Thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, I was able to attend the last EU funded STEAM Summer School & associated conference hosted on the beautiful and culturally immersive island of Malta. STEAM is a science communication school that runs over an intensive 10 days filled with workshops aimed at combining educational approaches of Art with classic STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects that have traditionally been viewed as separate entities. STEAM is a relatively new concept that uses creativity and arts to facilitate interactive experiments and informal learning approaches. This diverges from mainstream methods of education delivery that currently dominate our academic culture, so I thought that it would be exciting to try out something different during the first year of my PhD.
Before the trip I was apprehensive as I had never travelled on a university-related endeavour on my own so naturally I was worried about prospects of making friends as well as soaking up so much new knowledge of the intensive schooling over such a condensed period of time. But my worries soon evaporated as within the first day I had the privilege of meeting people from all over the world including the Philippines, India, Japan and Brazil and many European countries. From the get-go we all clicked, finding out new things about each other’s projects and fields ranging from Education, Neuroscience, Journalism and Chemistry. Most importantly, we were able to work together to formulate science communication ideas that combined all of our individual backgrounds into a whole, using theatre, arts and music approaches.
Through the summer school and the various engaging talks at the conference I have been equipped with a range of tools and alternative approaches to science communication. This includes how to present my research in an engaging manner, how to moderate public events, effective use media and journalism to attract publics to my research and deal with the evolving issue of fake news. I also learned about management and monitoring of science communication initiatives, how to source funding and identify collaborators as well as evaluating the progress of my project. Additionally, we learned how to communicate science using arts, theatre and comedy which I found particularly enjoyable. I also got to be involved in PRing a comedy bright club event where participants spoke about their project using stand up comedy, as well as being part of a theatre performance communicating Jet Lag to the local community. Our workshops focused primarily on group work and group presentations, and this has provided me with a sound based for working as part of a team and managing group dynamics. I also got to visit the science museum in Valleta, which uses a range of interactive exhibitions to teach visitors about scientific concepts.
I found this experience extremely rewarding in terms of practices that I hope to utilise in my own project in order to maximize public engagement and bridge the gap between science and the community. I am delighted to have been able to build a large network of academic contacts from all over the world and most importantly long lasting friendships. Thank you Go Abroad Fund!