Tag Archives: STEM

Lindsey Yoder

Speaking to… Lindsey Yoder

“I fully embrace my inner nerd and want to share with our youth that science is our future and it is so exciting!”

Lindsey-Yoder-Science-Communication
Lindsey Yoder

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

Name?

Lindsey Yoder

Where are you based?

Hillsborough, NC

Who do you work for?

Merck

What type of science communication do you do?

I am a Science Cheerleader, a group of current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders that have STEM- based careers. We engage the public through appearances and on the web to learn about science. We inspire adults to participate in science experiments and activities, and our youth to pursue a career in science.

Who is your main audience?

We engage all ages but I connect mostly with young girls. I help them understand that you don’t have to fit a certain mold to be a scientist- you can be a cheerleader and a engineer or a gymnast and a doctor!

How did you get into it?

In college I was an ambassador for the College of Engineering. In this role I would recruit potential students to consider pursuing a degree in Engineering. I was on the college dance team and would share my experiences balancing school and sports to inspire students to take on the challenging Engineering courses. I would explain how exciting Engineering is and all the opportunities it presents. My passion for communicating how great STEM is has never left, and I was extremely eager to be a Science Cheerleader the moment I heard about it.

Why do you do it?

I grew up thinking scientists were born smart; that they solved math equations instead of playing with dolls and went to MIT and Harvard. I did believe the stereotypes, and found myself hiding the fact that I was smart so that I wouldn’t be labeled as a ‘nerd’. Now I fully embrace my inner nerd and want to share with our youth that science is our future and it is so exciting! The opportunities I have been given were given to me because of my science background and I want everyone to have these same opportunities to do really cool things that solve the world’s problems!

Why do you think science communication is important?

I think it is so important because science is what solves the world’s problems and if we don’t communicate how cool science is, then we won’t have anyone interested in science to help shape our future.

What do you love about science communication?

The thing I love most about science communication is seeing others get excited about learning something new, and then start asking questions about everything around them like ‘How is that made?’ or ‘Why use that material?’

What has been your favourite project?

My favorite project with Science Cheerleader has been Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on ISS) This research aims to compare microbes we collect at various venues across the nation, with those the astronauts find on the ISS. We’ll also compare growth rates by sending up to 40 of the samples we collect to the ISS!

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I continue to do appearances and speaking engagements on behalf of Science Cheerleader, and our Project MERCCURI is still going on!

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Volunteers are needed so test the waters by contacting your local science museum. From there you can participate in events and get involved with communicating science to the public.

Terry Harvey-Chadwick

Speaking to… Terry Harvey-Chadwick

Terry-Harvey-Chadwick-science-communication
Terry Harvey-Chadwick

“My dream would be for a scientist, at some time in the future, to relate how this person (me) came to their school and ignited their interest and enabled them to start a career in science.”

 

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Terry Harvey-Chadwick

Name?

Terry Harvey-Chadwick

Where are you based?

Seascale, in Cumbria. Right in the shadow of Sellafield, in fact.

Who do you work for?

Anyone who’ll book me. I’m a sole trader.

What sort of science communication do you do?

I call it Fun Science. It mainly consists of my two science shows, The Fun Science Show and The Fire Show, and various STEM-based workshops that I offer. The Fire Show which has, incidentally, been booked for the young people’s programme at the British Science Festival this year, is mainly aimed at upper primary and lower secondary school pupils. It’s basically a collection of some of my favourite classroom demonstrations, but all put together into a themed show. It has proved extremely popular in schools, and even in a short run of theatres and community centres to family audiences around Cumbria. The Fun Science Show is all about using common household objects to demonstrate sometimes complex scientific principles. In many ways it’s like a 45 minute science busking session, but the audience love it because it gives them ideas for things they can do at home. My workshops range from making bath bombs to building towers using spaghetti and marshmallows, which are all common STEM activities often used by science clubs. However, there are an awful lot of schools who don’t have science clubs and have never seen things like these shows and workshops, so it’s a good introduction into STEM for many. The main thing is that they have an experienced qualified science teacher (I still work supply) coming to them doing unusual science activities that the children love, and are often talking about for weeks afterwards. A lot of people make the mistake of going into schools and saying they are there to make science fun. I profoundly disagree with that statement, used by teachers and science communicators alike. I believe that science IS fun. I am there to show that to my audience. I don’t shy away from the fact that, for many people, science is also very hard. But what fun is an activity without an element of challenge? When, at the end of a show or workshop, I get people coming up to me and saying they found it difficult, but they were enjoying it so much they could not give up and eventually succeeded, that is what it is all about for me.

Who is your main audience?

Primary school-aged children, although adults and teenagers all like what I do as well.

How did you get into it?

I was a secondary school science teacher and took voluntary redundancy from my last school a couple of years ago. I used the money to start SV Educational Services and started by offering science parties in the local area. I then developed my two science shows and put together some workshops and used my local primary school to test them. With some good feedback in my pocket I offered my services to schools in Cumbria and things are developing from there.

Why do you do it?

