Category Archives: Case Study

Learning quality engagement principles in IAS Academy

Katie is a PhD student at University College Cork, Teagasc Moorepark and APC Microbiome. She signed up for the IAS Academy online course on public engagement principles offered at the same time as taking part in I’m a Scientist.

Katie believes taking the course ‘really added value’ to her experience: “The IAS Academy was of interest to me as I haven’t had the opportunity for much formal training in outreach and felt that my skills could be improved by doing it alongside the IAS activity.”

 

It was possible to bring up scenarios from the school chats and discuss them with a mentor and peers, getting new insight, feedback and ideas in return.

Enhancing the learning experience
“Taking part in both activities concurrently allowed me to engage in active, reflective learning. The learning materials were of very high quality and gave me a grounding in key concepts such as science capital and mutually beneficial research.

The lunchtime chats with Dr Hannah Little were great. It was possible to bring up various scenarios from the school chats and discuss them with a mentor and peers, getting new insight, feedback and ideas in return.”

Informing effective engagement
“In particular, learning about science capital has really changed my mindset and approach to public engagement.

I also think that the idea of science communication being mutually beneficial to the public and researchers has changed my perspective on the activities that I engage with at my research institute. I’m looking forward to putting these ideas into practice.”

I would highly recommend the Academy course to other scientists if you can secure funding and make time for the lunchtime chats and course materials.

It really helps you to reflect on the IAS experience and become more effective at engaging people of all levels of interest in science.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist activity, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Work for an institution? Find out how to build public engagement capacity and quality through Academy Training Packages for your researchers.

Posted on January 20, 2020 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Learning quality engagement principles in IAS Academy

Transforming perceptions of public engagement

Julian is an active malaria researcher. He also leads a programme of learning and engagement around genomics for scientists, healthcare professionals and public audiences.

In 2011, Julian took part in the Argon Zone of I’m a Scientist and describes it as a ‘transformative moment’ in his public engagement career:
“On my office wall I have a couple of papers that have made the covers of certain journals. Right next to them is my certificate from I’m a Scientist”

 

The creativity of the format opened me up to a real vibrancy in public engagement.

Learning new ways of engaging
“It taught me about dialogue and the importance of two-way engagement. There’s something about the online, pseudonymous format that means everyone asks questions, not just those at the front of the room.”

I love that students have power. It made me think ‘ Oh that’s interesting, how do you manage to even the playing field in engagement activities?

I learnt that people aren’t just interested in the science, the research, but also the process and the people behind it.”

Changing how things are done
“The creativity of the format opened me up to a real vibrancy in public engagement – the range of ideas that were out there, as well as the community of skilled and dedicated engagement professionals.

“We did a Sanger Institute-only zone after I took part and it was the biggest uptake of any public engagement event we’d done at that point.

This confirmed my tentative theory that most people have an interest in doing engagement, we just need to keep finding ways of making it accessible and exciting.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist activity, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Work for an institution? Find out how to fund regular places in the activity for your researchers.

Posted on December 4, 2019 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Transforming perceptions of public engagement

Highlighting technician roles in industry

Jess Leung took part in an I’m a Scientist general zone along with five other scientists from a range of industries and career stages.

School students were very interested in her work “testing flavours that go into food and drinks” and she found the whole experience rewarding, fun and flexible enough to fit in around her work schedule.

 

The activity allowed students to understand the diversity of science in relation to its job routes, industries and education.

Flexible time commitment
As a technician at Kerry Ingredients, Jess works alternating day and night shifts. “Fitting the I’m a Scientist activity around my job was fortunately quite a success,” she says, “I was able to fit the live chats around my shift pattern.”

Questions from the students were sent to Jess for her to answer as and when she found the time, and this meant that even if she couldn’t make a live chat with a class she’d still be able to answer their questions about her work.

Different entry points to science
By chatting to the students about her education and career path, Jess felt she was able to open their eyes to entry routes to science that they might not have considered previously.

“A lot of students might have thought you had to study plenty before becoming a ‘scientist’,” says Jess, “but in reality you can choose to study for a Bachelor’s degree and work your way up from there.”

“I think the activity allowed students to understand the diversity of science in relation to its job routes, industries and also education,” Jess comments. “If you’re on the fence about whether to take part in the next I’m a Scientist, just go for it!”


If you work in a technical role and want to take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/technicians, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on October 10, 2019 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Highlighting technician roles in industry

Kickstarting an award winning public engagement career

Suzi won the Brain Zone back in June 2011 as a PhD student at the University of Bristol. She wanted to put her prize money towards starting a podcast that explained the science of substance use.

