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August 2013

This quarter we are chatting with Dr. Amelia Markey, who is the Volunteer Coordinator at our Manchester Branch.  Amelia has recently taken on this role to support the stability of the committee in a Branch which has a high turnover of student volunteers.  Prior to and alongside this position Amelia has also contributed a great deal to the event planning and delivery within the Branch.

Let’s start by finding out a bit about you.  Who are you and how does science play a part in your life?
I started my life in science with a Biological Sciences degree at Lancaster University. This really sparked my interest in science, biology specifically, and I was keen to learn more. This led me on to a research masters degree in Translational Medicine at the University of Manchester where I first discovered microfluidics. I saw the brilliant and novel work that could be achieved when teams of scientists from different disciplines and different backgrounds work together. I then began a PhD in Analytical Science, which I have recently completed, developing a novel microfluidic device. I’ve now decided to leave the lab behind but science will still be a huge part of my life as I begin a career in medical writing.
What made you want to go into science?
The sciences, particularly biology, were always my best subjects at school because they were always the most interesting! It took a while for me realise I wanted a career in science, I was more interested in learning more and furthering my education in something I found fascinating.
What makes you want to share your love of science with the others?
I’ve always been very passionate about science and wanted to share my love of it with others. If I found out something fascinating I’d always want to tell my friends and family “Did you know that...?”. During my PhD I got the opportunity to volunteer at some events which aimed to communicate science and research to secondary school students. I absolutely loved sharing my enthusiasm with them and seeing their fascination at looking around the labs and hearing about some of the research that goes on at Manchester. This inspired me to organise my own events which I ran at Manchester Museum, in a school and at the University of Manchester. During this time I came across the British Science Association which offered me the opportunity to organise these events with a team of people who shared my passion for science.
Communicating science is not only an incredibly enjoyable and worthwhile pursuit but it is also incredibly important. A lot of research is publicly funded and so the public have a right to hear about the incredible research that their money is being spent on. A lot of prejudice can come about through a lack of knowledge, for example stem cell research or nuclear research, and so it is the researchers’ duty to inform and encourage debate about these issues. However it’s not just a one-way street. As a scientist you can learn a lot by being asked questions about your research. Questions like “Why is it important?”, “Who are you helping?” can be quite challenging to answer but it’s important to consider these questions.

Tell me about your time with the Manchester Branch so far.
I’ve volunteered and been part of the Manchester Branch committee since February 2012. In that time I’ve volunteered at and helped to organise a wide variety of events from small craft stalls at Manchester Museum to stands at festivals such as Live from Jodrell. One of my favourite events has been “Sensored Science”. This was a one night event in a local Manchester pub which was included in the Manchester Science Festival programme. The night began with some live experiments. We wanted to give the audience a feel for what it was like to design an experiment and some of the considerations scientists have to put in place to make sure the experiment is fair. We did this with the help of Professor Matthew Cobb and his maggots. The audience tested which colours maggots can see, where their eyes are and whether they like salt to name a few. The night then continued with a rude and sensory science themed pub quiz, a science themed comedian, Andy Watson, and the brilliant science musicians Being 747. After all the hard work organising the event it was great to see everyone having such a great time learning interesting science facts.
What do you get out of volunteering with the Branch and would you recommend it to others?
Volunteering with the British Science Association has been such an enjoyable time. I’ve met and worked with some fantastic people and been part of some amazing events. It’s also helped me realise the type of science career I want as well as developing skills that have helped me to get a job in this incredibly competitive environment. I’d definitely recommend it to others! We’re a very flexible and friendly organisation so you could be involved as little or as much as you want (volunteering can be very addictive!) from occasional volunteers who turn up and help out at events now and then to core members of the committee who plan and run events. If you’re thinking about getting involved in science communication the British Science Association is a great place to start as you can learn from an experienced group of people in a social and relaxed atmosphere.