Jess Brown only started her PhD in 2017, but has been an incredibly engaged researcher with strong committment to sharing her passion and experiences beyond her immediate research project right from the start. She joined the XM² Student Advisory Group to represent her cohort together with her peer Emily Glover, and represented Exeter on the BBC University Challenge programme.
Her latest endeavour? Taking to the stage for “Soap Box Science” events in Exeter and Plymouth to inspire the wider public with science!
Here’s Jess’ Soap Box Science story on piezoelectric effects and jelly waves:
Earlier this year, on the recommendation of another female CDT PGR, I applied to be a Soapbox Science speaker in Exeter. On their website, Soapbox Science is described as a grass-roots science outreach organisation that brings cutting-edge research onto urban streets whilst also promoting the visibility of women in science. Inspirational speakers are placed on soapboxes and encouraged to engage in and start conversations with the public about their work. Since 2011, the organisation has expanded dramatically from one event in London with 12 speakers to this year, with 30 events in 8 countries and hundreds of speakers worldwide.
One of the core aims of the XM² CDT is outreach, and I felt this was a perfect way to get involved. Speakers are given an hour on the soapbox, and it is up to them how they use that – planning my talk was challenging but enjoyable, taking a step back to be creative and think about how I would describe my work to the general public and children in particular, people without scientific backgrounds.
Armed with a slinky and a Tupperware full of raspberry jelly, I stood on my soapbox and talked about my research – I gave demonstrations of different kinds of waves, described the piezoelectric effect, and spoke about applications of acoustic microfluidic systems. I particularly enjoyed getting volunteers to help with wave demos – seeing a standing wave on a slinky in the middle of Exeter really grabbed people’s attention! When I wasn’t speaking, I walked around to learn from inspirational women about their research on a wide variety of topics such as clinical psychology, cardiac health, whales, bacteria, DNA and graphene. After a great day in Exeter, I did it all again the following day in Plymouth (the jelly only just survived the train journey)!
Soapbox Science was a really rewarding experience, as it’s a fantastic way to introduce the public to interesting science, while simultaneously promoting female scientists. I would highly recommend getting involved as a volunteer, and other female researchers (at any stage in their career) to sign up to be speakers for future events around the country and further afield!