Do something that makes a difference and will truly have an impact: Meet Lynsey Gozna

Dr Lynsey Gozna (@dranzog), University of Leicester / University of Nottingham, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday July 15th 2017 where she will give a talk called:  “The fantasy and reality of revenge”




SS: How did you get to your current position?

LG: I have been working in academia for over a decade teaching forensic psychology and conducting research in the area of serious offending and risk assessment including revenge, child sexual exploitation, stalking and arson.  I moved into academia on the completion of my PhD in the detection of deception and completed this along with my previous employment as a psychologist working on defence and security research programmes, mainly for the Ministry of Defence.  My research has always involved collaboration with external organisations (e.g. police forces, fire service, probation, prisons and forensic mental health) because I think it is critical in this field to conduct research that has real world impact – that means it is generally not helpful to have undergraduate students as our samples.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

LG: I have always had an interest in investigating mysteries – it started with my childhood focus on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and ‘The Hardy Boys’ and ‘Nancy Drew’ – this moved to Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Marple and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock.  Once I was studying Psychology, it was the forensic area that most interested me to learn about what motivates people to commit crime and how to reduce offending and understand and support victims.  Most recently my considerations of practice work have been influenced by psychoanalytic approaches to understanding behaviour such as Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

LG: My research is mainly qualitative in approach because in applied forensic psychology it is critical to understand fully the realities of the offending people commit and to understand in particular personality, motive and mindset.  Therefore being involved in interview research where you can hear the experiences of individuals who have experienced a range of adversity but who have also committed offences themselves allows you to gain insights into their motive and how they see the world.  This undoubtedly informs my practice work and teaching because I am able to draw from real world narratives.  Reducing people down to a set of numbers simply doesn’t allow me to explore the issues I am interested in.


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

LG: The opportunity to talk about my research and take this to the public domain is really important to me, particularly with fellow female scientists who are all passionate about their research.  There can be misconceptions about offending behaviour, perhaps because many people do not routinely work with this client group.  Most recently I have been exploring revenge motivated offending and this has highlighted the experiences of male offenders who have been victims themselves and who have struggled to come to terms with the aftermath of abuse, neglect, violence and the corresponding damage.  To be able to explore these issues sensitively with the public in terms of how childhood adversity can lead to offending and in particular the victimization of boys and young men is critical to helping society protect the vulnerable.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day

LG: Memorable

SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

LG: The greatest struggle I experience is the little value that is often placed on real world research – that is, research conducted outside of the laboratory.  There is a traditional view that statistics and laboratory experiments produce the best scientific outcomes and when you work in the world of forensic psychology, you know that this is not the case.  However this is a broader problem, people need to be more innovative in their approaches to research, think differently, be risk takers and not conduct research for the sake of it or purely to publish due to the pressures on academics.  We run the risk of valuing research that is constantly reinventing the wheel and not breaking new ground.  That is what I would like to change.

SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

LG: I think it is important to pursue a scientific field that inspires you so that you have the opportunity to thrive in your career and to inspire others, especially those coming into the area.  The advice I would give to anyone would be that you have to make your own opportunities and don’t wait for others to create them for you.  Do something that makes a difference and will truly have an impact.


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Break down the feeling of ‘them and us’: Meet Joanne L Godwin

Dr Joanne L Godwin (@joannelgodwin), University of East Anglia, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday July 15th 2017 where she will give a talk called: “Sex-ual Selection in the City”




SS: How did you get to your current position?

JG: Indirectly! It has been a long and winding journey, and one of my reasons for getting involved in Soapbox Science is to encourage girls and young women to think about a career in science and research.

My undergraduate degree was in biology and from there I went on to train as a science teacher but it wasn’t until I landed myself a job working at a field studies centre, and teaching about the environment, sustainability, geography and biodiversity, that I felt I had found my career. I loved helping children discover an interest in nature and being outdoors but, I reached a point where rather than teaching, I wanted to stretch my own knowledge and understanding so I went back to university to do a Master’s degree in Ecology. It was during my MSc that I met Professor Matt Gage and carried out my dissertation with him investigating environmental impacts on reproduction in insects. After my MSc I went back to environmental education but I had been bitten by the research bug and decided to apply to do a PhD. I got back in touch with Matt and went on to do my PhD as part of his research group studying evolution in populations of flour beetles. I am currently continuing this research as a post-doc.



SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

JG: My career in science finally started when I realised that the things I love to do are answer questions and solve problems which wasn’t really until I started my PhD. I always loved science at school and biology in particular because I enjoyed being outside and was fascinated by how complex the natural world was. However, I took me years to realise that I could put these things together and they could be a career. One of the reasons I wanted to be involved in Soapbox Science is to highlight the wide range of science research and the diversity of scientists.



SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

JG: Seeing evolution happening! I carry out ‘experimental evolution’ using populations of beetles. By carefully controlling the environment of the beetles but creating a single difference between populations, I can look for changes over generations.



SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

JG: I think women are often less likely to promote themselves and/or not recognise their own achievements. I hope by getting involved in Soapbox Science I will encourage other women to be confident in their own knowledge and ability, and celebrate their successes.



SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day

JG: Inspiring



SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

JG: I am concerned with the current feeling that the public don’t trust, or don’t want to listen to ‘experts’. I think it is important to show that experts/scientists are also ‘ordinary’ people and aren’t hiding away doing something secretive. I think it is important to break down the feeling of ‘them and us’.



SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

JG: Believe in yourself and your abilities. Don’t compare yourself to other people, just concentrate on your own achievements.





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Stay opened to every opportunity: Meet Hélène Cecilia

Hélène Cecilia (@HelCecilia), French National Institute for Agricultural Research, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday 15th July where she will be giving a talk called: “Turning biological events into equations and lines of code: the use of modeling in natural sciences”




SS: How did you get to your current position?

HC: Less than 2 years ago, I finished my degree in bioinformatics and modeling at INSA engineering school in Lyon, France. I did my master thesis with Sabine Hauert at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and had an amazing time there! I was working on a program simulating the delivery of nanoparticles in brain cancer and I was able to truly visualize how would this swarm of nanoparticles evolve in the tumour by running my program on a thousand coin-sized robots, called Kilobots, in an arena! I loved Bristol’s atmosphere and that’s why I decided to come back there for SoapBox Science even if I’m now working in France.

I work as an engineer at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Nantes, developing a model of population dynamics of tsetse flies based on data from Senegal. Tsetse flies transmit a parasite responsible for sleeping sickness in humans and nagana disease in livestock. It is widely present in Sub-Saharian Africa and is considered one of the biggest constraints to the economical development of these regions because of its implication in food insecurity and public health. Mathematical models are needed to simulate the evolution of tsetse flies populations in a given environment (knowing the temperature and the vegetation for instance) and decide what is the best strategy to eradicate the species sustainably. And the truth is… I have never seen a tsetse fly once in my life! That’s why I hope that in my future job (hopefully a PhD!), I will be able to take part in field work before developing a model, to see the entire process of research !


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

HC: Probably my dad. He worked as an auto mechanic and is fascinated by how motors work, or any technologies we use daily, even if he had no scientific background. He taught me curiosity and problem solving, which led me to engineering. Until the end of high school, I was also considering studying medicine. But what interested me the most in this field was finding new cures to diseases. In the end, I found a way to work towards this goal with bioinformatics.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

HC: When your lines of code are (finally!) able to reproduce what is expected to happen in the field, that’s always exciting! I even do some victory dance at my desk when it happens …


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

HC: I’m passionate about what I do, I often find myself talking about my research at parties and show my friends how cool it is! I am also a convinced feminist and I’ve seen too many people surprised when I say I love to code or play football, why should it be weird? I hope this event can help inspire some girls and fight some clichés!


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day

HC: Enthusiasm!


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

HC: I have not been working for very long, so I haven’t seen all the flaws yet! But I wish we could convince researchers of the importance of science outreach. It’s a win-win! Scientists and citizens can both learn a lot by speaking together, and we could prevent the rise of some ideological drift : science can help fight racism, sexism, climatoscepticism! But we have to make the facts understandable by everyone, and it takes a bit of effort. But it’s worth it!


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

HC: I haven’t done a PhD yet so I’m not sure… But don’t let anyone tell what you can or cannot do, there is no such thing as « male-only » topics! If you’re curious and passionate about something, go for it. Go with the flow: stay opened to every opportunity and take the most out of it, do not censure yourself!





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Science should be about open communication: Meet Catherine Atherton

Catherine Atherton (@cat_atherton), Bangor University, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday 15th July 2017 where she will be giving a talk called: “Storing images in the Brain: How we remember faces, objects and brands differently” 





SS: How did you get to your current position?

