I’m on the Writers’ Rough Drafts Podcast!

Writers’ Rough Drafts is a podcast hosted by Elisa Doucette, Founder and Executive Editor of Craft Your Content; a business that aims to do the unthinkable – make writing a less lonely process. They offer group courses, as well as one-to-one support on writing and editing projects from website copy to novels. The Craft Your Content website is also a wonderful resource in itself. As a frequent visitor to the Craft Your Content website, and an avid listener of the Writers’ Rough Drafts podcast, I jumped at the chance to talk all things writing and creativity when Elisa approached me a few months ago.

Listen to our podcast episode here.

Elisa’s incredibly flattering introduction:

Heidi Gardner is a scientist, researcher, blogger, entrepreneur, and activist. While her “full-time gig” is as a research fellow at the Health Services Research Unit at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, after receiving her bachelor’s degree in pharmacology and her doctorate in participant recruitment, she has a lot more going on besides her fascination and love affair with science and improving participant trial experience.

This year, Heidi embarked on an international odyssey as a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellow—visiting art installations, chatting to professors and female scientists, and reading tomes upon tomes worth of articles and literature in North America, Europe, and Asia—to find interesting and unique ways that people share scientific research and results so it is more accessible to, and engaging for, the general public. A regular blogger herself, she updates her site with posts not only about her work and pursuits, but also her life as a woman in science and as a human on planet Earth. Which is part of her “side hustle,” an Etsy store and ecommerce brand called “Science on a Postcard,” a fun project that helps to see science in a new light.


From the show notes:

What You’ll Learn About Writing:

  • Why you need confidence to break writing rules
  • The importance of finding gatekeepers and peers who are “on your team”
  • How blogs can serve as a great place for a “brain dump”
  • Why we should tap into our creativity and retrain our brain to think more creatively, even if you think you’re a “noncreative” person
  • How you should find specific sources, information, and experiences to share that no one has written about before
  • Why not only being creative but being able to explain parts of that creativity to others often bring you more collaboration and readers
  • How we, as writers, can try to write more humanly and less pretentiously no matter what industry we’re in

Mentioned in This Episode (Links and Resources!):

Some Thoughts for New WCMT Fellows

At the start of this month 150 new Churchill Fellows were announced. That means it’s been just over a year since I could talk about my WCMT Fellowship – which seems insane! My Fellowship adventures started at the beginning of January and finished at the end of February, so I’ve had some time to decompress and attempt to make sense of the reams of notes I made over the course of those 8 weeks. I wasn’t able to go to the new Fellows’ seminar to share my excitement and experiences, so I thought I’d share a few points here.

Leaving the UK.

If you’re a previous Fellow like me, please comment below and share your tips for new Fellows; and if you’re a new Fellow, I hope you find this useful! Happy to answer questions if there’s anything I’ve missed too, just leave a comment or contact me on Twitter 🙂
If you’re not a new Fellow/don’t plan on doing long trips any time soon, this is probably not the post for you – it’s going to be pretty long!

