I very rarely stop and reflect on things. It’s something that I am trying to work on, so in that weird gap between Christmas and New Year, I’ve been pausing and reflecting. I have been so busy this year that I have had to spend a bit of time going back and reminding myself of what I’ve been up to (that’s what Twitter is for right?!)! One the whole, it was enjoyable to be able to take the time to remind myself of everything that has happened, give it a go if you can, I’d recommend it.
Here are my months of 2022, I have tried to be honest in all of my reflections, and what a year it has been!
I suspect that a fair few people find January quite a hard month and I am no exception. Dark, drizzly and long, so I decided to get back into netball and re-joined my netball team. A fabulous bunch of ladies on and off court we have a real laugh and it certainly made me feel a bit happier in a bit of a down month for me!
In a particularly cold warehouse in Cardiff I filmed a BBC feature with my colleague and friend Alice Gray (more on that later and check out Alice’s blog here.). I delivered a science communication talk in Bristol for GW4 Clinical Academics and I took part in another Global Science show with Claire Price. After the welcome Christmas holiday lull, things were beginning to ramp up again towards the end of the month.
I like February, things I tend to get back into the swing of things after Christmas and New Year. I was in complete shock to have been shortlisted for Higher Education Biosciences Teacher of the Year and this was a real stock take moment for me (I actually paused when the email came through, for a brief moment anyway). I knew that my teaching went down well with the students, but this national recognition was really humbling and gave me extra motivation to keep pushing boundaries and trying out new things in my teaching sessions.
At the end of the month, after a long old wait, I heard that my promotion application to Senior Lecturer had been successful, que an evening of celebrations with my family and my Mum who always gets very excited and proud about these things, cheers Mum!
March was the month where, after many years of trying, I made my debut at New Scientist Live in Manchester. I spoke about the rise in the availability of commercial genetic testing and it seemed to go down well in the room and online. It also gave me an opportunity to arrange a long overdue catch up with some friends in the North, which was most welcome.
I won Cardiff University’s Rising Star Award at the Celebrating Excellence evening and my partner was finally able to attend an event with me as he wasn’t working! Hoorah!
The feature that I had filmed previously was released across the BBC. Covid: How could the pandemic have affected your brain? and the real learning point here was how many additional media requests I got as a result. It was certainly a very busy few days and great to be able to bring neuroscience to new audiences… yay!
April saw the launch of a new podcast series that I was invited to host for Health and Care Research Wales, Where Would We Be Without Research in collaboration with Bengo Media. This was quite nerve wracking as it was my first time hosting rather than being interviewed. It was fab to interview Welsh researchers and find out more about their research, you can catch up on all of the episodes now on your favourite podcast platform :).
I also found out that one of my very lovely but sneaky friends had nominated me for a Womenspire award with the gender equality charity Chwarae Teg. The team made this lovely STEM finalists video (keep a look out for nellie the neuron). Although April is always busy for me with teaching, I also managed to squeeze in some annual leave. I bought a hammock to enjoy reading in the garden and I got back into open water swimming (if you are thinking of trying it please be careful and safe).
I’ve done a fair amount of media work, but something that I had always wanted to do but had never done, was a paper review. I proudly kicked off my May bank holiday reviewing the Sunday papers on the Sunday Supplement of BBC Radio Wales with Helen Antoniazzi. Yes, I was nervous and it was a flipping early start for a Bank Holiday weekend, but I was in good hands with Helen who is a pro and we’ve been able to keep in touch about our work afterwards, thanks Helen and here’s to more coffee catch-ups in 2023.
I was invited back to the Hay Literary Festival with colleagues Thomas Woolley and Daniel Artus for a panel discussion “Science, The Public and the Pandemic: Are We Sick of Experts. The panel was great, but my real highlights related to two people I met again at the festival.
I last spoke at Hay in 2018, back then I hadn’t done many public talks and I’d stayed in a hotel with my Mum the night before and thanks to her snoring I got very little sleep! Anyway, back in 2018 I had a lovely runner called Caitlin who helped me prep and calmed my nerves, fast forward to 2022, Caitlin was back and only managing all of the runners, what a superstar. It was just lovely to catch-up with her and see how well she was doing.
Also back at Hay 2018 I invited some children onto the stage for some interactive parts. One of the young girls Evie loved this part and stuck around afterwards to chat. Well, she was back in 2022 too, she came along with her family to listen to my talk again and tell me that she’s just got an offer for University to study medicine (yes I feel very old!) but yesssssss, go Evie! There’s impact for you folks.
