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Introducing Jessamyn!

The world around us is amazing, the natural world as well as the world of everything that we humans have created. And the deep awe we feel looking at the whole is only enhanced by examining the parts in detail. Many perspectives can be useful in this examination: the function and purpose of a thing, or its artistic merit, or the consequences it has on its environment.

I have been trained to use the physical and scientific lens to look at the world, exposing beauty and intrigue that’s usually inaccessible. I recently finished a PhD in physics and nanoscience at the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on the transport of optically generated electrons in nanocrystals. I found the material fascinating, but I also found that I enjoy talking with many different people about both the science I do and other scientific topics. So, my goal writing here is to discuss some of the things I find interesting in a way that non-scientists can understand.

We’ll look at some of the cool things that you start to see around you when you learn about physics, with an eventual focus on the electronic behaviors of materials. I will cover a lot of topics that I find interesting, from logical computing to sensors to bioelectronics. And I’ll go over some background topics, too, like atoms, mass, charge, and the weirdness of quantum physics, to show how electronic behavior also affects things like biological functions and the properties of materials. This affects the life of anyone with a computer, a mobile phone, or access to an Internet connection: more of us each day.

It’s interesting to know a bit more about how the devices you rely on work. But it’s also another perspective on day-to-day life, and the more perspectives we gather, the more we’re truly able to see.

Introductions – Erin

Hello! My name is Erin and I’ll be taking on the topic of science communication from the viewpoint of public engagement with science – both in popular media and more widely in the fields of academia and research. As a lifelong geek and science enthusiast I have always been interested in augmenting my own knowledge through reading, watching and interacting with scientists, starting with Mr. Wizard’s televised experiments in the eighties and continuing into the digital age with blogs, podcasts and TED talks nowadays.

My own background is biology-based; though I enjoyed all science and maths in high school my true passion lay in learning about and exploring biological processes and I pursued an undergraduate degree in Biology with a specialization in Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution at UCLA. During that time I spent six months in a pharmaceutical research lab where I worked on antisense therapies, cultured a lot of cells and ultimately decided that lab research was not for me. While considering what to do next I took a job at a children’s science museum and the rest, as they say, was history. Over the next few years I worked at a variety of informal learning centres – mostly museums and zoos – educating the public about lions, tigers and dinosaurs as well as running events to encourage the public to connect to their local informal learning centres. After several years of this I broke a promise to myself and went back to school, receiving a Masters in Environmental and Sustainability Education at the University of Edinburgh. I also gained experience working in several UK-based informal learning centres and as of summer 2011 have found full-time employment working with a UK-wide charitable organization recruiting and training scientists to engage with schoolchildren in Scotland.

With this blog I’d like to explore the history of public engagement with science and how it has shaped developments, why it’s important and necessary to encourage the ‘average’ person to engage with/understand science, as well as looking at people who are currently doing it and whether they’re doing it well/badly.

Some of the additional things I’d like to talk about are responses to other blogs and articles, posts highlighting what I consider to be particularly good/worthwhile science education and some of the challenges facing scientists and researchers when trying to engage with the public. I’d also like to talk about the current uptake into science careers and the challenges facing employers and what can be done to address the issue of people going for ‘soft’ degrees instead, not judging those who do but recognizing the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths careers now and in the future.

I look forward to plenty of interesting discussions and debates and if, like me, you just can’t get enough science in your life I encourage you to check out our Links page for more blogs and sites worth a look.