Training teachers in cutting edge stem cell research

PhD student Sara Schmidt, a researcher in the lab of HumEN principal investigator Mark Bradley, last week ventured away from the lab into a local High School to experience for the first time a taste of public engagement. Here she tells us about her experience...

I have always thought that public outreach activities seem fun, interesting and more importantly, essential for scientist to engage in. Despite this feeling I had never myself done any such activities, so the opportunity to speak at Tynecastle High School in Edinburgh was perfect timing.

I came along to a workshop style activity for 15 high school teachers of biology from Edinburgh. The workshop was designed by HumEn’s Science Communicator Cathy Southworth for the teachers to learn more about stem cell research and how they can extend this knowledge to their classrooms.

My part was to give a short talk on my research, part of the HumEn project, in developing new materials for stem cells to ensure their growth and maintenance. Cathy gave me pointers for my talk, and with the help of some useful props, I aimed for a more interactive discussion rather than a straight-up presentation. I think I succeeded somewhat in this, and enjoyed the questions I was given by the seemingly intrigued audience.

 I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of public outreach, and I would be very happy to do it again. I admit that it can be challenging to present to an outside audience, and discuss your research at an appropriate level.  It is, however, very rewarding to do so, and that I was able to instigate interest around my day-to-day work in the lab to the teachers is something that will keep me going in the lab for at least a few weeks.