“Science it isn’t the preserve of geeks and nerds hiding away in laboratories, it is the means by which we grasp how our world works.”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Dr Heather Williams
Name? Dr Heather Williams
Who do you work for?
Central Manchester University Hospitals, as a Senior Medical Physicist for Nuclear Medicine
What type of science communication do you do?
I’m a STEM Ambassador and often give careers talks, guest lectures, and speeches at award ceremonies in that capacity. I’ve also acted as a demonstrator on Lab in a Lorry and science busker for Bang Goes the Theory: Live. I’m also active in discussing science – including the science I do – on Twitter (@alrightPET) and drew on these connections earlier this year to found ScienceGrrl (@Science_Grrl), a network of predominantly female scientists who are passionate about passing on their love of STEM to the next generation.
Who is your main audience?
Mainly secondary school and college students, although there are also adults at some of the guest lectures I give.
How did you get into it?
I registered as a STEM ambassador after taking on responsibility for work experience placements in our department, which I was given as I was a volunteer youth worker at the time and therefore thought to be the best person to relate to young people! It all sprung from there.
Why do you do it?
I love being able to make science understood, and helping people understand that it underpins every aspect of life – it isn’t the preserve of geeks and nerds hiding away in laboratories, it is the means by which we grasp how our world works.
What do you love about your job?
I’m a Medical Physicist primarily, I look after imaging equipment and the associated software, and make sure it gives reliable results, so the medics interpreting the images can trust what they see and make the right judgements about what is wrong with their patients.
What has been your favourite project?
At work? My PhD, which proved conclusively that my idea for imaging cell multiplication rates in lung tumours was rubbish. Within science communication? Passing on a demonstration from one of my lectures to the producer of Bang Goes the Theory comes pretty close (they used it in episode 2 of the last series), but if I’m honest it was how well my speech was received at the launch party for the ScienceGrrl 2013 calendar.
Start by trying to explain what you do in simple terms, but don’t patronise your audience. Imagine you are trying to communicate your work to the person sitting next to you on the train or the bus; you want them to get off at their stop thinking your work is brilliant – and you aren’t bad either.