Planning
  1. Plan your trip with a gap at the end before you need to get back to real life. For me, I only really started to make proper links between the conversations I was having towards the end of the trip, and having an extra week at home before I went back to work was really good for letting all those ideas stew without other things needing to take priority.
  2. Plan trips carefully, taking into account the potential for jet lag. I was either cocky, stupid or ignorant when I booked my flights, and I definitely paid for it. Flying from Washington DC, to the UK, to Berlin, and then to Singapore within a few days was not my finest moment, and my jet lag in Singapore ruined the first few days completely.
  3. Leave space in your itinerary for unexpected meetings, new connections, and downtime. You did not travel across the world to have to say no to meeting new people, similarly, you did not travel across the world to sit in various branches of Starbucks. Make the most of the time you have – that means meeting people you might not have expected to but also sightseeing and visiting places you otherwise wouldn’t get chance to.
  4. I get lost wherever I go, I have a terrible sense of direction and I knew I’d be reliant on Google Maps to make sure I could find my way around. With that in mind, I chose hotels in Singapore and Hong Kong that came with a ‘Handy‘; a smartphone that is docked in each room that comes with free local data. I got free mobile data through my network (EE) when I was in the USA and Canada, but having a Handy was incredibly useful when I was in Singapore and  Hong Kong because my mobile data would have costed me £6 per day to use.
  5. If you’re visiting places where English is not the first language, I’d recommend having a few select phrases memorised or at least written down. I had hotel addresses saved in various languages which was particularly useful when I needed help trying to navigate public transport, and I don’t eat meat so I had a few versions of ‘vegetarian’ noted down to make sure that I could communicate that in cafes and restaurants.
Packing
  1. Packing cubes are life changing. I packed for the first leg of my trip without packing cubes (completely forgot I had them), and didn’t appreciate them until the second part of my trip. A previous Fellow recommended them and I thought he was over-egging their impact, but they really do make travelling to multiple destinations so much easier.
  2. Buy a travel adapter that covers multiple territories, and take an extension cable. The placement of sockets in hotels has become one of the most boring topics that I can rage about (seriously though, why is there never a socket next to the bed for a phone charger, and next to a mirror for hair dryer/straighters?!).
  3. Make a formula for your hand luggage – take the minimum you need and try to leave lots of space in case you buy things and your suitcase is too heavy (I like books, standard airline weight limits do not). Standards that I always include in hand luggage: a mini toothpaste, toothbrush, hand cream, tissues, mini pack of wipes (for grubby fingers or to take makeup off etc), a book, headphones, a booster charger for my phone, small supply of medication (in case your suitcase gets lost), a spare pair of contact lenses, and my glasses. Everything else is extra bulk that you end up dragging around airports, wishing you hadn’t.
  4. Luggage is important – use something that you trust not to break because this is absolutely not the time to see the contents of your suitcase whizzing its way around the baggage reclaim belt. I used AWAY luggage – the large suitcase and the everywhere bag for my hand luggage. It’s now the only luggage I’ll ever use. It’s sturdy but relatively light, and the AWAY packing cubes fit perfectly.
  5. Pack clothes with the intention of doing laundry – there’s no need to take enough outfits to last you 4 weeks when you take take enough for 1 or 2 and wash them. Whilst I’m on that point too; don’t do laundry in hotels! The price is extortionate, and if you use a local launderette you can often get them back within quicker turnaround time. I used a drop off launderette in New York that charged by the kilo and meant I could have everything apart from the clothes I was wearing, washed for less than $10.
Money
  1. The funding that you received from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is enough to cover your trip, but bear in mind that you might want to do more than just cover your trip. I saved some money of my own to add to the funding I got for the Fellowship, meaning that I was able to spend a bit more on areas of the trip that were important to me (always staying in hotels rather than hostels, going on day trips to places further afield etc).
  2. Make sure you have at least some cash in each currency you’ll need. In places like the US I used my card all the time (remember to 1) tell your bank you are travelling before you leave, and 2) check for potential charges!), but when I got to Singapore and went out of the airport to get a taxi, I was surprised that the taxis only took cash.
People
  1. Find a ‘connecter’ – this is actually a piece of advice I was given by one of the wonderful people I met in Toronto (hoorah for you, Dawn Bazely!). I met her in the first stop of my travels, and a self-described ‘connecter’, she linked me up with lots of other people. Some I couldn’t meet because they were too far away, but I was able to Skype them after Dawn introduced us, others I met the next day. People that know people are your best friends whilst on a WCMT Fellowship!
  2. Meet people you think you disagree with. This is a weird situation to describe because I don’t want to mention names, but look for the people in your area of research that appear to have opposing views to you. Talking with these people will stretch your ideas, challenge you, and strengthen what you get out of the Fellowship. I met with a few people that I thought may hold opposing views to me, but after I’d heard their reasoning it was clear that we weren’t so different, and that taking their concerns into account was important if I ever wanted my Fellowship to achieve anything.
  3. Not all conversations need to be planned. I spoke to people looking around art galleries, science museums and exhibits – I didn’t know any of them before and I don’t know any of them now, but when you’re travelling alone you tend to have lots of conversations with other people that are travelling alone, or groups of people that feel a bit sorry for you wandering about by yourself. Those conversations can be just as valuable as the ones that are intentional.
Note taking
  1. This probably goes without saying, but taking notes after (or during) each of your meetings is crucial. I took two audio recorders with me, but ended up not using them because I was often meeting people in busy places where the sound quality would have been too terrible for me to ever want to listen back to. Instead, I used a pen & paper. I didn’t take notes during all of the meetings because I was conscious of wanting to really take part in the conversation, but after each meeting I spent 15-20 minutes writing notes to make sure I’d captured everything.
  2. As I said, I used a notebook – not a laptop, iPad or anything electronic. That meant I was entirely reliant on not losing the notebook. That was fine, it was small enough to live in my handbag, and it only came out for me to take notes. Still, I took photographs of each page after I’d written them, just in case. I prefer writing notes to typing them because I remember them more easily, but if you decide to go down that route I’d definitely recommend taking photographs just in case your notebooks gets lost.

