A Student’s Day in the Life of a Science Communicator: The Manchester Science Festival #MSF16.

By Alicia Erskine

STEM Ambassador and Undergraduate, BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology, University of Salford



Atalicia-erskine-science-festival-2 the heart of the Manchester Science Festival Science Jam 2016, MediaCityUK were 100 volunteers who engaged creatively with around 1800 visitors. As one of the volunteers from Psychology, I loved taking part, and my involvement in the Jam opened my eyes in a number of ways.

On the day, my role was communicating the health related benefits of using mobile technology for the school run. These benefits were from first hand research led by Dr Sarah Norgate and team, who I was lucky enough to volunteer with. Here are four skills or insights I developed from being a volunteer science communicator:



1. Adapting science communication to engage visitors of diverse ages

As the visitors to #MSF2016 were of diverse ages, ranging from young children to grandparents, I learned to adapt my science communication skills across the lifespan!

2. Using observational skills to meet family communication preferences

For each visiting family, I gained perspectives on their reactions to the ‘hands on’ activities, and adapted my approach depending on what they said or did. Sometimes parents wanted us to engage with all siblings, and sometimes respond to a parent-child dyad.

3. Developing empathy skills to attune to different temperaments

Taking part in this event gave me confidence in dealing with a range of different temperaments of children. Some children had many questions, others were quiet. Being able to see children with different temperaments learn made it very rewarding.

4. Applying the experience to my own career path

As a final year undergraduate psychology student, experience is fundamental not only for credibility but also to determine which area of psychology interests you for future studies or job prospects. In the second year of my degree, the module in developmental psychology (led by Dr Sarah Norgate) involved studying children’s scientific learning in museums, and registering to be a Stem Ambassador. Being able to participate in the Science Jam allowed me to put theory into practice and gave me an insight of first hand research out in the community. As a science communicator this is one of the events which has made me realise how much I want to continue studying in the area of psychology. This event gave me experience with children which has fully prepared me for my final year dissertation which will occur in a school. Overall, this event not only opened my eyes to the fantastic research occurring, but also completely made my mind up about future prospects and wanting to push myself to fulfil my dreams of a PhD.