Soapbox Science 2018

If you hadn’t already noticed by now I love a chat, and especially about science! But one of the things that troubles me the most about science is the lack of female representation, particularly at the higher levels. Recent research conducted in the United States shows that when children are asked to ‘Draw A Scientist’ there has been a change in the perception of scientists, as children now draw more female scientists than they have done in previous decades.

But I wonder what might happen if we repeated this experiment in the UK, or in Wales for that matter. It is clear that when the general public think of scientists, often women aren’t the first people that they think of. So what can be done about this? Soapbox Science aims to bring science to the masses and promote the role that women play in science both at the same time, a win win!

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Here I am, stood proudly on my soapbox explaining neurodegeneration with the help of ‘Nelly the neuron’

So I will be the first to confess that the thought of standing on a soapbox in the middle of Cardiff town centre did fill me with apprehension, but that is all part of the fun, right? It seemed that the other speakers felt the same too, in a quick briefing before the main event we were able to share our fears, nerves and excitement.

There was something incredibly liberating about marching out into the town centre and jumping on a soapbox. I loved the fact that the vast majority of people who passed the event that day weren’t expecting to see any science. They certainly weren’t expecting eight female scientists explaining their research and why it should matter to them. The presenters were from a range of academic stages,  from PhD students to Professors. It was great that this mattered to so many people, regardless of career stage. Topics ranged from fly sperm(!) to volcanoes and my favourite moment was seeing a 6 foot stream of fizzy drink and mint induced volcano spring up (you know the experiment that I am talking about and for those of you who want to try it at home apparently mints with holes in the middle work best to maximise surface area and diet fizzy drink is most effective).

After my first 30 minute slot, it was time for the next speaker. I appreciated chance of a break and to grab some water as this was unlike any event that I had spoken at before. The passers by didn’t expect to see us, so we had to draw them in. Some people were a little shy, but that was soon overcome with some questions about what their brain might do and some hopping to demonstrate how your brain controls your movement. It was great to see the other speakers do their thing, engaging and entertaining their audiences.

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Zubeyde and I making our final preparations for soapbox science!

Finally, I have to say a huge thank you to the organisers, volunteers and sponsors who all made the event possible. Extra special thanks to my helper Dr. Zubeyde Bayram-Weston who helped me out on the day, passing me props and playing some brain games. For those who are interested Soapbox Science runs every year and they will be looking for speakers and volunteers through their website.


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