At the very beginning of my Fellowship journey I was so overwhelmed, I don’t think I really believed it was going to happen until I started meeting people, but the main thing is to dedicate yourself to your project, and enjoy it! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Now to convince my boyfriend to apply for a WCMT Fellowship so that I can piggyback onto any future travel plans..

Returning home.

Living Artwork and Questioning the Ageing Process – a Visit to STATE Studio Berlin

I’m fiiinally making some time to write blog posts about all the wonderful places I’ve been as part of my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship over the last few months, so if you’re interested in science communication/how science can be communicated using art, then be sure to check back over the coming weeks. Last week I talked about a fantastic exhibition that I visited at the Red Dot Design Museum in Singapore, which was more data visualisation than art, so today I thought I’d highlight something that’s more obviously in the art sphere; STATE Studio in Berlin, Germany.

STATE Studio, Berlin

In between Fellowship trips (I did two legs – North America and Asia), I sneaked in a
weekend in Berlin. This wasn’t strictly Fellowship-based travel as it wasn’t in my itinerary, but STATE Studio’s work merging art and science is the reason I went to Berlin, so I’m counting it as part of the Fellowship
experience.

STATE Studio is a public gallery, showroom and event space that was established on the back of STATE Festival; Berlin’s festival for open science, art and society. The team also have an agency made up of a collective of artists, designers, scientists and cultural producers, to create innovative experiences to engage the public with science. The Studio part of STATE opened in October 2018 (after my Fellowship was funded, hence the last minute addition to my itinerary!), and is home to various exhibits that focus on cutting-edge scientific research, innovation, and creativity. In the words of STATE, “It’s a place for creative synergies between science, art, and innovation to discover and explore the breakthrough developments that shape our future.”

For me, the two standout exhibits were, the Living Canvas installation, and ÆON- Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR.

Living Canvas, Fara Peluso with biotech start-up Solaga
Artist Fara Peluso with her Living Canvas exhibit. Image credit: Anne Freitag Photography

The Living Canvas is the first thing you see when you walk into the STATE Studio space – at first glance it looks like a regular painting, but on closer inspection it’s clear that it really is living. Within a chunky glass frame is a growing algae biofilm, and it comes complete with external circuitry that supplies that algae with life-giving saline solution. What I found super interested is that the algae biofilm inside the Living Canvas is actually in constant interaction with the exhibition space itself; the algae is filtering the air around it, removing carbon dioxide and pollutants, and releasing oxygen and water – which you can see as little bubbles on the inside of the glass, giving the impression that the piece is sweating.

The Living Canvas was designed by artist Fara Peluso, in collaboration with Solaga, a Berlin-based biotech start-up which specializes in the development of innovative solutions for air filtrations and regenerative energy production based on algae biofilms. In interviews since the exhibition opened, Fara has explained that she wanted to initiate a discourse on sustainability and new technologies, and so created a work of art that will continue to develop over the course of the exhibition’s lifetime.

As part of the Living Canvas exhibit, Fara Peluso also runs an algae cultivation workshop at STATE. The Algature workshop combines DIY Biology and speculative design, giving attendees an opportunity to develop their own algae cultivation tool that they can then take home to purify the air in their own spaces.

ÆON- Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR, Emilia Tikka with the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)

After admiring the Living Canvas exhibit I headed upstairs to a bigger space which included the ÆON- Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR exhibit (I originally found out about STATE Studio from a piece that Nature did on this exhibit). This was one that I found really interesting because it’s a photography exhibit, and therefore something that could be translated into the format of a blog post with relative ease.

