Pint of Science Nottingham 2016

On the 23rd May 2016 Pint of Science went live in Nottingham for the first time! Pint of Science is an international science festival that takes place in pubs across multiple countries every May since its launch in 2013. With the number of participating cities increasing every year.

Scientists are taken from their natural environments of University’s and research labs into the relaxed atmosphere of the local pub. Here they can present their hard earned scientific findings in a simplified, fun fashion and be quizzed by inquisitive members of the public.

I was lucky enough to be part of the team that brought this interactive science concept to Nottingham for the first time. The Theme I focused on was ‘Atoms to Galaxies’.

The Nottingham festival was coordinated by the talented Matt Young and many members of STEM Outreach Nottingham Society. It was pulled together in 8 months covering 4 great science themes across 4 fantastic pubs in Nottingham:

  • Beautiful mind @ Canal House
  • Atoms to Galaxies @ Spanky Van Dyke’s
  • Planet Earth @ Rough Trade
  • Tech me Out @ Missoula

Most of the events were sold out and the feedback from the public was very positive. Which is an amazing achievement for a first time festival put on by volunteers. Most of the volunteers were PhD students but there were also contributions from undergraduates, post docs and other academics that made this festival possible.

My personal experience of Pint of Science 2016 is told below:

I have been involved in science events and communication before so felt totally prepared to offer my help and get involved with Pint of Science Nottingham. However along the way I found out how different organising your own stand or talk is compared to forging a cohesive program of events over 3 nights.
sold out

Day 1 

The day stared with me at the venue from 3pm setting up the audio visual equipment. I had great help from Tom, the events coordinator at Spanky van Dyke’s, especially with working out extension cords, projector positioning and mic sound checks.

At 4pm the additional chairs and tables I ordered arrived, this was a done so quickly with a group of men piling up furniture in the door way and being gone before I could say a word to them. Efficient you could say, however I was now left with 50 white patio chairs and 10 white patio tables, so much for the black folding chairs I had requested! So the next challenge was to hawl these upstairs and arrange them in the venue space. Now the space looked a little like a garden party gone wrong, so another rearrange: hiding the white plastic tables in the back room, and replacing them with the trendy metal stools, and adding the finishing touch by placing some candles!

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Finally it was looking like a bar again!

Next steps involved a kind friend enduring some tricky one way road systems and loading my boyfriend up like a pack horse to get all the various banners and merchandise to the venue.

Once the merchandise arrived so did the rest of the group, it was 5.30 so 1.5hr till the public arrived.

It was like a whirl wind, tshirts flying everywhere, pens being launched, banners being hoisted. But it all came together and I was breathing a sigh of relief when a side of chips arrived.

Seconds later our first audience members appeared, which was reassuring even though we knew we had sold out so we’re expecting about 90 people.

However I did start to wonder where the speakers were, the crucial aspect of the event! I needn’t have worried though as the speakers arrived in time and then it was a time trial to find any technical issues with the presentations. Of course their were some issues and I was lucky a member of the team had a spare usb stick handy.

Before we knew it the event had started and everyone was listening avidly to the weird and wonderful world of physics.

While they listened me and the team were filming, tweeting and marking quiz sheets.

After the applauds me and the team helped the bar staff clean up and saw first hand how many people had binged on a pint of science!

 Day 2 

After the hectic nature of the first night the second ran perfectly.

The speakers talks were paired with transfer tattoos and a play doh molecule making stand, which helped encourage people to get even more involved.

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And even though we had had a last minute change in the program our replacement speaker was great and even brought some liquid nitrogen along.

 Day 3 

The final day, another sell out evening and fantastic talks about outer space. The audience was great and kept asking questions. In the background the team was trying to adjust the mics as the audio quality had changed, then as the rain in Nottingham got heavier a leak developed!!

Panic amongst the team at the puddle forming around the electrics, however a word with the management, a bucket and a lot of bin bags later and we were back on track.

The night ended on a high with lots of photos, a giant piece of chocolate fudge cake and stacking garden furniture!

Top tips for science events

  • Always have spare usb stick
  • Know how to use the audio system
  • Don’t panic if things go off track
  • Risk assessing is worth it just in case
  • Never underestimate the British weather
  • Take lots of photos and get your audience tweeting
  • Ask the venue where they hire from so you don’t end up with garden furniture!

