There’s this module called Science Communications in my degree and here is why it is unironically great.
Before starting the Science Communications module as part of the requirements for completing my final year Life Sciences degree, I was quite conflicted about needing to do it as an aspiring research-minded scientist.
You do the SciComms module in your final year of a Biology/Biochemistry degree (as they both belong to the Department of Life Sciences) alongside your literature project which is equivalent to your final year dissertation at other universities. At Imperial, there is the advantage of doing a research project alongside your lecturers or other researchers participating in cutting-edge research to make a real difference to the current scientific field rather than working individually or just with your peers.
And just like that third term is over! In keeping with my previous end of term blogs I thought I’d stick to tradition, but this time use songs from some of the best-loved Disney films to round up my final term at Imperial.
We finally reached the practical option term of the masters course and I chose to take courses in radio and documentary. For radio, I produced a short piece about cultured meat and together with some course mates, produced a short documentary called ‘the sun shines for everyone’. It was an incredibly busy term with not much time for reflection as it progressed, but looking back on it now I learnt so much and gained experience to aid me in the future.
Studying in one of the most expensive cities in the world is one factor that affects people’s decision to study at Imperial College. Rest assured it can be done, but particularly for students like myself who are undertaking a one year master’s course, the different funding options means that money can sometimes get tight. An upside of the course though, is its flexibility in allowing its students to have part-time jobs. Indeed, most students from the Science Communication Unit have part-time jobs, myself included.
I have previously mentioned my job as an Observatory Explainer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, but have not delved into many details.
There are many aspects of the science communication course at Imperial that make it so enjoyable, but perhaps the freedom we are given is the most rewarding part. In our assessments we are given an element of free choice in what we centre our arguments around, which allows for a great deal of creativity and expression. One of the most daunting free choices I’ve had to make in the last few months has been the topic for my dissertation.
The parameters were simply ‘choose anything that is related to science communication’. Having studied this area for the last 8 months I can confidently say that there is a lot that could be explored.
At such a busy time of year, scrolling through the news doesn’t always seem to make things better. A 2018 study reported that over half of Americans find that the news causes them stress, anxiety, fatigue and sleep loss. Although it is important to stay informed, particularly on news stories that require urgent and collective action, sometimes a bit of good news is what we need.
This inspired Emily Coxhead to create ‘The Happy Newspaper’, an online and print publication to ‘share positive news and wonderful people’. Her newspapers are released quarterly and can be delivered or picked up in several locations across the UK.
The transition from studying a degree in Maths and Physics to a Masters in Science Communication was a much welcomed change for me. Not only was I fed up of the multitude of exams in my undergraduate course, but I was also craving the chance to be more creative. Thankfully the last six months studying science communication have not disappointed.
Kick-starting the creativity
In the spring term I chose to study a module called Narrative, which dissected the techniques that authors use to produce compelling texts. The assignment for this module gave us a chance to produce a short story of our own, incorporating the theory we had spent the last few weeks learning about.
In a previous blog post I managed to summarise my first term at Imperial with the song lyrics of ABBA. As the Easter holidays begin, I have attempted to use the words of the legendary band, Queen, to reflect on what has been an incredibly busy second term.
We Are The Champions
Dance Company has continued to be a huge presence in my life at Imperial. In February we travelled across the country to compete in two university dance competitions for which 8 teams have been preparing hard for. Dance Company truly were the champions as we ended up winning a total of 13 awards across the two competitions in Southampton and Liverpool.
I couldn’t call myself a mathematician if I didn’t celebrate Pi Day. Let’s take a moment to appreciate this mathematical constant for… staying constant. Today’s hero came by a hair’s breadth of being changed to 3.2.
Since ancient times mathematicians had been trying to “square the circle”, so given a circle construct a square with the same area, using just a compass and straightedge. Unfortunately for all these fame-seeking mathematicians and amateurs, in 1882 the task was proven impossible. And the culprit was… π.
To square the circle we’d have to construct a square root of π. However, a German mathematician Carl Louis Ferdinand von Lindemann proved that π is a transcendental number, which means it’s not a root of any polynomial with rational coefficients.
Rewind almost five months ago. Our first session of the course was in full swing and we were tasked with writing a list of words we associate with science. We began with the words familiar to us from scientific practice: experiment, process, evidence, research… But as soon as we had exhausted these words and their synonyms, we discovered new words: funding, insecurity, power, hierarchical…It became clear to us that we had delved deeper into what we felt scientific culture was like.
At Imperial College London there is a wealth of extracurricular activities to get involved in. From ultimate frisbee to windsurfing, algorithmic trading to whisky; there is certainly a club for everyone! One activity unique to the Science Communication Unit that I have been involved in is the publication I, Science.
What is I, Science?
I, Science is a science publication run by students of the MSc Science Communication and Science Media Production courses here at Imperial. As well as producing an award-winning magazine three times a year, I, Science also has a website with regular news updates, features, reviews of exhibitions around London and a weekly radio show, broadcast on ICRadio.