Friday, 20 June 2014

Having Fun With Science

In the second year of my undergraduate degree, I signed with up to a student mentorship program with a nearby school in cherryhinton, Cambridge. I was paired with a pleasant 16year old girl and each week we met I came away content knowing I could make a difference to a young girls choices in life. (She relocated to Australlia so I have no measure of impact).
Four years later after my MSc, I signed up with STEMNET to become a STEM Ambassador. From inspirational days to judging competitions to helping kids make olympic sports wear, the last three years as an ambassador have been such an educative, challenging, enjoyable and fulfilling experience. My biggest challenge was delivering a workshop to different groups of students throughout the day on Pharmaceutical careers at the Univeristy of Essex as part of a health science conference. At the end of the day, I was all talked out but I knew I was ready to expand my public engagement portfolio.

"I am writing to thank you all for your efforts and support of The Health ScienceConference at The University of Essex last Friday.
From looking at the initial feedback the day was a great success and students and teachers really enjoyed the day.
All of the workshops were well received and the Exhibition Area was excellent and thanks to all of the workshop presenters and exhibitors for their hard work in bringing props, displays etc and for providing excellent information". - Lydia Wynne-Jones

I will be at the Big Bang Fair (Eastern) with the Society of Biology with an exciting activity  
next month (come say hello!) and after my Science Communication Training Day, I've developed an 
activity ready to excite and enthuse a generation. I have another yet challenging but exciting project
lined up for latter this year (Stay tuned for the blog post). 

A colleague once asked, "Is it that you have too much time on your hands to spare?", during a walk to 
town to purchase some balloons for an activity, - on the contrary there's never enough hours in the day. 

At the recent training day, the morning plenary lecture was given by Elizabeth Granger (a 2012 winner of the Society of Biology science commnucation award, recent PhD graduate and now manager of the Ri Young Scientist Centre at University of Central Lancashire) on 'Balancing PhD research with public engagement - why bother?' 

Here's a summary of why we bother:
  •  If you are working with young people, you have the opportunity to make a difference and inspire someone  in a generation.
  •  On the individual level, public engagement is really fun.
  •  It's a great way to meet people and to develop a network.
  •  It's good for personal growth and career developement. 
  •  There is always a sense of fulfillment after each activity.
  •  For funding purposes, a lot of grant applications require you to factor in public engagement which you have to do.
  • If you think of public engagement in the social context, you have an obligation especially if your research is funded by the public to let them know and understand what you are doing.
  • With each activity you get to push your boundaries and do things outside your comfort zone.
  • You get to do something different away from the bench and it makes your next expeirment even more enjoyable.
Word of Advice:
  • Juggling is always tricky, so be realistic about what you can take on. 
  • Don't say yes to something you can't deliver on.
  • Get as much training as possible
  • Most importantly make sure you enjoy yourself.  

So since my first student mentorship program I'm still here being an Ambassador for Science and still having lots of fun. If you're after a science communicator or public engagement personnel, do get in touch and I'll be happy to have a chat. 

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