Tag Archives: STEM Ambassador

Speaking to… Sarah Weldon

It’s quite ironic, that technology and things like the World Wide Web mean that we have more access than ever to the world, yet we have also become disconnected to the planet. We take it for granted.

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Image courtesy Sarah Weldon

Name: Sarah Weldon, CEO of UK Charity Oceans Project

Based: live in the Lake District, from Henley-On-Thames, and doing a PhD part time at Roehampton University, so I’m pretty much all over the UK, especially as I run talks for schools through School Speakers. 

What is your background? I originally trained as a neuropsychologist, so I’m excited about the biology of the brain affects our behaviour. This led to a 17-year career in the NHS and social services, as well as abroad, mainly working with young people.

As a keen scuba diver, I also trained as an IMCA Diver Medic Technician at the Diving Diseases Research Centre in Plymouth. I was terrible at physics and chemistry at school, but loved human biology, its only now as an adult, learning about the electrics on my boat, and things like navigation and tides, that I’m really enjoying STEM subjects, in a real life context.

Why are you interested in science communication?

Probably because I just didn’t get it at school. I was in a mixed ability class, with lots of naughty boys and mainly supply teachers, so we were just given a heavy book to carry to lessons. It was only in later life that I really discovered science and all the different careers, so I wasted a lot of time. If we had been exposed to science communicators and STEM Ambassadors from the world outside of school, I think we would have been more excited and exposed to the opportunities available to us.

I love those moments when I meet young people, talk to them and just know that something has clicked, and their face has a complete look of excitement. That’s how learning should be, it’s about exploration of the world around us and being allowed to ask questions. As we get older, we often stop asking the question ‘why’. The world is changing so fast around us, that we need scientists to continue making progress. In my own lifetime, the World Wide Web was invented and that in itself has revolutionised the way we live our lives. Education really has to keep learning fresh and new.  Continue reading

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.”

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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.

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