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Engaging the public is not just for researchers

Blog posted by: Jackie Parker, Accounts Officer

Researchers are always encouraged to reach out and tell the story of their work outside the University. Researchers should not have all the fun!

Although I currently work in Accounts, my degree is in Human Biology. Once a scientist always a scientist and I very much enjoy reading about our PIs current research and attending seminars that are open to all staff in the Department of Oncology.

Last year I decided to join in and sign-up for the Department’s Public Engagement Course. During the course, we supported each other to develop an activity which we could use to illustrate some science at a science festival.  We discussed how to focus our story and use our activities to engage both young children and their parents. 

We discovered how to develop a presentation depending on the occasion - for instance, at Schools Day there wouldn’t be any young children, since they were all teenagers, but it would have to be slightly interactive to keep their interest. It's often best for teenagers to have something a bit competitive so they can compete with each other.

As 1 in 2 people get Cancer at some point in their lives, it’s a disease that affects just about everyone, and as such it’s important to make your presentation or show accessible to everyone.

It’s good for me as a non-scientist to be able to talk about science with anyone and everyone. I have had some great feedback from people that think it’s fantastic that someone from accounts is out talking to them.

Cancer has affected me personally.  My step dad passed away from cancer when my brother was just 4 years old, my best friend’s little brother had leukaemia, and recovered, however many of the children he was in hospital with at the time did not survive.

My former boyfriend and my daughter’s father had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as a small child, and passed away of a heart attack at the age of 48 –maybe as a result of intensive chemotherapy causing heart damage. The amazing thing is that back when he was a child, there was a 95% chance that you would die of his particular cancer, now there’s a 95% survival rate.

Things have changed so much in just a few decades and it’s all thanks to the research that people like our scientists do and I am proud to go out to the public and tell them about it.

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