Photographs by Zuzanna Kaluzna form part of Emilia Tikka’s ÆON. Image credit: Anne Freitag Photography

STATE has a residency program, where artists spend an extended period of time within a scientific research environment. A residency is designed to provide an intimate link between artists and research institutions, in the hope that the artists can produce innovative work that defies convention and provokes curiosity, whilst also enabling scientists to reflect on the potential impact that their work may have on wider society. This exhibition was a result of Finnish artist and designer Emilia Tikka‘s residency at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC). There, she worked on uncovering the molecular hallmarks of ageing, and exploring the potential of CRISPR gene editing technology to reverse the biological clock. According to STATE, “ÆON- Trajectories of Longevity and CRISPR – addresses philosophical and societal dimensions of the desire for eternal life.”

The main body of the exhibit is made up of photographs, styled and conceptualised by Emilia Tikka, and shot by Zuzanna Kaluzna. The photographs tell the fictional story of a potential future; a couple are given the choice to defy the ageing process – the man agrees to, and inhales the CRISPR therapy, the woman does not. The resulting images are confronting as you see the consequences of their decisions; the man ceases to age, and the woman continues to do so. The fictional inhaler that Tikka designed is also part of the exhibit.

Emilia Tikka’s speculative design for a CRISPR–Cas9 inhaler. Image credit: Anne Freitag Photography

Clearly, Emilia’s work is speculative; you absolutely cannot take CRISPR gene editing technology via an inhaler, and then never see another wrinkle again, but the potential for CRISPR to be able to do something like this isn’t actually that far fetched. The world’s media recently exploded when a scientist from China revealed that he’d used CRISPR to edit the genomes of human embryos so that they would be immune to HIV infection.

CRISPR is a perfect example of the speed that science is moving at, and just how far the ethical and societal impacts of that are lagging behind. In my opinion, this exhibit at STATE Studio is a great way to stimulate conversation around these complex scientific topics.

A Day in Data – SPREAD’s Life Stripe Exhibition

If you were to look at your day in 24 blocks of one hour, what do you think the biggest block of time would be spent doing?

Right now I’m in the thick of some of the worst jet lag I’ve ever had, so I’d hazard a guess at 50% of the time being asleep (usually in the middle of the day), a further 20% of the time spent in bed wishing I was asleep, and the rest doing, y’know, life (read: in search of food).

This idea of visualising a day in terms of blocks of activity has been used by a design collective called SPREAD. SPREAD, established in 2004, is made up of two Japanese designers, Haruna Yamada and Hirokazu Kobayashi. Their ‘Life Stripe’ project aims to “find patterns in our everyday existence by using bands of color“.

Haruna Yamada and Hirokazu Kobayashi

I saw the Life Stripe exhibit at the Red Dot Design Museum in Singapore; a relatively small museum that includes a beautiful design shop and cafe on the ground floor, with the exhibits on the floor above. I hadn’t planned to go to Red Dot at all, I’d spent the day at Singapore’s ArtScience museum (more on that in a later blog post), and had some time to kill in the Marina Bay area. After wandering around the bay and having what turned out to be the best salad I’ve ever eaten (from now on I’m putting watermelon and pistachios in every salad, ever), I caught sight of the Red Dot sign. I figured I’d go in and have a wander around, thinking that if it wasn’t great then at least I’d be out of the heat and in the comfort of decent air-conditioning for at least an hour. Turns out, it was one of my favourite places in Singapore; the Life Stripe exhibit being a main reason.

When you head up the stairs to get to the upper floor of Red Dot, the first thing you see is this:

SPREAD’s Life Stripe Key

A rectangular block striped with colours, that you then figure out correspond to the key below. Along with a few other museum visitors, I couldn’t walk away from this first image before deciphering what the coloured box was telling us – spoiler alert; this 24 hours is filled with a lot of work/study, some sleep, intermittent housework/chores, two mealtimes, and a spot of shopping.

