During my year as novice blogger, I’ve been made aware of many excellent projects involving outreach that raise the profile of our profession to the public, and in particular, to school children.
This blog post highlights five initiatives that will inspire a new generation of chemical engineers, as well as promoting the value of engineering to a wider audience:
1. Pint of Science
The Pint of Science festival is an annual event, held over three days, that takes place in pubs across the world. During the festival, researchers and experts in their field discuss their latest scientific work over a drink. Pint of Science has grown year on year since its inception in 2012 by two research scientists, Michael Motskin and Praveen Paul, at Imperial College London, UK.
This year I was invited to take part – and in return I was promised a free pint! Well how could I refuse? I’m a big fan of science communication and public engagement – the free pint had nothing to do with it!
I didn’t originally plan on becoming a biochemical engineer. The main bulk of my applications through UCAS were to study medicine – my dad was a GP and perhaps it was an expected route for me to take.
But one of my applications was to study biochemical engineering and to be honest, at that time, I didn’t really know what it was. I chose biochemical over chemical engineering because I was more interested in the pharmaceutical aspect of the discipline.
At my UCAS interview, I felt as if I was being recruited. I don’t recall being asked a lot of questions, but instead being drawn into a world of ‘what if’. What if experimental procedures such as gene therapy or biofuels were successful? And how could I, as a biochemical engineer, be part of the solution?
Climate change and water scarcity are issues that we all need to keep talking about. But I recognise that perhaps we need to talk about them in more interesting ways than just lecturing.
You could say that the reality of climate change and water scarcity hasn’t hit home with the general public because the effects aren’t immediate and felt on their doorstep. The data, facts and figures are there but the urgency of action isn’t.
As a chemical engineer, I can talk about the issues, I can lecture, I can discuss at length with my peers and even the media, but it is easy for my voice and others to get drowned out.
One interesting way to engage the public about such issues is through immersive theatre.
You might think that engineering and theatre couldn’t be further apart, but a theatre production called New Atlantis by LAStheatre, held in London, UK, has provided an entertaining way to bring key messages and solutions of the future to a willing audience.