The last two weeks had passed more quickly than 14 days has ever passed in my life. On January 5th I started my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship adventures in Toronto, Canada, I then headed to New York City, and now I’m in Manchester, New Hampshire – I figure it’s time for an update.
Toronto was the perfect point for me to kick off my Fellowship adventures – the science communication community welcomed me with open arms and I had some of the most intellectually stimulating conversations I’ve had in a while. It was like someone had taken the top off my head, added in approximately 5 million new ideas, put the top back on my head, and then gone, ‘well have a think about that then!’.
It was wonderful, and provided lots of new layers to the Fellowship that I did not expect – important conversations around the culture the scientists are working in within both academia and industry, how gender may or may not impact on the way that we are doing science communication as a wider community, and how we can improve opportunities for inclusion of all communities (LGBTQIA+, first nations, people of colour, people living with cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, and/or sensory impairments) to get involved in the communication of science that is important to them (both as individuals and as members of various groups within society).
Perhaps naively, I didn’t think that asking to speak to people about science communication would bring up this melting pot of political and societal issues, but I’m really glad it did. I left feeling acutely aware of my privilege as a straight white cis woman, but not in a guilty way; the people I met and the conversations that I had were hopeful and passionate, and rather than feeling guilty for the privileged life I have had, I felt empowered to educate myself on issues that have not impacted me, and excited to be part of a community of people that are working to change things for everyone, for the better.
After my time in Toronto was up, I headed to New York. I’ve been to New York lots before – my parents got married there when I was 11, I worked just over the border at a camp in Pennsylvania during my first summer of University, and I did an internship in Princeton before I went back to University for my final year. It’s a place I love and have loved for a really, really long time. It sounds so cheesy, but I feel at home in New York, and this part of the trip was just as important to me personally professionally.
I decided to take my first 2 days in New York off as fun days – my days in Toronto were packed and I needed some downtime. Those 2 days were brilliant; I spent time with one of my favourite humans on the planet, my friend Lacy, who I first met during that summer at camp I mentioned earlier, and have since met up with in various places around the world. I also spent time with Daniel Whibley (you may know him as Dr Daniel Whibley) which was soooo bloody brilliant and absolutely what I needed after a hectic week. We wandered around Central Park, saw more dogs than I could count (most had coats on and some even had shoes on!), ate delicious doughnuts and discovered the taste sensation of pumpkin bread French toast.
Unfortunately I also got sick whilst I was in New York. I only managed to fit in one meeting before I retreated to my hotel bed for 3 days. Not ideal, but the people that I was scheduled to meet have agreed to Skype/FaceTime etc whilst I’m in different cities so that’s good.
And now I’m in New Hampshire. I arrived late yesterday afternoon and went straight from the airport to the hotel so that I could crawl into bed in an attempt to sleep off my lurgy. I managed to sleep for 14 hours, yes, 14 hours, and now I’m feeling much more human, which is a relief. Today has been used for catching up with life admin, writing, emails etc, and tomorrow I’m heading to a nearby science centre to see how they communicate science and scientific concepts to various audiences. I’m only here until Tuesday morning before my trip to Washington DC, so I’m kind of using this time as a working retreat – getting organised before a week of meetings and science events in the capital!
It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been officially on my Fellowship adventures talking creative science communication for a fortnight but I am so excited for the rest of my trip. Washington DC is set to be a whirlwind of a week, and then I’ll be back in the UK for about 12 hours before I fly to Berlin.
Do you have a passion project that you’d like to learn more about from experts around the world? Applications for Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowships open again in May, but you can register for alerts now.