I really enjoy the variety in it. Show Writing, Presenting, Script Writing, Travelling, Facilitating etc. It takes me all over the world, talking about stuff I love to talk about, that’s really exciting to me. But it also allows me to come back home too. And not just a house, to my home. A job that does all that and that you love, has to make you happy!

What has been your favourite project?

My favourite so far was one that actually didn’t get off the ground! Last year I put a team together to travel across the world for the Venus Transit. The project looked into the history and science of the transit and was going to use the CREST Awards to allow schools to interact with the field team, driving across the planet, and download science data from them. The schools would then compare their own data with the field team and schools across the world with the British Council Connecting Classrooms scheme to get a scientific map of the world. We would then live stream the Venus Transit back to the UK too. It was only a funding issue that stopped this from happening but I loved the idea of it, so much in fact I started a whole project based on the idea!

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

Wow, do I! My company recently split into 4 main projects specialising in 4 areas. HuwJames.Com is just me, my face that gets used and abused for TV, radio and training of people like FameLabbers and the likes. At the moment I’m filming Live Experiments along with a great cast for the new HeadSqueeze channel headed up by James May. 

My biggest project up until now and the one Ive run for the longest and most known for is Science Junkie. We’ve recently announced that the Science Junkie project has done its time and will be splitting into 2 brands, mine of which will be Education Extreme. For Education Extreme we’ll be running the Extreme Sports Show from Science Junkie, a new Science Rocks event looking at the Science of Rock Climbing, and a whole host of new shows! Our new shows range from an Extreme Sports Water Edition I’m writing with freelance science communicator Julie Gould. An Extreme Sports Reloaded Show that looks at the science of Slacklining, Cliff Diving and many others. And we have other shows and workshops that should keep our extreme sports fans busy all day long!

Next up we have Anturus (Welsh for Adventurous). In this project we’ll be off on adventures and expeditions around the world and relaying all the information back to UK schools. I already mentioned the Venus Transit Expedition I set up last year that failed to get funding. It’s proper tough to get funding for expeditions nowadays but we think this project has real legs to it. The idea is that we design CREST Awards (run by the British Science Association) that link in to current trips we’re on. The CREST Awards let the school students collate data from the field team, collect their own data in their environment, and compare it to the field team and others world wide using collaborative projects like Connecting Classrooms (British Council). The last remaining explorers are the Field Scientists we owe so much to, this is a way of bringing their ideas to the classroom. We’ve got a trip to Scotland lined up for February so we should be launching our first CREST Awards soon after!

Finally, On-Show. This is a project where we put STEM and STEM Engagement on show. This is a production project which creates STEM shows for use in festivals and schools that look at STEM subjects and the processes behind them. And try to help up and coming STEM Engagers with training and courses to develop skills and techniques for speaking in public and writing and producing STEM shows. Run by myself and Rob Wix, there’ll be lots of exciting things coming out of this project, we’re working on a new Roadshow for Bosch at the moment as well as a few other ideas too. One of the most exciting things for me is the STEM Engager Quality Mark we’re developing, a way for Science Communicators to get recognition for their skills in the area.

So yes, lots of exciting things going on and thats just a few of them! You can get to all of the above stuff at www.totheblue.co.uk to find out more, or drop me a line with the contact bit on that page. I LOVE working with driven people and the Science Communication world has an abundance of them!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

The main tip is to believe in yourself. Self Confidence is key. Not only in yourself but in the material you’re speaking about or conveying, and the opinions that you have. Science Communication as an industry can sometimes be a lonely world, mainly because it’s a small(ish) industry and two people very rarely share exactly the same ideology toward the industry or subjects but if you believe in yourself, others will to!

You can follow Huw on Twitter at @huwmjames or visit his website to find out what he’s up to.