In May I was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales , the youngest ever fellow to be elected, and for my work in science communication and the public understanding of science, this really was a a huge honour and in 2023 I hope to use this to create further change.
In June I achieved status of Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. This achievement was a long time in the making and I was really proud to receive the email that it had been successful.
I promised that this blog would be honest and June was a tough month. One of my mentors, colleagues and friends died after a short illness, it was a shock and still affects me now. I’m dealing with this in my own way as I know many others are, as this person impacted so many others, particularly through her work championing other women in science. I continue much of the work that I do furthering the huge legacy that she has left.
July turned out to be another tough month. Sometimes even the brightest stars are forced to dim their sparkle for just a short while. My focused turned to looking after myself and recharging my batteries so that I could come back stronger and sparklier than ever, working to fight the good fight and change the world one piece at a time.
With August comes summer. I was finally able to go to Lion King the musical after originally booking this back in December 2019. I staffed lots of open days and visit days for people considering coming to Cardiff University to study. My garden hammock got a lot of use as I finally discovered the Guilty Feminist podcast (yes, I am sorry, I know I am very late to this party!)
Speaking of podcasts, I have really enjoyed Women on a Mission with Sue Revell podcast for some time, it features inspiring and phenomenal women from all over the world and Sue only invited little old me to come on as a guest after the incredible Bnar Talabani MBE recommended me! Eeeek!! This meant more to me than either of these wonderful women probably know, so thank you ladies. My episode was released in August and happily, Sue titled this episode “Scientists are People Too!” you can catch up on this, the reflections episode and loads of other great episodes on the link.
Oh and I was back doing the Sunday paper review on BBC Radio Wales Sunday Supplement with Prof Tom Crick.
September is the month where we welcome new and returning students back to the University. It’s a time of year filled with nervous excitement and anxiety as things return to a type of normal. I loved meeting new and welcoming back existing students as well as preparing my teaching for the year ahead.
It was in this month that Queen Elizabeth II passed away. An incredibly sad time, yes, but also a time of reflection and thanks for the life of a remarkable woman who changed the world.
Perhaps my most humbling moment of the year came in September as I collaborated with Zaphorizhzhia Polytechnic National University, Ukraine, to bring a Night of Science to young people across Ukraine. The resilience and courage of the people that I had the absolute pleasure of working with was so humbling and it really made me reflect and want to do more to help others.
October is the month where the academic term really begins, my teaching schedule soon got into full flow and my Masters science communication module kept me very busy. I was also able to go to Radyr Comprehensive School to give my annual talk to their students. I also gave talks to early career researchers about alternative careers and the importance of communication. I was also in full wedding preparation mode for our wedding at the end of November.
In November I was finally able to deliver a talk to Cardiff NHS Retirement Fellowship which had been three years in the making (thanks COVID-19!). A truly wonderful example of people coming together to talk, discuss and drink phenomenally made cups of tea.
I continued my work with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) communications committee, something which I just love doing. We ran a flash webinar “Running a Brain Awareness Week event in 2023” and we’ve got lots more planned for 2023 – watch out!
I was invited to London to speak at Education in Action and my genetic washing line from my British Science Festival Award Lecture in 2018 made a return to the stage. It’s always great to speak at events for schools audiences and I particularly enjoyed this one.
Finally after a huge amount of planning, I got married to my husband at the end of November. I don’t talk too much about my personal life publicly, but it was brilliant and we had the best time.
In the final month of 2022, some writing that I did through invited contributions to another DK Book, “Simply The Brain” was published. It is always lovely to see your contributions finally appear in print for the first time.
We also managed to squeeze in a wonderful honeymoon after our wedding. We escaped the cold of the UK for a trip to the Maldives, swimming with whale sharks (that’s a tick off the bucket list) and snorkeling with manta rays, turtles and dolphins, it was just paradise and truly magical.
There we are, my 12 months of 2022. Well, I did warn you it has been quite the year!
While I am in this reflective mood, I’d like to say a special thank you to all who have supported me this year; friends, family, mentors and many others who probably don’t even know that they’ve helped. To the people who have been there, championed me and checked in through the ups, the downs and all of the times in between, diolch yn fawr iawn.
Here’s to 2023, it is me after all, so I’m coming for you – bring it on and I am already looking forward to reflecting in my 12 months of 2023 (spoiler alert – I know that there are already some really exciting things in the planning)!