The Big Event
Friday 21st August 2015
At the end of July I set aside research for a few days to attend the BIG event science communication conference, thanks to a bursary provided by Science Oxford. Over the past two years, I have taken on a range of science communication projects while working towards a PhD in theoretical physics. These have included speaking from a soap box on the South Bank, podcasting and science comedy. The BIG event, attended by everyone from freelance communicators to researchers and university public engagement teams, gave me the opportunity to develop my skills and broaden my horizons in science communication. The topics covered ranged from science on YouTube and how to work with the under 7s to giving and receiving feedback.
I learnt an eclectic mix of things at the BIG event, including how to make fake snow from flour and glitter, how to play noughts and crosses on a torus and several surprising things to do with a Möbius strip. I also designed and danced a Caleigh representing an electric circuit. A particular highlight was the Best Demo competition. I was very happy to be come in third place with my theoretical physics based comedy set. The winning demo was a thoroughly entertaining magic trick demonstrating the centre of mass of a match box.
The BIG event also included the presentation of the Josh Award for science communication, with a talk from last year’s winner Dr Sarah Bearchell. Sarah won the Josh Award in 2014 for her work with children with special educational needs – a group who often have less access to science outreach. Sarah demonstrated how to make a (blackcurrant flavoured) cloud, and shared some fantastic stories of the power of science to inspire and motivate – including a boy who walked for the first time during one of her workshops to get a closer look!
Meeting and chatting to other attendees was as valuable and as enjoyable as the more formal parts of the event. Discussions ranged from good geek names for a baby girl to how quantum field theory and dark matter could inspire art. The energy and creativity of the science communication community and particularly of the BIG committee made the BIG event an invaluable opportunity as well as an enjoyable and intriguing few days. The challenge now is to keep up this enthusiasm over the coming year in both my science communication and research.