 

I’m a Scientist was the catalyst to me starting a blog and applying for a BSA Media Fellowship… I doubt any of that would have happened without it.

“I think it would be good for kids to be able to find out about drugs from the scientists who are researching them,” said Suzi on her profile in 2011. “What do you think of this idea? I’d love to hear your ideas too, this is just to get the ball rolling!”

After winning, Suzi did use the £500 to start her podcast, Say Why to Drugs. “I bought a microphone and some train tickets to travel the country interviewing addiction and recreational drugs researchers. In these interviews, we talk about what is currently known about the effects of various recreational drugs.”

I’m a Scientist really inspired me to get involved with more public outreach!” says Suzi. “It was the catalyst to me starting a blog and applying for a BSA Media Fellowship.”

Suzi was awarded the Media Fellowship with BBC Science in 2013, and her podcast has grown to over 1 million listeners. In 2016, she won the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science for her podcast. “I doubt any of these things would have happened without I’m a Scientist,” she says.


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on July 24, 2019 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Kickstarting an award winning public engagement career

Improving communication skills and finding phrases that work

 

Aileen remembers taking part in I’m a Scientist when at school. Now a PhD student in Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods, Aileen participated as a scientist in the Climate Zone.

Aileen had had experience communicating her work to visitors at her research institute and at one off events like Big Bang Fair. However, she believes taking part helped her develop short ‘quick-fire’ explanations of her research.

 

If you suddenly clam up, it’s a lot easier to get past that if you’re behind a screen. It was a good format to practise and prepare for the unexpected.

Impressing a tough crowd
The need to regularly get across information ‘succinctly’ in live chats particularly helped Aileen develop her shorter explanations. She felt that because students could easily switch their interest to someone else, without worrying about her feelings, she was forced to explain herself as clearly and quickly as possible.

“Because you’re not in person, there’s not that level of politeness. It’s just ‘I’m not interested any more, bye, I’m going to speak to someone else’… I kind of think it makes you have to get better.”

Becoming comfortable with the unexpected
The computer-based, text only nature of the activity also meant she was comfortable taking a moment to compose answers to unexpected questions.

“It’s preparing you for the unexpected… you’re behind the screen so if you suddenly have 30 seconds when you clam up, it’s a lot easier. Rather than, ‘oh god there’s a major investor stood in front of me and I really need to answer them now’.”

Aileen says her elevator pitch has since helped her in professional contexts. “In terms of turning up to conferences and that kind of thing, rather than going in to the whole ‘I do this this and this and I’m a PhD student…’ being able to explain what I do in a very short speech is helpful.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 25, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Improving communication skills and finding phrases that work

Long lasting benefits for employees and employers

 

Before taking part in I’m an Engineer, Emma Ryan felt the engagement events she was involved in weren’t reaching those who would benefit most. “Talking to girls about engineering is a big push for what I do,” she says, “but we were going to speak to women at university who know they’re doing engineering… I think it’s more important to go back to primary school.”

In I’m an Engineer, Emma was able to directly reach this audience. Winning the zone then gave her £500 towards her own engagement activities, which she used to leverage support from her employer.

 

The workshop is now becoming a permanent part of our outreach activities.

“Lockheed paid for half of the 3D printer, which is used to run workshops in primary schools,” says Emma, “and the workshop is now becoming a permanent part of our outreach activities.”

Emma plans to continue developing the workshop and is bringing her colleagues with her on school visits. ‘I’ve done five local schools and other teachers are requesting it. Lockheed are continuing to support and pay people to come and give me a hand. I’m still seeing what works and what doesn’t, but I’ve got feedback saying it’s good to see engineers are normal people, which is always a good message to spread!”

Emma has also gained on a personal and a professional level as a result of taking part. “My public profile was heightened from doing I’m an Engineer, and then the university invited me to do Bright Club and perform on BBC radio,” she says. “It’s also part of my doctoral portfolio, and the feedback I’ve had from my school visits will be part of my application to be a chartered engineer.


To take part in a future event, apply now. Scientists see imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information. Engineers, take a look at imanengineer.org.uk/engineers/, or contact admin@imanengineer.org.uk.

Posted on June 17, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Long lasting benefits for employees and employers

Two-way engagement: immediate feedback on communication

 

Before taking part in I’m a Scientist, Max Jamily’s previous outreach experience was mainly blog posts and summer camps. “That definitely sets I’m a Scientist aside, where the main focus was me and my work,” he says.

