Kate Davis (left), an Art student at Oxford Brookes University & Dr Ayoe Buus Hansen (right), who is based at the MetOffice, conducting research into improving the use of dispersion models, have been working together towards their presentation at Soapbox Art & Science Oxford on Saturday 1st July. Their topic is: “Dispersing knowledge – how I model atmospheric dispersion”
SS: How did you get to your current position?
KD: I achieved 11 GCSE’s, being awarded an A* in both Fine Art and Art and Design. This then led me on to do a BTEC in Art and Design at Birmingham Metropolitan College, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. After finishing college I began to study art at Oxford Brookes University, and have just finished my second year and will be entering my final year in September.
ABH: How I got to my current position is a bit of a long story by now, but I have a PhD in air pollution modelling from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and have travelled to several countries (including USA and NZ) to gain experience as a scientist before moving to the UK and starting my job at the Met Office
SS: What or who inspired you to pursue a career/ study in the area you are?
KD: Well, the person who initially inspired me would be my mother, she is a talented artist and has always pushed me and encouraged me to follow my passion. Then during secondary school I discovered the 80’s album cover designer Roger Dean, his mystical Sci-Fi worlds inspiring me to draw what I love and to just go wackier and wackier with each painting. I am interested in fantasy worlds and dream-like creatures which have always appeared in my imagination since being a little girl.
SS: What is the most interesting aspect of your work?
ABH: How applicable it is to the real world – our atmospheric dispersion model is being used on a daily basis for emergency response at the Met Office and across the globe. Also, my current research looks at the impact of biomass burning in Asia and I get super exited when satellite images confirm what I see in my model results.
KD: The worlds and the creatures I make are all things I imagined from being a child dealing with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder, which is a Communication disorder I struggled with as a child but has improved with age. My work is about being lost in your own dream word, but also reaching out and looking at what could be out there in our unknown universe.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Art & Science?
KD: The chance to collaborate with a female scientist and learn more about what they specialize in and how to engage with an audience.
ABH: I presented my research at Soapbox Science Exeter last year because I think that public outreach is essential in the time of “alternative facts”. This year’s Soapbox Art and Science attracted me because of the challenge in having to explain my science to the artist and then working together on combining our art and science to something that makes sense outside our heads while still being scientifically sound.
SS: Have you got any insights from working with people from other disciplines that you would like to share?
KD: It helps to be open minded and listen to each other’s ideas. After all this is a fun experience so just enjoy listening to each other and learning something new, you may find something in the exchange that inspires you.
SS: What ideas are you working on together?
ABH: We are combining some of my props from last year – soap bubbles – with a new prop combining food dye, Lego, and straws, to keep the presentation as interactive as possible.
SS: Ayoe, what would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
ABH: Just go for it! Doing a PhD is hard work, so you have to decide that this is what you want to do and get on with it.