A Fond Farewell

Thursday 8th January

As I write this, it’s getting towards the last week of my internship here at the Royal Institution. I’m going to miss this place a lot. It’s become like a second home – partly due to the amount of hours spent here during the CHRISTMAS LECTURES, but mostly because of the welcoming nature of the place, and the people – it feels like I’m part of their big family now.

This is a special place for science. Even though my work has died down a bit in the new year, since the filming & broadcast of the Lectures, everyone else here is still very busy. As I sit at my desk, I hear Kate, the other CHRISTMAS LECTURES Assistant, in the next office, excitedly telling someone about some crazy idea in her characteristically bubbly way. Earlier, Sean, Dave and Liz from the L’Orèal Young Scientist Centre were running around preparing for a science education conference they’ve gone to. Debs and Martin on the Public Programmes team are busy answering phone calls from people wanting to book tickets to the wonderful array of events on offer this spring. The Mathematics, Engineering & Computer Science Masterclasses teams are similarly busy answering calls and queries. Oly, the Science Learning Manager, is already having meetings about the 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES. Gail, the Director of Science and Education, is hopping from meeting to meeting, keeping this place running smoothly. And that’s just what I can see and hear from one office – there are other offices full of other similarly dedicated people doing what they can to help run the Ri and to promote science to people of all ages.

I’ve never worked anywhere like this, where everyone is passionately working towards the same goal – to communicate science effectively, to make it accessible to everyone, and to make it fun. I’m sure some longer-serving staff members will laugh when I say this, but from my perspective it seems like a well-oiled machine – people just working together to be the best that the Ri can be.

Working on the CHRISTMAS LECTURES has been one of the best experiences of my working life so far. Sitting in every rehearsal, I saw how each Lecture changed and took shape over the weeks before the recordings, how everything slowly came together (and sometimes manically fell apart again just as we were due to record!). I got to be one of the people pretending to be volunteers for Danielle’s demos, having competitions to make up ridiculous names. I was privileged to meet so many people through the Lectures – Danielle, the Windfall team, Dallas Campbell, some of the film & lighting crew – and I’m now lucky enough to call some of these people my friends.

Friday 16th January

Today is my last day. Seems strange to think I won’t be coming back here on Monday morning! To say I’m going to miss everyone here is an understatement. But I know I’ll be coming back to help out with events every so often, so they won’t get rid of me that easily!

Working at the Royal Institution has really been an amazing experience, and I’m so grateful to everyone there for having me. Doing a internship has been a welcome break from my PhD, giving me a different perspective on it and time away to think about a few problems I’d been having. So, I’ll be returning to PhD-land next week feeling refreshed and energised – but very sad to be leaving the Royal Institution behind. Thanks to everyone there I’ve worked with for making every day so much fun. I’ll be back whenever you need an extra pair of hands (or dragging to the pub!), I promise!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite photos from the my time here.

#RiLates

Last Friday saw the premiere of The Royal Institution’s latest public event series: Ri Lates. These adult-only events aim to bring hands-on science to adults – because why should kids have all the fun?!

This debut edition was titled Ri Lates: Rules of Attraction, and featured a variety of activities around that subject, all the way from magnets and blues dancing classes to heart dissections and talks on animal sex. And it was a roaring (get it?) success!

Because this was the first time the Ri have done a Late event, behind the scenes the team were understandably nervous that it would be a wouldn’t go well. But advance ticket sales looked really promising, and so by the time Friday came around everyone was just very excited – especially when we realised people had started queuing outside! (see tweet below)

Earlier that afternoon, we began preparing for the event. And when I say ‘we’, I mean the whole Ri team. Everyone, no matter what their daily job, pulled together and did something to contribute to the evening. It was so lovely to see the whole team come together to work towards one goal – to make the evening a success. No matter how little, everyone did something, from laminating signs to setting up activity tables. We had a wonderful team of volunteers too, who come to help at Family Fun Days and other events. These events just couldn’t run without them.

And that’s what really excites me about the Royal Institution – it’s a massive cliché, but it feels like a big family. They’re so welcoming to people who are new or interning or volunteering, and they include you in everything, with a wonderful team spirit of everybody just chipping in. Ideas and problems are regularly thrown out to the whole office for discussion, often ending up in laughter and with a lot of suggestions! I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been in a happier working environment. (Can you tell I really don’t want this internship to end?!)

Anyway, the event ran smoothly (apart from a couple of false fire alarms set off by the gunpowder workshop!) and everyone I met was just so keen to get involved with the science. I was on the heart dissection stand (when I wasn’t running around taking photos) and I expected there to be at least some people who were grossed out, but everyone eagerly put on a pair of gloves and had a poke – they were pig, sheep and a huge ox heart, in case you’re wondering. And it was packed. It was so good to see the smiles on the Ri team’s faces when they realised that all their hard work had paid off, and people were really engaging and enjoying themselves. Even the CEO of the Royal Institution was there and taking part!

So I’ll leave you with a couple pictures of the evening, so you can get a feel of just what an eclectic and exciting night it was. Official pictures will be up on the Ri Facebook page soon. If you came along, I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

 

Regular Hours

I’ve been on my internship for almost three weeks now, and I have to say that working regular hours is marvellous.

As a PhD student, it can be difficult to work regular hours when you have the freedom and flexibility not to. I’ve had numerous attempts at trying to get to work and leave work at the same times each day, and every time I’ve failed because there’s that voice telling me in the back of my head that I don’t HAVE to be at work for 9am, I don’t HAVE to get out of bed just yet… I just didn’t have the determination to make it so! I often fall into the trap of thinking “I can just work from home today” and while there is the odd time that works really well, the majority of the time I get distracted with normal life stuff like cleaning, or going for a run.

So I’m hoping that this three month internship will kick me into good habits – I really love working normal hours, it’s something I’ve envied of my normal-job friends. It’s nice to come home and know that you’ve put in your time, and now it’s time to have a life and relax. Helps me sleep better, too, I think. Must try hard to keep this up when I go back into the dreaded PhD in January…