 

Two-way engagement where you’re having a scientific discussion at the right level is so much more productive.

Through participating in I’m a Scientist, Max developed a “better arsenal of metaphors and analogies” for describing what he does, and feels he has more confidence and a much better understanding of what public audiences find interesting about his work

Learning from your audience
For Max, the ‘two-way’ nature of I’m a Scientist was key to the impacts on his communication skills. Responses and feedback from students directly helped him develop new analogies, and told him when he wasn’t explaining himself well enough.

“The whole thing was very two-way — you’re giving answers to the questions people are directly asking you, and then you get their responses as to whether or not they like the answers, both immediately because they’d say ‘that makes sense’ or they’d ask another question, and also long term because of the voting.”

A new culture of communication
Since taking part, Max has found himself talking much more with colleagues in the lab about their work and his own, and in a way that is more meaningful than technical.

“I think the amount that I chatted with my colleagues when I had these inventive questions from students in I’m a Scientist, made me see that if I had that same level of discussion with them about my work it could be really productive. In general I’ve been trying to see the wood for the trees a bit more and actually talk about the concepts, rather than just the finer details, which as technical scientists we always get bogged down in.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 6, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Two-way engagement: immediate feedback on communication

Improving communication skills through text-only conversations

 

Euan Allen took part in I’m a Scientist during the second year of his PhD at the Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training. Answering questions through the text-based format allowed him to ‘recalibrate’ his language to suit his audience.

 

Now when you go to do face to face outreach, you feel more equipped.

Euan had done some in-person engagement previously but does not think of it as the best way to develop communication skills.

“When you are face to face, you don’t hear what you have said afterwards, there isn’t that self assessment,” he says.

The text-only format of I’m a Scientist was a more useful environment to test his skills.

“When answering a student’s question, you are trying not to use jargon and technical language. It is much easier to spot that when you’re writing it down. It was a good training lesson in recalibrating yourself to remember that type of language isn’t useful… That was one of the biggest things I got out of the experience.”

Euan says he now has more confidence talking about his work to public audiences. “The students were really comfortable online, you received lots more probing questions… Now when you go to do face to face outreach, you feel more equipped.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 4, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Improving communication skills through text-only conversations

STEM engagement for scientists’ busy schedules

 

Hayley Pincott took part in I’m a Scientist in June 2018, spending two weeks chatting with school students about her role as an Associate Practitioner Healthcare Scientist at a University Dental Hospital. Hayley found the experience flexible enough to fit around the workload of a public sector scientist, and it gave her the skills and confidence to do further public engagement.

Accessible to those with busy working lives

Hayley was recommended the I’m a Scientist activity by a friend who’d previously taken part, but admits she was initially “slightly dubious about how easy it seemed to fit in around work.”

It didn’t take long for her to “completely fall in love” with the experience, though. “You don’t have to go out to visit, and it can all be done as and when you have time.”

This flexibility throughout the two weeks helped her balance the activity with her day job, and even when her availability changed she was still able to engage with students at a time that suited her.

“I could sign up to as many live chats as I wanted, and if my workload meant I could no longer attend a live chat then there was no pressure… there is always ASK [questions from students], which can be done at any time.”

Introducing students to biomedical science

Before taking part, Hayley had visited a few primary schools to talk about her role in biomedical science and pathology. Through I’m a Scientist, she hoped to “reach a different audience and give pupils another possible career choice that they might not have even heard of previously.”

Talking with students in the live chatroom and answering their questions through the I’m a Scientist website offered Hayley “a really simple but effective way to engage young people in a scientific career they might never have heard about.

“My main goal was to try and explain that to be good at my job doesn’t need me to be highly intelligent – it needs me to have a specific skill set… I just wanted pupils to take away the message that science, and a scientific career, needn’t be unachievable.”

The confidence for further engagement

Following “some amazing chats with great students”, Hayley felt she’d gained the confidence to do more public engagement with a range of audiences, not just the primary age students she’d previously had experience with.

“Having this new confidence in reaching out to this age group has meant that I’ve written an article aimed at teenage girls, and have tried to organise a few events that targets a wider variety of people.”

Hayley is also continuing to engage with students in I’m a Scientist through the Careers Zone, answering questions about her career path, what it’s like working in a University Dental Hospital and the wider world of biomedical science.


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on April 3, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on STEM engagement for scientists’ busy schedules