In SPREAD’s words: “Life Stripe lets you see your daily, weekly or monthly routines in an exciting way, and helps you discover something about yourself. A Life Stripe work is a “pattern of life” made by replacing one’s everyday actions such as sleeping, dining, relaxing, and working, with 21 colors selected based on research, and recording them along a 24-hour axis.”

The striking thing about Life Stripe came later; a wall filled with 88 of these rectangles, each showing a different colour pattern. On closer inspection these blocks reflected the activity of different people, with different jobs and lifestyles.

Photograph of the Life Stripe exhibit, taken by Heidi on Sunday 10th February at the Red Dot Design Museum, Singapore

SPREAD collected over 150,000 life records of both well-known and ordinary people of various careers, circumstances, genders, age, as well as animals, and made Life Stripe works based on them. They continue to collect data to this day, and the work on show is just a small collection.

In the squares above you might be able to make out that a Graphic Designer has a pretty rigid routine, spending most of their time working, some emails and then sleep, whereas (perhaps unsurprisingly) a Pet Sitter has a more varied day with short time slots spent doing different things. As well as the job titles, the brief description underneath each of the coloured rectangles also gives age, gender and location.

They’re not all human either – this one for a cat got a lot of laughs as people uncoded the sleep-meal-hang out routine; though there was some discussion about whether this could have been a teenager or not..

 

I got thinking about this exhibit and how useful it would be to communicate what the day to day life of a specific career might look like to someone who isn’t familiar with it. I’d bet that if different types of Scientists made their own coloured blocks no two would be the same!

 

Trip Update – 2 Weeks Down, 5 to Go!

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
‘This is Paradise’ mural on the side of Cameron House, Toronto

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.

New York
Oak Bridge, Central Park, New York

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.

New Hampshire

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.

WCMT Fellowship #1: Meeting Other Fellows

Last week I headed to London for a much more relaxed meeting with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust than my last encounter! I was invited to a seminar with other 2018 Fellows from the Science, Technology and Innovation, Nursing and Allied Health Professions, and Health and Wellbeing categories. Before this seminar, I was shocked that I was a 2018 Fellow; I’d heard what a huge opportunity it was, and I knew I’d done really well to make it through such a competitive application process. After the seminar, I was really, really overwhelmed. There were other Fellows there sharing their experiences and advice, and the entire process became a lot more real. This is such a huge opportunity and I am so excited!

So, excitement aside, the day was brilliant for a number of reasons; here’s what happened.

Introductions, welcomes and advice from the WCMT Team

Julia Weston – I met Julia at my interview and she was so lovely. She opened the seminar and she was just as lovely in a much more relaxed environment. She explained how the Fellowship program started, that Churchill knew of and approved of the program, and that the Fellowships were a lifetime deal. Her welcome really made me feel part of something, and the words that stuck with me were ‘aim high, don’t be shy‘ and ‘travel to make a difference‘.

Sara Venerus – I have a feeling Sara is going to become my go to person at WCMT over the coming months whilst I’m planning the trip; she explained all about the process of planning such a significant period of travel, and made it really clear that WCMT don’t just want us to pack our schedules with research meetings – we need to experience the culture and people around us too! I’m genuinely really excited to plan my trip now, spreadsheets and colour-coding are going to be my best friend..

Tristan Lawrence – Tristan focussed on what comes after the travelling part of the Fellowship; the report. The majority of the reports that I’ve read were purely text and photographs, but Tristan made it really clear that WCMT are very flexible with the formats of the reports. I’m now furiously thinking of different formats that my report could take; I definitely want to make it a creative thing because my project is focussing on creativity – so many ideas!

Stephanie Talbut – Ok, so Stephanie‘s talk included references to Beyonce, that Professor Robert E Kelly interview, and research methods – in short, I’m 100% sold and I think she’s brilliant. Research methods are my thing, and I loved the way she emphasised that methods are just a one-stage thing, they’re something we need to think about before, during and after the research we do as part of the Fellowship.

Jonathan Lorie – Reportedly the Beyonce of what he does (comms), Jonathan encouraged us to begin the project with a ‘comms mindset’. I loved the way he discussed dissemination plans, the importance of the report, and the huge impact that our work could have after the travelling part of the Fellowship is over – I felt hugely inspired and motivated to make the most of this opportunity after hearing what he had to say.

