Scientist on Tour

Blog Post by Jodi Walsh, Yr 3 PhD Student, Renewable Energy (CEMPS) Cornwall

Last year, I was asked by the South West Institute of Physics (IOP) to go on tour with my Research. Yes, on tour, like a rock band, only less drugs and rock and roll, more dodgy cafeteria food and school children. The idea was to spend 13 days in total over 3 trips travelling the South West of the UK (including the Channel Islands!) giving a 1 hour lecture about my research and being a scientist. The opportunity arose because I had given a public lecture previously for the IOP and apparently someone liked it!

The aim of the tour was to reach as many school children (aged 12 – 18+) as possible, highlighting the exciting research I am doing, while showing girls that they can be scientists just like the boys, and encouraging everyone to consider a future as a scientist. In my talk I highlighted that I am a ‘normal’ human being with various interests, I got them to complete a small demonstration, and I spoke about the travel I have been able to do for the sake of Science.

Over the 13 days I estimate that I travelled to 20 different locations, giving 30+ school talks with class sizes between 12 and 300 at a time. It was exhausting, exciting, fascinating and eye opening all at the same time. [Side note: There is such a huge difference between the quality of science education across the South West and it doesn’t come down to whether it’s a public or private school. It is all about the enthusiasm of the teachers!]

I was also lucky enough to give 2 public lectures and 1 radio interview for BBC Radio Guernsey. I have never been on the radio before, and it was scary to talk about a subject I think I know little about! (Damn Imposters Syndrome). The interviewer was really nice, and let me talk about things I knew, and moved on from questions I didn’t! A fantastic experience.

I learnt a few things about myself, education and science on this tour. Firstly, it gave some awful flashbacks of Secondary School! Secondly, I was really impressed by the young people in the classes. Some of them were so engaged by the subject and really interacted with and questioned what I was talking about – the future scientists. It was really empowering to be able to share what I have learnt during my PhD with an honest audience – much nicer than a conference audience! Finally, it showed me the importance of outreach work, and how we all have a responsibility as researchers to inspire the next generation of scientists.

For those of you who are interested, the talk I gave was titled, “Listening to Machines Underwater: How Acoustics Can Help Renewable Energy”. My PhD title is “Acoustic Emission Technology for Environmental and Engineering Health Monitoring of Offshore Renewable Energy” under the supervision of Dr P R Thies and Prof L Johanning from the University of Exeter and Dr Ph Blondel from the University of Bath as part of the NERC GW4+ DTP.