Communicating complex concepts and specialised research is a big challenge for scientists. This group of postgraduates have developed a fun, interactive activity to explain gravitational waves to a public audience at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
Holly: I’m a PhD student in the chemistry department and I make materials that can levitate trains using powerful magnetic fields!
Euan: I’m a PhD student in the particle theory group of Glasgow university. I study ways of simulating small patches of spacetime on a supercomputer.
Finlay: I’m Finlay, and I’m a PhD student who fires lasers at strange liquids to make crystals grow in them.
Fraser: I’m Fraser, a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Glasgow. I use nanotechnology to make millions of tiny pillars that fit on a slide no larger than your thumbnail, and we want to use these to get stem cells to do what they’re told.
2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?
Holly: I’ve never carried out public engagement before, but am really excited about the prospect of making science cool for non-scientists!
Euan: Besides GSF I am a volunteer organiser for the Pint of Science festival, in which researchers give talks about their work to general audiences in pubs. I am attracted to public engagement by the prospect of inspiring the next generation of scientists.
Finlay: I love teaching, and helping others see that ‘complicated science’ is actually easier than it seems. This is my first time being involved with Glasgow Science Festival, but won’t be the last!
Fraser: I’ve never been properly involved with public engagement, but I’ve taught in a high school before as part of my undergraduate course in Physics. I really loved seeing young people, and even the teachers, getting involved in some “complicated” concepts like Gravitational Waves and Spacetime, and seeing the questions they asked and the ideas that they had towards it. Public engagement is also really good for teaching yourself things, because if you want to explain something in a really easy way to understand you need to really understand it yourself first.
3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?
We’ve built ourselves a pretty cool make-shift gravitational wave detector that you can come and try out to detect a gravitational wave, and have a chunk of spacetime that we’ve cleverly captured in a tupperware box, along with a star on a stick, to show you how spacetime really makes gravity happen.
4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10th birthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?
Holly: Definitely mascara.
Euan: google maps
Finlay: My GPS watch.
Fraser: Hot showers. Have you tried going a day or two with only cold showers? Brrrr.
5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.
There are places in the universe which are physically impossible for humans to reach, since they are moving away from us faster than the speed of light.
Holly, Euan, Finlay and Fraser will be at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19th June from 10:00-16:00 in the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. For more information, visit the website.