Mad Scientess Jane Expat (nanila) wrote,
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Physics outreach event preparation: Looking for feedback

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.
Tags: outreach, science
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