CA: I completed my Underdgraduate studies in Psychology with Neuropsychology with a first Class Honours. I then went on to finish my Masters in Psychological Research with a distinction before starting my PhD in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience at Bangor University.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

CA: I wanted to study more about the brain after being insprired by the work of Dr Oliver Sacks in the Nuerological field.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

CA: Using Electroencephalograph technology and recording brainwaves. It is fascinating being able to watch people’s brains respond in real time to the world around them.


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

CA: It is becoming increasingly important for research to be communicated to the general public and I felt that Soapbox Science was a great opportunity to engage with the public and tell them about my research whilst simultaneously promoting women’s places in science.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day

CA: Engaging


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

CA: Publication Bias- Science should be about the open communication of knowledge and all results irrespective of whether the results are positive.


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

CA: Make the most of opportunities available to you, such as conferences, and other events such as Soapbox Science. This allows you to promote yourself and  your work but also promotes equality in science.


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There is no set path in life: Meet Caroline Sullivan

Dr Caroline Sullivan is a High Nature Value farmland researcher. She currently works as the Assistant Manager and Project Scientist on the Hen Harrier Project in Ireland. She enjoys communicating the importance of High Nature Value farmland and the need to support it to policy makers, local communities and anyone else with an interest. For fun she volunteers with the Galway Bat Group, monitoring bats and participating in bat walks for the local community, and identifies plants on Botanical Society for Britain and Ireland fieldtrips as well as holidaying in High Nature Value farmland areas in Ireland and across Europe. You can catch Caroline on her soapbox at the Glaway event on 15th July 2017 giving a talk called: “The Wild Atlantic Way; why it’s so beautiful and how farmers helped create it” 


by Caroline Sullivan


From plant ecology to the Wild Atlantic Way; an agroecologists journey

My career to date has seen many interesting and varied posts as I am always open to new opportunities. I always enjoyed biology and English in school but after careful consideration and consultation I chose to do a general science degree in NUI Galway. I’ve never liked the idea of being tied down to one thing (in any area of life) so the option of getting a feel for all the sciences really appealed to me. It was a field trip to the Burren at the very end of second year of my undergraduate course that really opened my eyes to botany (the study of plants). Latin names rolled off my tongue and the rainy conditions and long evenings with plant ID keys didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and by the end of my fourth year I had an honours degree in botany and a love of plant ecology (the effects of the environment on plants) in particular.
After my degree, I did a PhD on the Identification of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland in east Galway. This turned me into an enthusiastic agroecologist, thanks to the support of my supervisors Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, Mike Gormally and John Finn. High Nature Value (HNV) farmland is extensively managed farmland that has high biodiversity. This farmland is important for the conservation of semi-natural habitats and the plants and animals linked with them.











Clockwise from top left, some of the biodiversity supported by HNV farmland; The Kerry Slug feeding on moss, a bumblebee feeding on a Foxsglove, a hare feeding on some acid grassland and a fox hunting on HNV bogland.
Supporting this type of farmland will ensure high levels of farmland biodiversity, high water, air and soil quality, flood and climate change resilience and vibrant rural communities among other things. These farms occur most frequently in areas that are mountainous, or areas where natural constraints prevent intensification. There is lots more information on











Clockwise from top left: Upland HNV farmland in the Beara Peninsula, Co. Cork, coastal HNV farmland in Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, wet grassland mosaic HNV landscapes of Co. Leitrim and upland HNV farmland in the Inishowen Peninsula, Co, Donegal.
I have been very lucky to work on the same topic as my PhD since I completed it in 2010. I have worked with farmers, admiring their work ethic, the landscapes that they manage despite challenging conditions and enjoying the biodiversity that these landscapes can support. In fact, the landscapes in Ireland that I most enjoy being in are High Nature Value farmland landscapes. In Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way is a very successful tourist route that runs from Donegal to Cork. It brings tourists through many beautiful High Nature Value farmland areas perhaps without realising the farmers contribution to this tourism marketing tour de force.
I’m looking forward to the Soapbox Science event for a couple of reasons, firstly, it is often assumed that High Nature Value farmland exists with no effort but that isn’t the case and I feel that that Soapbox Science platform and location is ideal for addressing that. Secondly, it is a wonderful opportunity to show young children out there that there is no set path in life. If you have an interest in science, it is a very fulfilling and worthy career option that can lead you on a fun, adventurous and rewarding journey. The people I have worked with and for in the last seven years have been hugely supportive and inspirational and I hope to one day have the opportunity to be that type of mentor for other future ecologists.