Sara Canullo – I met Sara at my interview too, she kept me calm ensured that I didn’t trip up the stairs (yes, that’s a thing I often do when I’m nervous); which was very welcome. She rounded off the WCMT welcomes brilliantly, driving home the point that we are joining a passionate and vibrant group of Fellows that are ready to network and welcome us to the WCMT family. Again, I have a feeling that she’s going to be someone I get to know pretty well over the coming months.

Breakout session with the Science, Technology and Innovation category

Main practical advice from past Fellows:

  • Buy packing cubes
  • Learn how to budget (this one is v important and can involve many, many different apps/spreadsheets etc)
  • Get a Monzo card
  • Check baggage allowances for internal flights
  • Local SIM cards are good

Highlights from past Fellows:

  • Arfah Farooq’s vlogs – Arfah was a 2017 Fellow, and she was so passionate about the work she’s done on diversity in STEM, particularly focussing on Muslim women and Tech. She’s Queen of tech herself – recommending loads of different websites and apps to help with trip planning, documenting and sharing. Arfah is brilliant – so enthusiastic, so engaged, and really open to helping this new cohort of Fellows. I hope I can take at least a pinch of her passion and use her project dissemination to inspire mine.
  • Rose Mary Johnston also discussed her 2017 Fellowship – and it was mind blowing. Her project focussed on body farms, something I didn’t even know existed. Hearing her speak was extraordinary; her topic was so interesting, and the way she discussed the moral and ethical complexities of the subject showed that she really knew her stuff.
  • After the breakout session had finished we had a chance to network and speak to other WCMT Fellows past and present. I got talking to Missing Wolf, a 2017 Fellow. On the surface his project didn’t look at all like mine – he travelled to the USA to investigate soundscape ecology, the study of sound emanating from the natural landscape as an indicator of biodiversity loss – but after a few minutes we started to make some really brilliant comparisons, and I’m hopefully going to link up with some of his contacts when I’m in Toronto for my Fellowship.

Honestly, the afternoon went by so quickly, and I was left pinching myself yet again. Each and every one of the past Fellows that I spoke to were incredibly helpful, passionate and enthusiastic – and they were all so happy and encouraging, reinforcing that this Fellowship could, and hopefully will, bring big opportunities providing that we invest our efforts and make the most of it. My fellow 2018 Fellows were largely feeling just like I was; nervous, excited, and overwhelmed with the possibilities that lay ahead of us. I have a feeling this is going to be one hell of a journey, and I cannot wait to get started with planning my trip!

I’m Very, Very Excited About This

On January 25th I was in London for an interview – I briefly mentioned it in an earlier blog post but decided to skim over it in case it hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped.

On February 13th, after a fortnight of pacing the flat every time the postman was more than 3 seconds late (side-note: the postman was well and truly sick of me by this point), a bulky A4 envelope landed on my door mat with the news I had been hoping for.

My interview was successful, and now I can finally reveal that I am the super proud recipient of one of 150 Fellowships from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

WCMT was established in 1965 when Sir Winston Churchill died. The Trust is now a national memorial to Sir Winston, and each year they fund up to 150 fellows from all backgrounds to travel overseas in pursuit of new and better ways of tackling a wide range of challenges facing the UK. This isn’t an academic Fellowship – no qualifications are need, it’s about having a project and the passion to improve a community, profession or field.

There will be many more blog posts on my experiences of the Fellowship over the coming months as I plan and carry out my trip, but for now I just wanted to thank the brilliant WCMT Fellows that encouraged me through the application process – Dr Heather Doran (2015 Fellow – read her report here), Sarah Frost (2011 Fellow – read her report here), and Rick Hall (2016 Fellow – read his report here).

So what’s my project all about and where am I going?
I am so excited to be travelling to the USA, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong to explore the process and practice of science blogging.
I’m particularly interested in why scientists are blogging, how they are sustaining these activities when they are so often done out of a passion for science, and how we can use creative approaches (here I mean anything from knitting to doodling, videos to animations – the list is endless!) to effectively communicate complex scientific topics to the public in engaging ways.

As I said earlier, check back in over the coming weeks and months to come along with me on this super exciting journey – I’m so excited!