n Galway next month will see a dozen female scientists from around the west of Ireland give presentations on their research on the streets of the city.
Soapbox Science is an international phenomenon. The concept, which showcases the work of women in science, began in London in 2011 and has since seen events take place as far afield as Italy, Canada, and Australia.
Now two NUI Galway-based scientists — Dr Dara Stanley, a plant ecologist, and Dr Jessamyn Fairfield, a nanoelectronics researcher — are bringing the event to the west.
According to Dr Stanley, the event aims to promote the scientific research takiwng place here, as well as highlighting women in STEM.
“It’s so important to make science accessible,” she said. “Soapbox Science is about bringing science to the streets. It’s in a public place, and people might happen to bump into a scientist by chance. That’s why it’s different and fun.”
Dr Fairfield, who took part in a previous Soapbox Science event in Dublin, sees it as a way to take science out of the traditional lecture format and presenting it in a more entertaining and accessible way.
“If you have a public lecture, people come in and set down and stay for a certain length of time. How do you draw someone in quickly and then give them a little chunk that they can walk away with?”
The “chunks” will be in the form of 15-minute informal presentations on a whole variety of disciplines, from clouds to indoor air pollution, and from the mathematics of stars to the chemistry of carbohydrates, delivered by women researchers from NUI Galway, GMIT, the Marine Institute, and IT Sligo.
Galway’s Soapbox Science event will see 12 researchers deliver 15-minute talks on their specialities on four soapboxes dotted around the Spanish Arch. The talks run for three hours, and each researcher will speak three times during the day.
The event, which is supported by NUI Galway’s equality and diversity office, and the Galway City Museum, has already proved extremely popular with the scientific community here.
“Because we had not run this event before, we thought, can we get enough people?” Dr Fairfield recalled. “We ended up getting 30 applications for 12 spots.”
The 12 speakers have already received training in preparation for the event. While Soapbox Science exclusively features female scientists, according to the organisers the movement is as much about fostering an interest in science as it is about highlighting the work of women in STEM.
“The scientists all happen to be female. It’s not the main purpose of the event, but it’s all part of it,” Dr Stanley said. “A lot of people, if you ask them to name a scientist, they think of an older man in a white coat.”
Despite this public perception, there are a huge number of women conducting research across the sciences, as evidenced by the breadth of subjects being presented at the Soapbox Science Galway event.
“It’s about highlighting the amazing women who are already there, and it’s giving them a platform,” Dr Fairfield said.
The Soapbox Science talks will take place at the Spanish Arch on July 15 from 11am to 2pm.
Soapbox Science speakers
Professor Laoise McNamara, NUI Galway: Close to the Bone: Engineering research into the biology of osteoporosis and implants.
Dr Rachel Cave, NUI Galway: Help, help, I think my house is dissolving! (How ocean acidification works and why it matters ).
Dr Rachel Quinlan, NUI Galway: How to make stars (in two and three dimensions ).
Dr Marie Coggins, NUI Galway: Are you breathing clean air indoors?
Dr Sharon Glynn, NUI Galway: A new dimension to ancient enemies: What are these hidden viruses in our DNA and how do they contribute to cancer development.
Dr Heather Teresa Lally, GMIT: How do creepy crawlies adapt to living in a watery underworld?
Dr Debbi Pedreschi, Marine Institute: The story of sustainable fisheries: solving ‘wicked problems’ and other tales.
Juhi Samal, NUI Galway: Biomaterial pills for Parkinson’s: saving cells to stop shaking.
Kirsten N Fossum, NUI Galway: Clouds; where do they come from, where do they go?
Adele Gabba, NUI Galway: The sweet universe of carbohydrates chemistry.
Fiona Malone, GMIT: Biomedical Engineering: Build your own body parts.
Dr Caroline Sullivan, IT Sligo: The Wild Atlantic Way: why it’s so beautiful and how farmers helped create it.