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Make the most of the experiences that come your way: Meet Heather Lally

Dr Heather Lally is a lecturer in Freshwater Ecology and Biology at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), Galway, Ireland. Heather’s areas of expertise are micro and macro freshwater algae, aquatic and riparian plants, and aquatic animals in particular macroinvertebrates which are baby insects living under rocks and in crevices in the water. Macroinvertebrates are an essential component of functioning river and lake ecosystems and are important bioindicators of water quality for these systems. Combining knowledge of water chemistry with the presence of certain macroinvertebrates provides a reliable method of determining water quality particularly during pollution events.  Understanding how these plants and animals response in Irish rivers and lakes to different land uses, pollution events and changing climatic patterns is central to her research investigations.

Currently, Heather’s research is investigating a new and emerging freshwater pollutant – Microplastics (small plastics particles). Understanding how these small plastics particles enter freshwater systems, determining where they go and what happens to them, and what impact they may have on the aquatic food web in particular top predators such as otter are key research questions to be addressed.

For her Soapbox Science talk this July in Galway she will be talking about “How do creepy crawlies adapt to living in a watery underworld


SS: How did you get to your current position?

HL: I got to my current position via the typical science route; first completing a BSc in Environmental Science and following that pursuing a PhD in Environmental Science, both at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). During my PhD, I found my passion for peatlands and their conservation.  However, on completing my PhD I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, so I took some time out to go travelling. On my return, I took up a postdoctoral position at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland on riverine riparian conservation and management. This allowed me to redirect away from peatlands to learn about rivers and their riparian zones in more detail. Having such a depth of knowledge and understanding in both wetland and river habitats allowed me to successfully take up my current position as lecturer in Freshwater Ecology and Biology at GMIT.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

HL: From a very early age, I knew I loved the outdoors and always wanted to be exploring it. When it came to going to secondary school, I had a natural ability for biology and chemistry but when we went on an ecology field trip in my final year at school I really found my calling. It was my first experience of recording vegetation and insects and I loved it.  From then, I knew that I wanted a career in ecology where I could have a job that involved working outdoors and learning more about plants, animals and the habitats they live in. Choosing a BSc in Environmental Science was the perfect match, a great blend of lectures, practicals and field trips. Getting the opportunity to experience the many sampling techniques, learning about the various plants and animals, and seeing them in their habitat inspired me even more to pursue a long term career in science.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

HL: The most fascinating aspect of my research is having the opportunity to continue delving into new and emerging freshwater pollution issues in Ireland, namely microplastics in freshwater systems. Developing novel and innovative sampling techniques and operating them in the field increases my capacity to think outside the box. There is anticipation of what the results might bring but also a great sense of pride that we are working on freshwater issues that matter to local communities and where the results will make a real policy change at both the national and European level. Adding our experiences from Ireland to that already collated from around the world allows collaboration and contribution to the greater scientific community.

The most fascinating aspect of my work is having the opportunity to now impart my excitement and knowledge of freshwater habitats onto the next generation of undergraduate scientists. I work on the BSc in Freshwater and Marine Biology at GMIT where undergraduates have many opportunities to experience freshwater and marine plants and animals in practicals and on field trips.  Working alongside students who are excited by these experiences, and encouraging and supporting them as they make the next steps towards postgraduate studies or getting professional jobs is very rewarding.


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

HL: I was first attracted to Soapbox Science as firstly it is a great platform for Women in Science to promote their research and work and secondly I saw it as a great opportunity to showcase and share my research interests in freshwater science with the general public, in particular children, at a regional, national and international level. Been awarded the opportunity to participant in this all female, global, public science engagement event affords me the chance to increase my science communication experience and extend my message to a much larger audience.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the event?

HL: Amazing


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

HL: Better work/life balance. The constant treadmill of lecturing, creating lecture notes, correcting continuous assessment, mentoring postgraduates, applying for grants plus other academic duties makes it difficult to fit in time for ourselves, family and friends particularly in the early years of an academic scientist.


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a women studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in science?

HL: Go for it. Life is too short not to be doing the research and work you enjoy most. Every career has trials and tribulations which must be overcome and a career in science is no different.  Always follow your gut, make the most of the experiences that come your way even when they seem like veering of the path and enjoy the ride.

