Education and Public Engagement (EPE)is an integral part of SSPC’s strategy. Our goals foster an awareness and interest in science among the general public, including schools and young people, and to train SSPC researchers to effectively communicate their research to non-specialist audiences.
This year, Harsh Barua, a PhD candidate at the University of Limerick has been awarded SSPC Education and Public Engagement Champion of the Year 2022, as he has demonstrated commitment to and flair for public engagement and outreach.
Read about Harsh’s background and why he feels education and public engagement is impactful and meaningful:
Growing up, I was never exposed to the many areas of scientific research. The only two main fields that I was acquainted with were the medical and engineering fields. I could never grasp what it was like to be a scientist, having a vast range of opportunities accessible, and being a member of the scientific community meant. Though I found my path, I had my fair share of challenges figuring things out on my own. Looking back, I believe that the decision-making process would have been easier if I had been made aware of the variety of career prospects available in the STEM sector. So, as a result of my own personal experience, I’ve always wanted other kids growing up to have some form of engagement with scientists and other professionals to avoid being completely unaware of the number of opportunities that are within their reach.
Being completely honest, I was terrified of public speaking, let alone speaking out for a general audience in a common public setting or at a pub. Even though I had attended such events, I had never been on the other side of the stage, that is, as a speaker. With SSPC’s collaboration with other research centres in Limerick, I got the opportunity to be a speaker at such events. When I think about that now, I cannot thank Martin McHugh enough for his encouragement and support for my first pub talk. I was put at ease with everything, from suggestions to make it more engaging and easier to understand, to organising transit to the event. As a whole, these experiences helped me develop as a person, gaining confidence in science communication. Furthermore, through brainstorming ways to make the public talks engaging and clear for the public audience, I was able to comprehend my research project far better and be able to share it with people from different backgrounds. I can also say it has helped to consolidate my passion for the project.
With SSPC’s connection with Junior Achievement Ireland, I was able to engage with youngsters and share with them about the career path I chose, as well as my experiences and learnings.
Looking back, this has been both rewarding and helpful in achieving my goal. Since I had no prior experience engaging with children, I was well supported throughout the whole activity.
Overall, participating in EPE events through SSPC was and is a rewarding experience. Through the EPEs, I was given the chance to help shape future generations in the STEM field as well as raise awareness among the public about how the money paid in taxes is used to solve many important problems that affect society, in this case in the field of pharmaceuticals. Additionally, on a personal level, I have had the chance to grow as a person, network with many people from different fields and organisations, and create memories that will be engraved with my PhD path. I believe it has made my journey more impactful and meaningful. Sharing is caring.