While studying here as a visiting student from Brown University, USA, Ruixi Seet decided to expand her skills by volunteering with the Physics Outreach Team.
What attracted you to the role of Physics Outreach Team volunteer?
As an exchange student, I was in search of extracurricular activities which would enable me to productively spend time outside of academia and explore my interest in physics outreach, as well as get to know local communities in Edinburgh. The Physics Outreach Team was perfect for fulfilling these goals. Both at my home institution and at The University of Edinburgh, it seems that applications for extracurricular activities tend to be fairly competitive. As the process to join the Physics outreach team was more accessible and relaxed – it was just a genuine get-to-know-your-interest-in-STEM-outreach exchange – this was a breath of fresh air.
Tell us about some of the activities in which you were involved.
Together with other volunteers, I was involved in a science fair for the pupils of Castlebrae Community Primary School. The experience turned out to be immensely valuable and one that I treasure: we set up some scientific demonstrations (lava lamp production, slime making, biofilm game) and assisted the students in presenting the demos to the public. The students were excitable and brilliant at explaining how things worked. For example, they explained why there was a clear separation between the oil bubbles and coloured water, and why soapy water meant that beads were harder to shoot off the teeth (biofilm demo). It was very rewarding to see students who were interested in science share that passion with their peers, teachers and families. Additionally, it was remarkable watching their enthusiasm translate from being inwardly contained to outwardly expressed and shared – I find this to be at the very heart of the work that we do. Quite simply, science is awesome; and sharing it with others is a joy. Needless to say, parents and teachers were proud participants of the science fair. They asked questions, took pictures, and engaged well with the installations and demos presented by the students. The fair also opened up conversations between parents, students and teachers about the students’ STEM education and progress.
What skills have you gained from this experience?
From my time with the Physics Outreach Team at the University of Edinburgh, I learned what physics outreach looked like pragmatically. I picked up scientific communication skills – learning to explain technical concepts to a public audience of varying ages and backgrounds, as well as practical organizational skills: setting up and tearing down of various demonstration kits. Additionally, a training session in the autumn was helpful and insightful in terms of providing students interested in outreach with tools and ideas to think about. All in all, my experience of being a Physics Outreach Team volunteer was an invaluable one – it was instrumental in helping me refine my interest in STEM education and outreach. Equally importantly, being part of the Physics Outreach Team painted bright strokes across the pages of my study abroad experience – not only did I enjoy the work, I also enjoyed the social aspect of interacting with peers and professors with similar interests. I would highly recommend joining the team if you have an interest in STEM outreach!
If you want to learn more about the Physics Outreach Team, contact Dr Jean-Christophe Denis.