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Don’t underestimate yourself: Meet Katie Togher

Katie Togher is currently a fourth year PhD student at University College Cork working with the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT, and APC Microbiome Institute (APC, Her current research is investigating the mechanisms by which prenatal maternal stress may programme disease risk in affected children. In particular she is looking at how distress may impact the maternal, and subsequently, infant microbiome. Her research also focuses on how pregnancy stress may be impacting important genes involved in glucocorticoid signalling in the placenta.

Come and meet more amazing women scientists at Soapbox Science Galway on Saturday 15th July 2017.


SS: Katie, how did you get to your current position?

KT: I realised I wanted to work in the area of developmental biology during the final year of my undergraduate degree in Neuroscience. I had a great research experience working on my final year project and approached one of the lecturers to do a research masters. From this, I secured a position at the INFANT centre which opened a lot of doors for me. During this time I was informed about a really interesting collaborative project with the APC microbiome Institute combining perinatal mental health with the microbiome. I jumped on board and quickly transitioned into a PhD with the two SFI centres.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

KT: I have always been fascinated by the sciences and how things work. I studied biology, chemistry and physics for my leaving certificate and when I began my degree in biological and chemical sciences in University College Cork, I was sure I would go down the chemistry or physics route, but then fell in love with biology and research before specializing in Neuroscience. I am now lucky enough to work among some incredibly talented midwives, clinicians and scientists who keep me inspired every day.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

KT: As a clinical researcher, I have the opportunity to meet many beautiful and strong women at one of the most exciting times in their lives. Watching women progress throughout their pregnancy, from a point where their baby is no bigger than the size of a grape to getting to meet a tiny human after birth is definitely what fascinates me the most. The fact that the female body is capable of growing humans from the initial joining of two cells is a medical and scientific miracle (for me at least). The process of how this is happening is fascinating to me and keeps me constantly engaged.


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

KT: I originally heard about soapbox science through the outreach programme at the INFANT centre and after reading more about the great work and commitment soapbox science has being providing to promote female scientists I thought, yes,  this is definitely something I want to get involved in.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the event.

KT: Powerful


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

KT: I think funding and job structure might be one of the biggest problems right now. Unfortunately there is very little job security for scientists which drives many people away from the career. It’s definitely a part of the vocation that needs to be improved..



SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in science?

KT: I haven’t quiet finished my PhD yet, but if I were to give advice to someone trying to decide on if they should enter into a career in research or not, I would say go for it. Be confidant, aware of your own abilities and don’t underestimate yourself! Also (and very importantly) take your time to find a topic that interests and inspires you. Science is hard work, but if you’re doing something you truly enjoy and are passionate about it makes everything a bit easier.

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Be confident in your abilities: Meet Fiona Malone

Fiona Malone (@miona_falone) is a biomedical engineer studying for her PhD as part of the GMedTech research group at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology. Fiona’s research focuses on the behaviour of cardiac source blood clots and their role in the occurrence of acute ischaemic stroke. She has won several awards for her communication and presentation skills over the course of her postgraduate studies and can’t wait to be a part of Soapbox Science Galway in July. Here, she tells us about her postgraduate journey thus far and how she’s sees the end (finally 😉) in sight

You can catch Fiona at Soapbox Science Galway on July 15th 2017.  where she will be giving a talk called: “Biomedical Engineering: Build your own body parts.” 



by Fiona Malone

As I approach the final stages of my PhD in Biomedical Engineering, I reflect on the lessons that I have learned throughout this incredibly interesting and rather intense journey.

Patience and Perseverance
I suppose it goes without saying that a PhD candidate should be of a patient nature when agreeing to climb this academic Everest. I knew this all too well, yet nothing could have prepared me for this expedition. You must be prepared for hours and hours of thinking, working, experimenting, writing, editing and rewriting again. You will be faced with many circumstances which will drain your time, energy and good self, but you must always try to persevere. You can be the most organised person in the room but nobody can predict when essential lab apparatus will go missing, or when a USB device will decide to pick that exact moment to fail on you. I know it can be easier said than done (especially if you are trying to make deadlines and project goals) but try not to sweat the small stuff – it will only discourage you.
On that note, you must also be prepared to fail. My first attempt at publishing a paper got annihilated by an editor, but I learned from it and persevered to improve my written communication skills which I have subsequently used in my thesis and other applications and publications. Always turn a failure into an opportunity to learn and never give up.

