Public Awareness Scientist, Faculty of Science
I am passionate about Chemistry. During my PhD I realised that what I really enjoyed was communicating this passion to others. I was very fortunate to be appointed to a unique job as Public Awareness Scientist (PASc) in the School of Chemistry at Nottingham in July 2004. This was a new EPSRC-funded post which gave me the freedom to define my role and to help others from Professor to undergraduate to communicate the fascination of science. I have achieved the following successes in addition to many other activities: (i) developing and delivering new Public Engagement (PE) activities outside the University, (ii) organizing a wide range of activities for children and the public within the School of Chemistry and across the Science and Engineering faculties, (iii) member of the Periodic Table of Videos (PTOV) team, an award-winning series of short videos that promote chemistry and the University, (iv) increasing the number of chemistry students and staff delivering PE activities and assisting with the development of their own projects, (v) receiving invitations from UK HEI's and organizations to share best practice and disseminate resources, (vi) development and delivery of three annual science communication training modules for postgraduates and PDRAs, (vii) disseminating my activities through lectures at the Royal Society, in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland, Canada and the USA, and via publications.
I pride myself in being able to communicate to schoolchildren the wonder, benefit and excitement of science. When I express my passion and enthusiasm for a subject the listener or audience seem to be buoyed along and become fully engaged with the topic. My philosophy has been to show how science is actually carried out rather than to convey stark facts. Whether it is devising an interactive exhibit to explain cutting-edge research to the public (the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2008), or providing training opportunities for postgraduates to improve communication skills, the aim is to get more people to talk about science. Enhancing the university student experience is essential; it is vital to inspire the next generation of students to consider university study. It is also a mutually rewarding experience to both the inspirer and student, generating positive feeling all round.
The outreach activities I have developed enable undergraduate and postgraduate students to engage with audiences that they do not usually encounter during their studies. Students are looking to enrich their experiences at university, by undertaking a variety of roles and activities outside of their standard taught classes. PE is an ideal opportunity to broaden their skills base, and by providing activities where students can volunteer to engage with schoolchildren and the public about science, the students are receiving the socially committed higher education experience that they desire. Many students, and indeed staff, feel that they have a duty to communicate their work and its social and ethical implications to the public. Awareness of the work I do has inspired a number of students to develop their own activities, or use resources I can provide to deliver their own events such as visits to their former schools, or work with organisations such as the Scouts.
The Periodic Table of Videos (PTOV) www.periodicvideos.com, aim to explain chemistry in an informal, accessible and entertaining manner and what began as a series of videos about each element has now become a video channel that also includes the uses of molecules, the science linked to current affairs, and highlights of the latest research achievements in the School. My involvement in the PTOV project, is focused on performing experiments that illustrate scientific principles. These demonstrations have been extremely well received by the viewing public, a significant number of which are students at schools and colleges across the world. Not only has the use of online media enabled outreach to a significantly larger and more diverse audience, but such a method of communication enables almost instant feedback from the viewers.