In a few short months I will be standing on a wooden box shouting about immunology to anyone lucky enough to walk past me. Don’t worry, I’m not carefully planning a mid-PhD breakdown, I’m taking part in Soapbox Science. Soapbox Science puts female scientists on a platform for an hour, speaker’s corner style, to talk about their work. It’s about getting successful female scientists out there to challenge stereotypes and inspire the next generation. It’s also a great opportunity to engage the unsuspecting public with research on a Saturday afternoon. From a single event in London 5 years ago, Soapbox has grown to events across the country. This year there will even be a Soapbox event in Australia. I’ll be taking part in the Manchester event on 23rd July.
It takes a good reason to get me out of bed before 9 am on a Saturday morning. Luckily science is a great reason, and getting a chance to share science, even better. This weekend our research centre joined other scientists from Manchester at the Body Experience at Manchester Museum. The whole museum was turned in to the human body for a family day, complete with real kidneys and pieces of brain to see and touch (I recommend before lunch, not afterwards!) and plenty of games and activities explaining parts of our body. We represented the immune system, challenging visitors to identify good and bad bacteria, hit a flu target with Velcro antibodies and find the infected ducks in our pond. The duck pond was dreamt up by one of the postdocs in ourlab as a way to explain how your natural killer cells identify infected cells to target. We’ve used it at quite a few public engagement events and the bright yellow ducks never fail to draw interest. Of course some of the younger children just want to play with the ducks, but with older children, or parents of children just playing, I had some great conversations about the immune system. From the entertaining to the reminders of why research matters, here’s a few of my conversations over ducks.
Where are all the quarks? Am I what I eat? What has the large hadron collider done for me? I learned the answer to all these questions and more competing in Fame Lab UK this month. Fame Lab is an international science communication competition which challenges participants to present a Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths concept in an entertaining way in just three minutes. Piece of cake right? In early February I went along to a workshop at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry to find out more.