Always make time for opportunities to communicate your work, be it to colleagues, supervisors, potential bosses or even just your friends. One of my favourite quotes by Einstein is “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”, and this is especially true to scientific communication. The better you become at communicating your research to your audience, be it an editor of a journal, an interview board or even a group of kids, the more focused your research will become.
Please don’t be afraid to ask for help either. I was at a conference a few years ago and was explaining the difficulty I was having in carrying out a particular experiment. At my talk, I highlighted the discrepancies in the results due to this experimental method, which led me to some interesting collaborations with engineers and scientists who were in attendance at the conference. If I had not communicated effectively, I would never have made those connections and I would never have gained that scientific knowledge to improve my research.

Independence, Initiative and Innovation
You must remember that at PhD level you are creating new knowledge. You can be guided and supervised to an extent but it must be your own initiative and innovation that independently answers your research questions. Be confident in your abilities – you have acquired the knowledge and applied it thus far.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Part of my research involved investigating the mechanical properties of blood clots and how they perform under different loading conditions. The literature available for such research methodology is quite limited, so I spent my days reading about plastics, rubbers and adhesives to gain insight into how they were tested.
Always try to work smarter rather than harder. You may need to refocus your research questions numerous times throughout the duration of your PhD as you discover new things and learn new concepts. That’s the beauty of the process! Ideas breed ideas and soon you will be able to collect them all to tell a story about your work that makes logical sense from beginning to end. So try not to waste your time on tasks that will not give you favourable results. Stay focused and work smartly towards your goals. It is also extremely advisable to know when to call it a day too!
I am really thrilled to be finishing my PhD. It has been a mammoth task, with ups, downs, and lots in between. It might not have always been fun but it has definitely been fulfilling and I’ve learned an awful lot. I am grateful for the opportunities it has continuously brought me to learn, create and innovate. PhDs are not meant to be easy, if they were, everyone would do one!

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Soapbox Art & Science Oxford is being sponsored by P2i: We catch up with CTO Dr Stephen Coulson about supporting science outreach


Soapbox Art & Science Oxford is generously supported by P2i. Dr Stephen Coulson is the CTO and founder of P2i, the global leader in liquid repellent nanotechnology, delivering hydrophobic nano-coating solutions that provide the highest levels of liquid repellency. Headquartered in England, P2i operate in 19 countries across 5 continents with 148 employees globally. P2i support the Global electronics industry by integrating nano coatings into existing manufacturing lines and have to date processed over 200 million electronic devices in mass produciton. We caught up with Stephen about his involvement with Soapbox Art & Science.


SS: Stephen, what is your background and how did you come to found P2i?

I’m a chemist by training and after completing a PhD at Durham University, I took up a position with my sponsor, Dstl, to complete the application for military use. As it is a very visual technology, with water beading up and rolling off any surface, it was easy to engage Venture Capital interest and we finally spun out P2i at the end of January 2004.



SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science?

I like the informal and interactive approach that is being taken that makes it highly accessible for all.



SS: Why is it important for researchers and companies to make their work accessible to the public?

There is so much going on in the world where certain areas are often carried out behind closed doors and don’t have a loud enough voice. Soapbox Science will help increase awareness of what can be achieved by better understanding the world we live in.



SS: P2i has expanded globally, as has Soapbox Science! If you could bring Soapbox Science to one city or region where you work, where would it be and why?

Although not a specific location, I think initially it needs to take place in regions where they have the infrastructure in place to convert the interest generated by Soapbox Science into increased intake of women into STEM subjects. From this platform there will be an argument for more infrastructure to be created in regions of lower employment with the correct demographic to drive further intake and future employment.



SS: The Oxford event will see art mix together with science, does P2i work in any cross-disciplinary ways and could you describe the value in reaching out to other sectors?

Cross-fertilization of ideas is the main source of innovation so is a necessity that we have followed from day one.



SS: And finally, if you were stood on a Soapbox telling people about your work, what is the one thing you would hope they would take away with them?

Science can make the impossible come true to better people’s lives, and anyone can do it.



