SSPC Education & Public Engagement Champion of the Year was awarded to Dr Aisling Ryan, RCSI, University of Medicine and Health Sciences, who demonstrated commitment to and flair for public engagement and outreach in 2020.
Aisling’s story and experience
Throughout my PhD, I have used Twitter for scientific engagement, building a strong foundation. A lab lockout during my final year (thanks covid!) prompted my leap into a variety of new public engagement activities and a huge expansion of my skillset, knowledge and confidence. My first public engagement performances were at FameLab mini-heats, which were nerve-wracking but thoroughly enjoyable. The preparatory communication workshops expanded my awareness for connecting with the audience and creating a storyline. I will never forget the beaming smiles as I navigated through my fairy-tale analogy of how cancer researchers fight tumours. My confidence grew exponentially between both performances! I received fantastic questions from audience members—my talk taught them something new about science. Amazing.
I showed young people science is accessible and scientists are normal, everyday people through I am a scientist: Stay At Home. It was great to explain my work using everyday examples whilst maintaining the scientific content and inspiring the next generation. I educated about SSPC and scientific opportunities. I got to learn interesting new facts from researching the questions asked! I engaged with a wide range of ages and scientific levels on I am a scientist: Summer Zone and Chemistry Zone, which really honed my language skills and boosted my ability to connect and teach.
“Collaborating with SSPC enabled me to share my passion for science in fun, informal ways and hopefully encouraged some future scientists! I’m now pursuing a career in science communications; such were the wonderful experiences I’ve had through SSPC and other avenues.”
I learnt so much about adapting my communication skills to different formats. For Soapbox Science Dublin I transformed my talk for live, online engagement using SSPC Education & Public Engagement Champion of the Year printed images for the audience to follow. This event promotes #WomenInScience, encouraging girls/women to pursue science. I shared the event stream on LinkedIn which connected me with 30,000+ viewers worldwide. I am so passionate about #WomenInScience so this awareness and success was euphoric.
I developed an entirely new skill-set entering the IRC/USI video presentation competition, Why Research Matters. A fantastic learning curve was later realising I should have added background music! I shared my video on Twitter and YouTube allowing more people to learn about cancer research, collaboration and diversity in science, and the SSPC. My article for Silicon Republic about my typical day as a cancer researcher and member of SSPC informed the public through online writing, with the added benefit of ease of access. I provided effective communication tips for the SSPC Summit. Experiencing the domino effects of my communication efforts was so rewarding. The SSPC outreach programme has been so beneficial. Every activity was rewarding and enhanced my own scientific knowledge. I’ve learnt about myself and my career direction.
For Aisling there are so many benefits of taking part in SSPC’s public engagement activities. Public engagement can be daunting, but once you’ve dipped your toe it’s impossible not to dive right in. There are many different and effective ways to educate and engage with the public. SSPC promote these activities and ensure accessibility and enjoyment.