I fully recommend getting involved in the Pint of Science festivals around the world to give you a taste of quality scientific public engagement. Already looking forward to next year!

even better

Photo courtesy of Tom Bailey.


Soapbox Science 2015 Bringing Science to the People

Last week I volunteered at Soapbox Science London 2015. I really enjoyed the experience and would totally recommend it to other scientists.

This outreach event was held along the Southbank London, we were so lucky with the weather (sunshine really does help enthusiasm). The aim of the event is to attract members of the public to stand and listen to talented female scientists talk about their research.

Though the event is advertised there are a lot of people passing along the Southbank on a sunny Saturday so the idea is to attract in people who were not going out of their way to go to a science event. I like this idea as at the outreach events I have previously done (Mayfest Nottingham University) members of the public make a conscious effort to come onto campus and engage with us, which though good selects for the already engaged members of the public.

From volunteering on the day I can say that not everyone along the Southbank is going to be persuaded to stop and listen. However there is really no way of identifying who will and who wont. Having an interest or curiosity in science definitely isn’t splashed across peoples faces and some people are easier to convince than others. I have to say families were an easy target to get involved, and was encouraged when asking children ‘do you like science?’ I got lots of ‘Yes!’ and one very sweet girl who shouted ‘No I love Maths’ so lots of hope for the future of scientific research I hope.

Later in the day I helped out Dr Jessica Blair who was stood on her soapbox presenting about Superbugs and Antibiotic Resistance. It was great to see such a charismatic speaker. The simple props were very effective, a few cuddly giant microbes, some pictures of the creators of antibiotics and don’t forget some soil! She pulled in a real crowd, with a mixture of ages. Participation was good, bribery with prizes got the audience guessing at the number of bacteria cells in our bodies, numbers that are too big to properly comprehend. I was also interested to see that the public already had some knowledge about the challenge of antibiotic resistance. With complex questions about how to fund new antibiotic drugs and asking about Bacteriophage therapy.

As I said before Soapbox Science is a great outreach experience for scientists and personally I always feel more focused in the lab after these events so would encourage people to sign up and volunteer.

And if that was’t enough to convince you, in two weeks time I will be off to Soapbox Science Newcastle 2015! Looking forward to see what Newcastle’s Scientists have to offer!

I’m a Scientist get me out of here!

Just had a great two weeks participating in the ‘I’m a Scientist get me out of here’ scheme

This is a free online event where school students get to meet and interact with scientists. It’s sort of like an X Factor competition between scientists, where the students are the judges.

The students could ask questions to us over live online chat rooms (these were very fast paced with the type of question varying drastically!) and also they could email questions which allowed more time to construct a considered reply.

It was a great exercise for the scientists involved, it made me consider how to explain scientific facts at a lower level (and found I rather enjoyed it). I was part of the Primary School Zone so it was refreshing to get to explain some pretty complex science in a paired down fashion.

Also I was pleasantly surprised by how inquiring the children’s minds were and impressed they had an understanding and interest in bacteria!

Here’s a list of a few of the questions I was asked

• What’s the best thing about being a scientist?
• If bacterium can eat other bacterium could we use them to help us?
• Do you know how many good bacterias there are and how many bad bacterias there are?
• What is the deadliest bacteria?
• What is the largest bacteria?
• How did the plague start and how did people survive it?
• How to grey clouds know when to rain?
• How many cells do u have in your whole body?
• Who invented time?
• Why does age affect your health?

So these pretty insightful questions were also interspersed with a lot of questions about zombies. Think they must be popular with the under 10s at the moment!

This fun experience suddenly became tense when in the second week the power was in the students hands to vote to keep their favourite scientist in till then end.

The other scientists in my zone were all very active at answering questions and posting lots of videos to aid their explanations so it was tough competition for the children’s votes.

However I managed to make it to the final round! Then was beaten by a very interesting Geohazard Scientist, even I learnt a lot from his answers and his research sounds pretty cool too.

I would recommend getting involved with ‘I’m a Scientist get me out of here’ to all PhD students, even those who don’t think of themselves being good/interested in science communication. It not only gave me a different perspective on children’s perception of science but also on my own work! The enthusiasm of the organizers and the children reminds you why science is brilliant, which is good to remember on the days when cloning is proving the most stubborn thing in the world…