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Sound and the brain: Meet Natasha Zielazinski & Helen Barron





Natasha Zielazinski (right), a Composer, has been working with Dr Helen Barron (left)(@HelenCBarron), University of Oxford, towards Soapbox Art & Science Oxford 2017. Their topic is:  “Your story: how does your brain remember?”  You can catch them on Saturday 1st July alongside other artists and scientists at Magdalen college School, Oxford.



SS: How did you get to your current positions?

HB: I am a Junior Research Fellow in neuroscience at Merton College, University of Oxford. I got my current position in Oxford after doing a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at University College London (UCL).

NZ: I am a cellist and composer and work with contemporary repertoire, improvisation, field recording and folk music. I teach at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and co-lead the Barbican Creative Learning ensemble Future Band, alongside work as a performer, composer and project leader with artists, orchestras and institutions in the UK and internationally.



SS: What, or who, inspired your career choice?

NZ: Sound makes me feel free, whether I’m listening to sound or making it myself. I love the feeling of disappearing from normal time and finding another world, something I sometimes find in reading or cycling too. I also love the physical, visceral power of sound to call attention and bring people together. My own music comes from my connection with the cello and it’s resonance. Through my instrument I’ve found ways of exploring my own thoughts and feelings and expressing myself in the world. At other times it’s a vehicle that can take me into the head of another composer, whether it’s a friend or someone worlds away. And making music with others is incredible – it’s finding a way to be free with others, exploring, unearthing, and trying to communicate. I really believe that we are all artists – musicians, writers, painters, sculptors, composers, poets. It’s the most human thing in the world to feel something and want to express it. That I’ve ended up with a career as an artist is a wonderful thing. Nothing makes me happier than listening to music, learning a tune, composing sound or finding ways to share it with others.

HB: I was inspired to pursue a career in science by a number of different people. I think the earliest inspiration came from my dad who, as an acoustician, encouraged me to ask questions and seek to understand how the world works. Upon leaving school I knew that I wanted to pursue a science degree at university but at the time I enjoyed biology, chemistry and physics, and couldn’t decide which subject to focus on. To delay the decision I chose to pursue a broad Natural Sciences degree which allowed me to continue with a range of different science subjects. In my final year I finally settled on neuroscience, a relatively young subject which makes for an exciting research environment. I am grateful to my neuroscience supervisor, Dr Amy Milton, who introduced me to many of the fundamentals of neuroscience and provided a fantastic female academic role model for an undergraduate. Since this introduction to the subject I was fortunate to do my PhD in one of the UK’s most exciting and dynamic neuroscience labs, led by Professor Tim Behrens, which provided valuable training and opportunities in neuroscience research.



SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

HB: I am intrigued by some of the most basic neuroscience questions for which we still don’t have answers. For example, I am interested in understanding how we form new representations of the external world, and how our brains can store and recall hundreds of different memories. While I spend the best part of my week thinking about how to investigate these fundamental neuroscience questions, it is always fun to remind myself that my own brain is performing the very processes that I am investigating!



SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Art & Science in the first place?

HB: As I progress up the academic hierarchy the gender gap becomes increasingly apparent. The gender ratio in neuroscience, as estimated by the fantastic website, is around 1F:2M. While this may seem disappointingly low, it is even more disappointing to realise that visibility of women within the field is often even lower. Consequently, there are too few role-models for the younger generation and systemic gender discrimination persists. Soapbox Science appears to be one means by which women in science can be given a voice to encourage other women to have confidence in pursuing a scientific career. In addition, by collaborating with musician Natasha Zielazinski, Soapbox Art and Science has provided an opportunity to think about new ways in which we can communicate science to the public and provide inspiration for the next generation.



SS: What ideas are you working on together?

HB: Natasha and I are exploring ways in which we can explain neuroscience to the public through music and audience participation. While it is challenging to both understand and investigate the brain, we believe that some of the most fundamental principles of neuroscience can be communicated to the public through creative means. We have focused on exploring how audience members can act as neurons in the brain, and how “audience neurons” can then use music and song to illustrate how memories are stored.



SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

HB: Beyond seeking great labs to work in, my top recommendation to women studying for PhDs in STEM research is to not only be aware of gender bias, but to actively seek a female mentor who can help guide your career.



SS: What would be your recommendation for working with people from other subjects and disciplines?

NZ: Be curious, ask questions, find people you are interested in working with/learning from and be ready to test, experiment and get things wrong!


Soapbox Art & Science Oxford is kindly supported by the STFCP2i and Oxford Festival of the Arts


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