I just love science and want to let everyone else know how fantastic and amazing it is. I concentrate on relatively simple science demonstrations and workshops, things that the children can relate to and that most primary schools will have the resources to take further, if they want. Many of my demonstrations from The Fun Science Show are things the children can do at home, and I get a lot of feedback from schools about how their pupils have gone away and tried them for themselves. The fact that I have enthused them to do that gives me a warm glow. I hope that enthusiasm will motivate some children to experiment further. My dream would be for a scientist, at some time in the future, to relate how this person (me) came to their school and ignited their interest and enabled them to start a career in science.

Why do you think science communication is important?

Science is more important now than ever. It has solved many things and brought some even greater challenges for humanity in the future. The fact remains that our future will be technological and science driven and it’s important that our children grow up prepared to live in such a world. All children learn the basics of science in school but it’s important that people are kept up to date with the latest issues that will affect them. Science communication has such a broad remit, from explaining the latest issues, how science and scientists work, to enthusing school children to be interested in science. Almost everything we use today has been created by science and, at the very least, it’s important that people have an appreciation of where all these gadgets have come from and why we are able to enjoy such a good standard of living.

What do you love about science communication?

Watching the excitement of the faces of children and adults alike as I show them how to use common household objects to demonstrate sometimes quite complicated scientific principles. It’s great when they realise that science doesn’t always have to be done by brainy people in white coats. They can do it too.

What has been your favourite project?

I don’t really have a favourite current project. Although the next question will deal with my favourite project that is coming up.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

Yes.

Oh, alright then. I have two new projects in the pipeline. They both combine my two favourite subjects: history and science. In my company name, SV Educational Services, the SV stands for Science Viking. I’m also a professional historical interpreter specialising in Vikings. I’m now broadening my period and developing a monk scribe (who cannot write very well) character to present the history and science of ink. The second new character is a medieval alchemist, a contemporary of Paracelsus, to present a history of chemistry. One of my skills is to seamlessly break in and out of character to highlight differences between the mind-sets of historical and modern people. I do a lot of work in schools and museums as a Viking, and I have found that people like to have the comparison during my “performances”.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

I think you need a passion for your subject, imagination and good people skills. If you’re going freelance, like I did, don’t sell yourself short when deciding on your fees. But, at the same time, make sure you gain plenty of experience by volunteering. I volunteered at The Big Bang Festival and found it invaluable. Talk to as many people as you can. Everyone is really helpful to newcomers. The main thing is, don’t give up. It will take two or three years before you get well known enough to be able to make a decent living out of it.

You can follow Terry on Twitter at @ScienceViking66

Speaking to… Peter Wright

Peter-Wright-science-communication
Peter Wright

“I’m a maker at heart. I love tinkering, building things and carrying out my own crazy experiments”

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

Name?

Peter Wright

Where are you based?

Rural Devon – just north of Dartmoor

Who do you work for?

Myself (I own the company – Wonderstruck Ltd)

What type of science communication do you do?

We cover a range of different things. Our main activity involves going into primary and secondary schools around the UK running a range of exciting STEM workshops and shows. All of our workshops are team-based, most are competitive and they all involve building something that does something – cars powered by fans, hovercraft, two-stage water rockets, robots, medieval siege engines etc. Our shows are spectacular; including some of the loudest bangs it’s safe to do indoors, 4 metre fireballs, setting the presenter’s head on fire and plenty more.

We take the science communication part of this seriously though; it’s very easy to overdo the ‘entertainment’ side of things and forget about the science. Everything we do is explained at a level appropriate to the audience. We do sometimes deliver workshops for museums, but generally not shows, as 4 metre fireballs don’t usually mix well with collections of valuable paintings etc.

We also deliver workshops for some university summer schools.

Another part of our business involves developing and building science-based educational resources for museums. We’ve worked with quite a few museums in this capacity – Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, HM Tower of London, Historic Dockyard Chatham, Royal Engineers Museum, The Royal Gunpowder Mills, The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter amongst others. This involves another aspect of science communication as most of this type of work is designed to be delivered by people who aren’t necessarily science specialists so activities have to be simple and the science learning has to be quite intrinsic.

We have in the past done a lot of resource development for the likes of the NHS and The Royal Navy and also worked on projects with the now defunct Creative Partnerships (an organisation which brought together people from different backgrounds to work with schools on a massive range of projects). Unfortunately though, with the downturn in the economy and change of government, most of this work dried up.

Who is your main audience?

Following on from above, most of our work is now directly with primary & secondary students and informal learners in museums.

How did you get into it?

I went into engineering after university which was great because I learned a lot of the practical skills that are now essential to what I do. After that I became a physics teacher but after 3 years, to be honest, got a bit disheartened with the lack of time to be creative with the subject. I moved into the informal sector and developed and ran the education programme at a (then) new visitor attraction called Action Stations, based on the modern Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. After 3 years of that I had the opportunity to work part-time for the University of Portsmouth helping to develop the science strand of their schools outreach programme. During that time I set up Wonderstruck and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why do you do it?

