Teach first

Teach first is a UK based charity which believes every child should have access to a great education, regardless of their family background. Studies have shown that a huge proportion of ‘free school meals children’ do not gain any GCSE passes, heavily linking academic success to a higher family income. With an aim to combat this, teach first trains teachers on a two year developmental programme from inside schools, focussing on the STEM subjects.


Recently in a lecture about STEM ambassadors, I found how teaching is an excellent example of science communication. It involves aiming science at, not just non-scientists, but to young people.


As I am thinking of teaching as a career choice, the STEM subject focus of teach first is an ideal option for anyone interested in science communication as a career.

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Science in Hollywood

A large proportion of people want to absorb a news story as fast as possible; then maybe investigate further after work. BBC news online often allows us to get the best chunks of an article presented to us using videos.


A recent talk by Rachel Kerr, a journalist with BBC news online in Newcastle, focused on the cinematic tactics used to present these videos. After looking at a few scientific examples, I found that none were too complex or too simple which, she explained, was to goal.


One of the videos I viewed was about breast cancer. In May 2013, actress Angelina Jolie admitted to having plastic surgery that could save her from breast cancer. The world’s media jumped on the story, triggering a surge of accessible scientific knowledge related to breast cancer and BRCA1. The first section of the video informs viewers of the basic knowledge covered in the article and, critically, remains very impartial. The substance of the video is an interview from a Cancer Research UK representative, where the facts are delivered as well as statistics. This is again very impartial. Finally, the last segment of the video briefly discusses the pro’s and cons on surgery, and gives other treatment options available in the UK.


Looking at the video with a scientific background, more information on the genes involved could have been included. Overall, however, the impartiality, and lack of criticism, towards Jolie’s choice was a refreshing way of turning a Hollywood story into a beneficial broadcast.



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All about the media game


In today’s world, people get their news from a huge range of sources. It has never been so easy to access the most recent, interesting information.


A recent talk by Karen Bridwell made me consider the benefits that a huge audience would have to breakthrough science, allowing scientists to use forms of media as a tool to spread knowledge. Her talk focused on pro-active media; the use of press releases as a way for experts to present their research to journalists.


How would this type of approach benefit both the public and the scientist? It would mean that the researchers would have control over how they want their research to be read. Ideally, the information would have a greater chance of being correct and relevant, with the interesting bits highlighted. This means that journalism could inform the public and even influence the government.


However, mistakes can happen, such as the infamous MMR scare. In 1998 a falsified research paper reached headlines to claim that an essential vaccine could cause autism. I think that this world-renowned case of media misinformation is an excellent demonstration of the importance of scientific communication to large audiences. Representative of this, The Guardian recently pointed out that teenagers today are at risk of serious illness due to the scare.


In all, I think that science in the media is a success by having few memorable big mistakes in the last 20 years. But can we afford another one?




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Fancy a dip?


Do we want it to be true? Swimming in the sea, researchers say, may have health benefits.




Repeated dips allow the body’s reaction to the cold to lessen, meaning heart rate will remain lower, as well as adrenaline and noradrenaline levels in the bloodstream decreasing. This is the body’s way of acclimatising to the temperature stress, but it could allow our bodies to cope with other physical stresses too. The sympathetic nervous system may also be involved meaning that we learn that we do not need to react to the cold water, like we learn not to react to certain sounds.


Researchers at Portsmouth University found that a few minutes of cold water immersion affects people who frequently swim in the sea half as much as people who don’t.  Frequent dips in the sea have even been linked to increased white blood cells, which are needed for the body’s immune system.


So how does it work?


Scientists believe that our immune systems are slightly stressed by the temperature, and are shocked into action… Almost training the immune system. This also means that allergies could lessen. Furthermore, the salt water has been found to improve skin problems, and sooth muscular pain by promoting the skins water retention. This is true for both psoriasis and eczema.


So this means that both the temperature and salt content are health benefits, and could improve and prolong your life. Would you brave it? I think it’s worth a try.




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Communication and I, Or should I have used “me”?

Away from any high-school/university students’ (generally) need for writing/typing, from everyday texting, e-mails, status updates and assignments, I don’t know a lot of people who “write”, as in creative writing, whether it be music to a novel. I, on the other hand, was always interested in creative writing, as I write stories, music and short novels.

Away from the writing, I have been always interested in “vocal” communication. Accordingly, I pursued public speaking and debating. As I got more and more into debating especially, I found a fondness in sharing my views, opinions and knowledge with people (away from the social communication methods/ Facebook).

Being six feet deep in a scientific course, I had little chances/time to write and express my “side of the story”. The moment I saw science communication enlisted in my module options, I didn’t hesitate a second to pick it. “Why??” … well, because I missed writing, presenting and communicating. It also helps me mould my skills to be able to pursue a career in scientific communication or communication generally.

The talks, sessions and workshops were very amusing and interactive. I also found the Blogging assessment very entertaining. As it isn’t a formal way of communication but helps you get your point through.

Only thing I would like to change when it comes to the module is the idea of having more freedom in choosing a varied range of topics and headlines to present/write about.


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My savior

“So what subjects did you pick for IB?” Although a big number of my friends/peers have been researching thoroughly about what subjects they should choose for the international baccalaureate, I wasn’t really bothered with that question, I had a simple plan, choose the “easy” material and excel  in those (Basically avoid the science and the math à non-STEM education).

When the choices submission date was due, My IB coordinator requested a private meeting. In the mentioned meeting, he explained to me how he was disappointed/doubtful of my choices, he also mentioned that my grades in the Bio-sciences were of great success and that I should pursue a scientific route and that I had the potential for it. Being as stubborn as I am I didn’t follow through so he suggested I attend science classes, just to see how it is and my reply was “Why not??”

Days go through and I start attending the science classes. Afterwards, I requested a change of subjects, which wasn’t really possible at that time. My co-ordinator did everything he could to have that happen, and I went through with the change.

Although I was enjoying the new subjects, it was hard to catch-on at the beginning. Once again, I asked for my coordinator’s helping hand. After-school classes were scheduled for my aid and I finally caught-up.

When I saw this video about the importance of tutors, and their potential to change lives. I instantly related it to this story, about my savior whom I am very grateful towards.

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It’s All About Communication

As someone with no previous experience in Science communication, I chose this module to gain some new experience in a topic a little different from the norm. Unsure of what Science Communication would involve beforehand, I turned to Google, which provided me with some insight:

Science com

“Science communication generally refers to public communication presenting science-related topics to non-experts”

Having spent my years at university struggling to explain to family and friends what I’m actually studying, the chance to improve my communication skills sounded right up my street!

The presentations delivered by multiple guest speakers opened my eyes to the wide use of science communication day to day, the importance of which I previously was oblivious to. I became aware of the efforts put into communicating science in an interesting and understandable way, from displaying information in science museums, providing workshops in schools, to delivering science news to the public via the media everyday!

Workshops on writing a press release and delivering oral presentations effectively were certainly the highlight of the course. The ability to write a press release is a skill which, as I aspire to enter the field of scientific research, will be extremely beneficial to me in future. I am now confident at presenting information to 13-16 year olds, and would like to further improve my presentation skills in future.

Science Communication has been an extremely valuable and enjoyable module, which has made me appreciate the importance of making science accessible to everyone, whilst providing me with a set of very usable skills.

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