Centre for Inflammation Research

Science Insights goes online with the help of CIR researchers

July 2020 - Students, postdocs and PIs from CIR sign up to help with Science Insights, a programme for pupils which democratises access to high quality science and medical work experience.

The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine's (CMVM) work experience programme for S5 pupils, Science Insights, ran from 27 to 31 July this year with help from CIR researchers.

Science Insights creates access to high-quality summer work experience in medical and veterinary research for any S5 pupils in Scotland who may be considering a career in the field. It is run by public engagement professionals from Centres throughout CMVM.

Science Insights has been running for seven years, but this is the first year that it has run online. Although the ability to hold face-to-face events has been lost during the pandemic, running sessions online meant that more people applied and could be invited to the online sessions. Nearly 300 applicants - 2.5 times the usual number - were invited to Attending University sessions on the Monday and Friday, with 65 successful applicants attending experience workshops in groups for the rest of the week. 

In place of the usual lab sessions, researchers held online 'Meet the Scientist' sessions using a mixture of pre-recorded and live five minute talks, followed by the opportunity for pupils to ask questions. Scientists were also encouraged to talk about their career journey to date, with some unconventional routes into academia being shared.

Researchers commented that it was a real learning experience to not only engage with pupils, but have to think about engaging effectively online. 

The first thing that struck me was that creating a video is, perhaps counter-intuitively, much harder than giving a live talk. Whereas live talking is a pretty standard skill I use in my career, producing videos draws on a much less commonly exercised skillset. I was curious, going in, whether the online format would make the students more or less timid about asking questions. It turned out most students involved has at least one question to ask, however, building up a proper discussion takes time and trust.

Dr Isaac ShawPostdoctoral researcher in the Saunders Lab

Volunteer researchers from CIR made up nearly a third of content creators for Science Insights, ranging from Masters students through to Principal Investigators. Many thanks to Jennifer Shelley, Broc Drury, Isaac Shaw, Giulia Tagliavini, Shonna Johnston, Lucy Kershaw, Carsten Hansen and David Wilson for their time and expertise!