In May each year the Pint of Science festival turns pubs across the UK – and the world – into centres of cutting edge research. You can join discussions on the latest developments in everything from string theory to toxicology and the scientists themselves are at the heart of the conversation.
She talks about her experience of taking part in the festival, and gives advice for others who want to share the fruits of their research.
How did you get involved?
The first time I heard of Pint of Science was back in 2014. My colleague Dr Gary Mirams, a computer scientist and Sir Henry Dale Fellow, was invited to give a talk on ‘Matters of the Heart’. Gary recommended that I join him and we perform a double-act. We talked about cardiac research from a biological and mathematical perspective and used a pub quiz on the heart to break up the evening. It was a stimulating experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.
What made you want to take part this year?
My previous experience in 2014 definitely played a major role in my decision to do this all over again. I was approached by the British Pharmacological Society who were sponsoring our event, and to be honest, it didn’t take much persuasion. Pint of Science always have a great line up of speakers and I was honoured to be invited to speak again.
How did it go?
I was quite nervous and extremely excited when we were informed that our event had ‘sold out’. Although I had done this event a couple of years ago, I still felt quite nervous about the evening. Dr Rebecca Capel, a post-doctoral research fellow working with me on my Sir Henry Dale Fellowship shared the event. We prepared a stimulating and entertaining quiz on the weird and wonderful facts about the heart. One particular question that stood out and was a major source of entertainment involved naming the four humors of Hippocratic medicine (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood).
The evening went down swimmingly and we had a great laugh too with some of the fascinating answers. The audience were a fabulous bunch. A quick show of hands indicated around 50% of the audience considered themselves as scientists whilst the other half were from all walks of life, including patients, or parents of patients, with cardiac conditions; young students in the humanities, staff from the hospital etc. We even had a few people in the audience who had travelled from outside Oxford to listen to the talk. I was humbled by some of the comments from the audience regarding their appreciation of our research and efforts in contributing to the understanding of disease mechanisms and the development of cardiac therapies.
How does your engagement work impact on your research?
I have been involved in several outreach programmes over the last few years such as the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition and a few local school projects. My interaction with the public has re-enforced my drive to do good research, be a positive role model for children both in the UK and outside the UK and to make a difference in people’s lives.
What would be your advice to other scientists?
From a mentor’s perspective, I am thrilled that my post-doctoral scientist Becky (Capel) loved her very first experience of public engagement and has since gone on to do a few more events in her local school. I am a big fan of engaging with our future generation and inspiring young children to consider careers in academia and allied areas. Breaking down complex topics into bite size, comprehensive lay information is not a trivial task, however, and being able to get across to the public our aims and passion is extremely important, given that most of our research and livelihoods are reliant on public funding.
My most sincere advice to other scientists who haven’t yet had a go is to try and get involved in outreach work. You will be surprised by the positive impact it can have. It’s a great experience, lots of fun and very rewarding. I highly recommend others to have a go.