Internship at the Royal Institution

I am very excited to announce that at the start of October I’ll be starting a 3 month internship at the Royal Institution! This internship is part of my BBSRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), and is a newish scheme called Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS).

The aim is to provide us PhD students with some experience of non-academic work, to show how our work and research can have context outside academia, and to give us an idea of non-academic career options after graduating. I have to admit, I was a bit concerned about this when I started my PhD – I worried that taking 3 months out of my research would leave me short of time. I also had no idea what area I wanted to work in, except that I knew it had to be science-related (i.e. not in the human resources department of some random company). Not long after starting my PhD however, I realised that I didn’t want to pursue an academic career – and then I panicked as I had no idea what I wanted to do! After some thought about what I enjoyed most, I suddenly had a light-bulb moment – I love doing science communication and outreach work, and always offered to help out at college open days, student ambassador work, that kind of thing – so why not try make a career out of it?! This got me super excited, and was one of the reasons I started this blog. So I thought about where I could do my internship in the science communication area. I met with college careers people for advice, plus my supervisors and friends I’ve met along this crazy PhD path. Prof. Mark Miodownik was particularly helpful – thanks Mark! Through this, I was put into contact with someone at the Royal Institution (Ri), with the idea of helping out with the Christmas Lectures.

Now, I’d heard of the Christmas Lectures, and I’d watched a couple of them online, but I didn’t realise quite how prestigious they were until I looked them up. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ri, it was founded in 1799, and was the workplace of numerous scientists and Nobel laureates. It is particularly famous for being the place where ten chemical elements were discovered, and the first place that Michael Faraday demonstrated the power of electricity. In fact, it was Michael Faraday who began the Christmas Lectures in 1825, as a way of extending science to a younger audience during the holidays. The idea was to use demonstrations and props to explain science, rather than a formal lecture, and it is this theme that shapes the Christmas Lectures every year. They are broadcast on BBC4 between Christmas and New Year, and have a different theme each year that more recently has roughly alternated between biological and physical sciences. Notable Christmas Lecturers have included Sir David Attenborough, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins.

This year, it is the turn of Prof Danielle George, an engineer at the University of Manchester. Her Christmas Lectures have the title of ‘Sparks Will Fly: How To Hack Your Home‘, and will demonstrate how, with all the new technology and tools at our fingertips, we can ‘hack’ and tinker with various everyday objects in order to create something completely different. My role in this will involve helping the props department to come up with ideas of demonstrations, writing and editing promotional material for various social media sites, and generally coming up with ideas of how to engage people with this year’s Christmas Lectures. As I settle in to the Ri, my role will become more defined, and I can start posting more exciting stuff on here letting you know what it’s like working in such a dramatic, history-filled scientific building – I can’t wait!

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