Love Letter to Science Communication

  • It’s Science Week here in Ireland, and I’m thinking about the science communicator that changed my life. In January 2011 (I believe) I attended the BT Young Scientist Exhibition for the first time. It was incredible.

    At the time, I was vaguely interested in science, helped in part by having a genetic disorder affecting my digestive system. Though I was never a fan of physics, I enjoyed biology and chemistry. Despite my appreciation for science however, my career plans at the time reflected my creative hobbies; at that age I wanted to be a writer, or a fashion designer.

    Photograph of a white table holding science related objects. On the right, the hands and ear of a child facing away from the camera are visible. On the table is an electronic tablet displaying a drawing of a skeletal torso, a clear dome, a full-scale wooden model of a hand, and a small scale model of a heart. Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

    Nevertheless I wandered bug-eyed through the stands, admiring the displays and battling my shyness to ask questions of the students my age or just few years older. I leafed through their research notebooks and daydreamed about someday putting a project together (I did come up with a handful of ideas in the following weeks but never really developed them).

    Just off the main hall was the World of Science and Technology, where the stands were not held by teenagers but volunteers from universities and organisations such as W5, Science Foundation Ireland, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I gladly accepted interestingly-shaped highlighters, blood-themed pencils - likely from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service - and articles on the science of Lady Gaga's meat dress from the 2010 VMAs.

    Photograph of a bee on a lavender plant, viewed from the top-down.

    Though I've trawled through the archives, I can't find or remember which organisation had a stand on bee conservation, but I do remember my interaction with the man running the stand.

    He stopped me and said - "you could be a scientist, and save the bees".

    I had never before considered the possibility that I could be a scientist; I belived the stereotype that creative, 'right-brained' people like me weren't cut out for science (which is definitely a blog post for another day). This man gave me pause, and something in me clicked. And though I'm keeping half an eye on bat conservation, I'm wearing socks with bees on them as I'm typing this.

    I won't say that was the day I decided to become a scientist, but it was the moment I considered it a possibility.

    This is an experience I hold close in my heart, and possibly one of the reasons science communication is important to me. To my science communicator friends; you're doing amazing, even life-changing work and I see and appreciate you. And if you had a stand on bee conservation at the YSE in 2011 - hey, thanks.

     


    Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this blog post, you can keep updated by following the blog here. Can you remember a small event or interaction that changed the course of your life for the better? Tell me in the comments!