Archives for category: Public Communication

Let’s get one thing clear. Although I feel quite bitter about having my research career curtailed, this is not a “last choice”. This is a positive life change.  I’ve not waited until I no longer have a job in research, in fact I have resigned a contract with 3-years left to run. I’m taking a positive move to do something I’ve always thought I’d be quite good at and always fancied doing. With the 20-20 vision of hindsight it is something I perhaps should have done three or four years ago.

I had been pretty keen to make contact with schools and interactions with kids and the general public an integral part of my academic career. I have grabbed every chance to take part in various projects as a member of the Beacon’s for Wales, including a researcher’s in residence scheme where I did 3 visits to a school in Cwmbran to do demonstrations and practicals which gave a flavour of my research, but also tied into the A-level syllabus of the classes I was taking.  Through Beacons I have also taken part in the BBC programme Bang Goes The Theory answering questions from the general public. There were a couple of other schools engagement projects that I’d have liked to have taken part in, but my line manager wasn’t so keen…Grrrr.

But my passion for teaching didn’t even start as a professional scientist.  It has always been there; I chose to do my work experience week aged 15 in a local primary school. Even at that age I loved the challenge of explaining something simply to an inquisitive audience. So I’m pretty excited about the new challenges that are ahead.

I’m slightly worried that I am going into this with too many pre-conceived notions of what makes a good teacher. But I assume everyone does. Everyone has memories of one, or perhaps a few great teachers that made lessons fun and interesting and often have had such a profound effect on you that they shaped the route of your life upon leaving school. I certainly had three science teachers who inspired me to become a scientist. I hope that I can enthuse a student or two to love science. If I can inspire one student to go into scientific research then I’ll have replaced myself. If I can inspire two then science will be better off. If I can inspire hundreds over a whole career, then it’ll have all been worth it.

I can’t wait to get started.

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Thanks to my earlier re-posting of my Western Mail Articles, I was identified by the lovely people at The Times Higher Education (THE) magazine as someone who a) had a professional interest in ion channels and b) was interested in public communication of science, to review a book on ion channels written for a lay audience.

The book was Frances Ashcroft’s The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body, and you can read my review on the THE website here.  In short it’s a bloody awesome book and I had such a great time reading a lay history of a subject I have spent the past 10 years studying professionally.  Looking back, a month after writing the review, I do feel a little bad for saying anything negative at all. I think I was a bit worried about appearing sycophantic so dug very deep to find even a minor criticism of her book. Still, hopefully the review comes across as positive and that if you had a vague interest in understanding what I do as a biophysicist hopefully you’ll want to read the book.

Finally, a tip for doing a book review – take some notes as you’re reading, or stick some post-its on key pages.  I got so engrossed in the book I did neither and ended up having to buy a kindle version when I wrote the review so I could search for things I’d previously read.