One of the special things about our Secondary and Post-16 Sciences programme at The Manchester Museum is our collboration and training of PhD Students from the Faculty of Life Scinces at The University of Manchester to deliver our laboratory based workshops. This partnership enables the PhD students to gain some valuable science communication experience, as well as being able to talk to younger students about their reserach. The students themselves also benefit immensely from the contact with the young engaging scientists that act as postive role models. Below is a blog post, written by one of our demonstrators Liz about her experience working at The Manchester Museum demonstrating the workshops in the Lifelab:
My name is Liz and I’m a second year Cell Biology PhD student. I spend most of my days working in the lab researching motor proteins, which are responsible for the transport inside cells. I decided to apply for the position of a Life Lab demonstrator for a couple for reasons. Mainly I really wanted to get involved in scientific public engagement – particularly with younger people, and although I really enjoy the research I do for my PhD, I thought it would be a great way to occasionally try something a bit different during my working week. I now regularly demonstrate in the ‘Forensic Science’ and ‘PCR’ sessions.
Teaching at the museum is always exiting. With a different bunch of students in each session you never know what to expect and it’s amazing to see when the students have learned something new. I tend to round sessions up by asking them questions and it’s really great when they can tell you something they didn’t know when they walked in. Another really enjoyable aspect of teaching in the Life Lab is when the students get a chance to use equipment and do experiments they wouldn’t normally be able to at school. It’s really fun for them and gives the students a better idea of what science is really like. The main thing that I enjoy about working in the Life Lab is trying to encourage kids to think about taking science further than GCSE and consider paths they might not have thought of before.
At first I found the prospect of standing in front a group of 14 year olds and trying to explain some fairly tricky scientific concepts quite daunting, but I got over it pretty quickly! The help the Life Lab team gave me during my training was really good and I always felt supported. Soon enough I started to really enjoy both explaining the concepts we cover and, more importantly, engaging the students in discussion. The ability to get up in front of a group of students to teach the Life Lab sessions has massively helped me during the first year of my PhD, particularly during talks. For one thing, if you can hold the attention of a group of 11 year olds, a group of academics seem a lot less intimidating! Despite this, I’d say the biggest benefit anyone can get from demonstrating in the museum is the chance to have some fun and hopefully encourage people to be engaged with science.