I’ve always been fascinated by science and I’m a maker at heart. I love tinkering, building things and carrying out my own crazy experiments – we’ve had a cheeseburger and fries on a plate in the office for a year and taken a picture of it every day to record its decay (or lack of). I recently stitched all the stills together and put together a short time lapse film which you can find on our channel on YouTube (wonderstruckwow).

What I do now gives me a great sense of freedom. I can come up with ideas and work them up into workshops or resources and I love the opportunity to communicate all this stuff.

Recently, for example, I’ve learned how to crack a bullwhip for a new show demonstration about pressure, shockwaves and the speed of sound. And I’ll be programming microcontrollers as part of a project to develop some educational interactives for a museum. If, however, the sun comes out I might go and mow the grass instead!

Why do you think science communication is important?

STEM is the very core of our modern world. It holds the key to so much that could make our future as a species more amazing than we could imagine – defeating disease and hunger, colonisation of space etc. I think that it is unbelievably important that we inspire future generations to get involved. I also think that having an understanding of the natural world around us is essential to getting people to understand how we should be behaving in an ecological/conservation sense.

On a more mundane level I also think that too many people are simply passive consumers of technology, using it without understanding anything about it, and I constantly feel the urge to encourage inquisitiveness. That’s one of the main reasons I feel that the current popularity of ‘making’ is such a positive trend. It’s turning people into active consumers who understand that with a little knowledge they can modify pre-packaged technology and get it to do something different.

What do you love about science communication?

I love the opportunity to speak to people about science. When I’m running workshops I love to see students engaged in a task and learning without even realising that they are learning. I think that is an incredibly rewarding experience.

What has been your favourite project?

Always the one that’s just coming up!

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

We’re currently working with the University of Portsmouth to develop an outreach project based on robot motion. The idea is to get primary and secondary school children to think creatively about how things move and that motion doesn’t always have to involve wheels. There’s plenty of inspiration available in the natural world – particularly when you start to look at microscopic life forms.

We also have an exciting project on the drawing board which will involve working with schools in India – but that’s still in its early stages so I can’t say too much about that one.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

That’s a difficult one because science communication is such a broad discipline. I can’t really offer much advice regarding the media side of things but as regards doing the kind of stuff we do – a teaching background is very useful. If you’re planning to work with schools, particularly running workshops you do need to understand how to manage a classroom and how to design a task that will keep children engaged and learning. A sense of fun, plenty of energy and creativity are also essential. Getting experience of running activities in museums and at science festivals is also good practice.

 

Ann Hoang

Speaking to… Ann Hoang

“As any writer will tell you, the best way to improve your writing is to read more.”

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

Ann-Hoang-science-communication
Ann Hoang

Name?

Ann Hoang

Who do you work for?

I founded STEMinist in 2010. It’s a website where we feature news and profiles about women in science, tech, engineering and math. In my other life I am a Software Engineer for a research group in the University of Oregon’s College of Education.

What type of science communication do you do?

On STEMinist our most popular feature is our profiles. We do email interviews with women from a variety of STEM careers, typically asking them questions about their backgrounds, interests, and advice they may have for other women in STEM.

In addition to the profiles, we publish links to articles about women in STEM.

Who is your main audience?

Our audience is mostly people working in STEM. There are also a lot of people and organizations involved in STEM education and outreach as well.

How did you get into it?

When I first joined Twitter a few years ago I discovered, much to my pleasant surprise, a large community of women in STEM. It was so inspiring to know I wasn’t alone. STEMinist initially started out as a Tweet aggregator and then evolved into publishing original content as well as curating relevant links.

Why do you do it?

There are many reasons behind the lack of women in STEM (see the AAUW’s excellent 2010 report “Why So Few?”) but one of the issues I felt I could take action on was visibility. Through our profiles, links, and social media we want to help women in STEM be seen and heard.

What do you love about your job?

The feedback from our followers. I work on STEMinist in my spare time and sometimes it gets hard to find the time, but then I’ll get a message or Tweet about how someone loves what we do. It reminds me that though the premise of our site is relatively simple, it fulfills an important purpose. Just the other day one of the first women we profiled on STEMinist reported a gal approached her at a conference and told her how inspired she was after reading her profile on our site! It doesn’t get better than that.

What has been your favourite project?

I have as much fun reading the profiles as much as compiling them! But last year around NCAA Basketball Tournament time we held our own “tournament” called STEMinist Madness. We started with a field of 64 historical women in STEM and readers voted on head-to-head match-ups until we eventually ended up with a champion (Ada Lovelace). I’d love to do more projects like that which intersect the worlds of STEM and pop culture.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

As any writer will tell you, the best way to improve your writing is to read more. So I would encourage you to find, follow, and read your favorite science writers (I’ve found great people on ScienceBlogs.com and Scientopia.org.

You can follow the amazing STEMinist profiles and features on Twitter at @STEMinist or visit the website directly at www.steminist.com

Dr Heather Williams

Speaking to…Dr Heather Williams

“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

Dr Heather Williams
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.
 
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
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.