By Rob Malkin, Senior Research Associate, University of Bristol

I was delighted to have been awarded the BSA Award Lecture in 2016. It’s not often that junior academics are recognised for the interesting and important work that we all do, so it was a real joy to receive the Award. After the Award started to sink in, my research started to receive more and more attention. Some highlights include: being invited onto local Bristol radio and BBC Wales; writing an article for a national newspaper; being featured in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers magazine and being contacted by various academics and industry groups about my work. And all of this was before I even gave my lecture! The result has been that my work has been exposed to potentially millions of people. For me this is particularly important for two reasons - firstly it shows the public, who essentially fund us, that we are doing interesting and societally important work. Secondly, it provides an amazing springboard into further academic work. The ability to collaborate with new and diverse groups is now much easier to initiate, for the first-time people are coming to me directly!

After all the media attention about the Award I finally got to present my talk. It was a lot of work to create an engaging talk, which I hoped would both excite people and show them that science is amazing and some great work is being done by people in small labs in dark basements! It was the first lecture I have given where I could entirely choose what I talked about, and it was a great experience. To have total freedom as a junior academic is rare and I grasped it with both hands. 

Other than being the Award winner and all the benefits which come with it, for me the most rewarding aspect was the discussions I had with members of the public, of whom either attended the lecture or had heard about my work. One encounter that I was quite touched by was with a lady with hearing loss who took her three children to my lecture. Afterwards she said that it was the only thing she has ever experienced which clearly communicated what hearing loss sounds like and how it impacts so many aspects of her life. Many people talked to me about their own hearing loss and experiences of deafness. I felt privileged to be the person who communicated to them how much work is being done by the scientific community to address their very concerns. They could see that our work is seriously focused on improving the lives of the hard of hearing and in so doing I feel like they have increased levels of trust and faith in the amazing research being done in the UK.

For anyone interested in the Award I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It has taught me a lot about science communication and made me look at the importance of research in a whole new light.

Applications for 2017 Award Lectures are now open – find out more here