Soapbox Science is a public outreach platform to promote women in science. Female scientists talk about their research and interact with people of different ages and backgrounds in public areas. The idea is to decrease the barrier between scientists and the general public, and to change the stereotype of a scientist being a crazy grey haired white man with the tongue out of the mouth.
Women of different ages and nation also do science! The format was inspired by London Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner, historically an arena for public debate. Soapbox Science happens once a year in many cities, in different countries. It was the third time it had visited Newcastle.
This year, I had a chance of engaging in this event for the first time. In the beginning of the year, I sent out an application to participate of the Soapbox Science 2017, and was selected as one of the 12 women in the North of England to speak about science to the public of Newcastle.
My colleague Priscilla Carrillo volunteered to help me interact with the public. We can confirm that it was a great experience. My topic was “Microbes: why we should love them”, and we used chocolates to catch the attention of the public. Chocolate isdelicious and it would not taste like that, were it not for the activity of some microbes during its production.
People were surprised to hear that and became interested in where else we find microbes and what they can do for us. I talked about many different roles of microbes, including their crucial part in the maintenance of our planet and human health.
Sludge and fun fur
I also spoke about how amazing microbes can be, since they can clean up the environment from different pollutants. To exemplify it, I showed a bottle of activated sludge as an example of microbes clearing up wastewater. I also used some soft toys representing microbes to illustrate my speech.
It was very special to see people understand that microbes are more than tiny little germs that make us ill. Instead, people understood that without them life as we know wouldn’t be possible. We felt like having accomplished our task when people responded with questions (very interesting questions by the way) and/or by thanking us, admitting that they now love microbes.
I’d like to thank Professor Tom Curtis (Newcastle University) for sponsoring me, through NUFEB project; the Microbiology Society, for sending the book “The Secret World of Microbes” which helped me with ideas of how to communicate Microbiology to the public; and the Society for Applied Microbiology, for sending me some soft toys of microbes.
Luiza Lessa Andrade
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