I’m part of the South West Bio Doctoral Training Partnership, funded by the BBSRC and as part of my PhD program I got the opportunity to carry out a 3 month internship that’s not related to academic research. During my PhD I’ve been involved in doing little bits of public engagement and have always believed that it’s a good thing to do. I was interested in learning more and getting more experience in this area so I joined the Public Engagement Unit for my internship.
My motivation as a researcher has been to work on something that will lead to benefits to society and I think that it’s important to remind people of that. Engaging the public with our research is a great way of breaking down the misconception that scientists are detached from the rest of society, just working for profits or think we are superior to everyone else. Hopefully this kind of work goes a little way to countering the ‘anti-expert’ view that has become prominent in the last year .
It’s incredibly rewarding talking to non-scientists and being able to explain something that they didn’t understand. To make some stop and think ‘that’s interesting!’ Before starting this internship I will admit I had a very narrow view of what public engagement actually was and how to do it. I wanted to work with the Public Engagement Unit not only to learn more about engagement events themselves but the whole process around them, who, what, when, where and how to engage effectively.
I knew Ed, Helen and Joanna as lovely, passionate people from working as a Pint of Science Pub Event Manager and working with them further over the last two months has been a great experience. They have really made me feel welcome and involved.
PhD students are often told that we know more about our specific subject area than anyone else. While this is (generally!) a good thing it hints that we are often so focused on our little piece of the puzzle that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Not only of why we’re doing research in the first place but of what’s going on in the rest of our research community. I have vague ideas of what other people in my Department are doing but less so of the Faculty of Science, let alone the rest of the University. This internship has been a really great way to step back, put my own research into context and learn a lot about what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ at the University.