Log in

No account? Create an account
Sauntering Vaguely Downward [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

Serious Business | Flickr
Bounty Information | Wanted Dead or Alive: Mad Scientess Nanila
Deeds of Derring-Do | Full of Wild Inaccuracies and Exaggerations

Physics outreach event preparation: Looking for feedback [20090611|11:19]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
[Tags|, ]
[the weather today is |anxious]

In about a week, I'm supposed to be opening a "Girls Into Physics" event at a sixth-form college with a 20-25 minute talk. The aim of the day-long event, which includes break-out discussion groups and practical activities, is "to show girls how studying physics at A-level and beyond at university can open up career possibilities that they probably haven't thought of and that it's not just a male industry." The organizers asked me not to use PowerPoint, which I'm okay with as I try not to use PP excessively anyway, but it's challenging trying to prepare. I've attempted to write an outline, but I find I keep thinking of clever ways to phrase things and I start scripting, which is incredibly boring. Anyway, I'm looking for a bit of help here.

I'm planning to structure the talk as follows :

  1. Introduction - What I Do Now (5 minutes max): Start with Saturn & its rings and moons. Move to the spacecraft (Cassini) with its science instruments. Describe the magnetometer instrument. Explain why measuring magnetic fields is useful as their interactions propagate at levels we can detect to distances beyond other effects (example: Enceladus). Finish by describing my duties as operations & archive engineer.

  2. Background - How I Got Here (5 minutes): Brief bio of childhood in Hawai'i (helps motivate desire to travel). However, not born knowing I wanted to be a scientist (examples before age of 14: writer, veterinarian, translator). In high school - their age - found ability not a limitation. When interested in everything, how to choose? Picked science & maths because seemed most practical. Let other interests take a back seat as hobbies. First two years at uni tumultuous, but found a strong mentor - female - who helped me focus and find that I wanted to study chemical physics as a postgraduate.

  3. Experiences - Formative People & Events (7 minutes): First, role models, such as a (male) PhD supervisor who made an effort to recruit women. It works. Five years in his group & always had equal numbers. Touch briefly on rare incidents being discouraged by narrow-minded individuals. Issue not so much their gender - though all were male - but use of rank & position to intimidate. Second, supportive colleagues. Am a strongly cooperative person and learned to seek groups where I knew I'd find more collaboration than competition. Third, deciding to quit after my first post-doc and return after a year to a completely different field. Fourth, moving to another country, and staying, made possible by my education. These last two were liberating and also made me realize how useful my skills were, not just in a specific field but everywhere.

  4. Recommendations - Points I Hope They Take Away (2-3 minutes max): First, seek supportive mentors. Don't be afraid to keep looking until you find someone who's a good fit for you in terms of learning style as well as your educational/research interests. Second, remember you’re doing this because you want to. You have an interest in it. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if anyone tells you there is, well, they’re wrong. There’s also nothing wrong with deciding you want to take a break from science or that you want to quit. You never know where you’ll end up, and your education will prove useful to you no matter what you choose to do next. Finally, studying science affords you opportunities you might not expect. You can make a reasonable to exceptional salary, you can live in other countries and you will have colleagues and work that are always stimulating and exciting.

Assuming that wasn't Teal Deer for you, please let me know if you feel there's anything I haven't touched on. For those who've known me for a while: Is there a personal experience I've discussed with you that you think I ought to include?

It's been a while since I was a 16-year-old girl. If you are one, know one, play one on telly or have more recently been one than I have, I would really appreciate it if you'd let me know whether you'd find this encouraging and inspirational.

[User Picture]From: thirdbird
2009-06-11 14:11 (UTC)
Can I be sixteen again so I can go back and pay more attention in science class now? Jeez.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-06-12 09:24 (UTC)
You can always go back to uni and study science! I want to do another degree one day.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: victorine
2009-06-11 15:26 (UTC)
This sounds awesome. I want to be a 16 year old girl on the brink of going to university now! Not really.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-06-12 09:29 (UTC)
Oh god, do you remember what it was like being 16? Now that I'm thinking about it, the strongest impression I have is of being a ball of nervous, horny energy, 24 hours a day.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: seismic
2009-06-12 02:29 (UTC)
Though a teense younger than your target audience, I have it on good authority that at least one teenaged girl would find it inspiring, encouraging, and probably leave her with eyes wide and jaw dropped. She mock-whined, "I wanna gooooooooooooooooo."
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: seismic
2009-06-12 02:30 (UTC)
(Had eaglet read it without telling her it was you--she knows about you but I don't think I've mentioned your outreach activities. She probably figured it out but I think she thinks you're even cooler now.)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-06-12 09:39 (UTC)
Yay! Thank you thank you. I appreciate it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: smallfurry
2009-06-12 02:53 (UTC)
i don't know who else they will be hearing from, but would it be beneficial to tell them a range of things they could do in science that they could identify with? like invent the next iphone or something like that?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-06-12 09:27 (UTC)
I'll mention it briefly when I'm talking about the Cassini spacecraft, which has people from all sorts of science & engineering backgrounds working on it. Fortunately, I'm not going to be the only speaker. There are supposed to be four of us and I'm the only one from academia. One person is in transportation engineering and I think another is in science journalism. Exciting!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2009-06-17 10:27 (UTC)


How did you get from what you were doing into the space domain? If you just met Patrick on the tube and he said it would be a laugh you might not want to mention it!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-06-17 16:31 (UTC)

Re: Space

Now, who is this, I wonder? ;-)

You're right - I will try to integrate that into the "Experiences" bit as I think the jump to the Cluster job makes a nice illustration of how you can wind up somewhere completely unexpected.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)