Today’s Scientist in the Spotlight is a face you might recognise if you have been following my blog for a while. Yes, one of my guest bloggers is back! So let me re-introduce you to Alice G.
I have met a lot of incredible people in the science communication community through social media from around the world including Alice – but you can imagine my surprise when I find out she comes from literally 10 minutes down the road from where I grew up back home. So, I’m even more excited to be sharing the story of another Pembs gal sharing science and breaking down those stereotypes with the world.
Alice is a Welsh science blogger with a background in neuroscience, and a passion for addressing the issues of inequality in STEM and science communication, otherwise known as an out and proud STEMinist! But Alice isn’t just involved in the world of writing, but video, radio, public speaking and soon podcasting! All skills that will hopefully help her with her dream of working in science journalism and science documentaries. But let’s find out how she has got to where she is now.
Tell us about your science journey and was it what you expected?
Alice: It has not at all been what I expected, and that is the beauty of science, you follow what you are interested in.
In school, I liked both science and art equally – I was really inquisitive and interested in medical science, as well as enjoying painting and drawing. I knew that when I finished GCSE, I needed to start narrowing my subjects to maths and science so that I could apply for medicine. But the thought of losing art was too much, and I ended up taking four full A-levels for two years, completing almost all of my art coursework in the summer holidays, so that I didn’t need to let go of it.
I was split between a career in medicine or science or pursuing a career in art, and as my identical twin sister was an incredibly talented artist (and I didn’t want to have to complete with that!) I chose a career in science-related subjects. It feels a bit crude to admit that it was that simple, but it definitely was a huge influence on the path I took.
I sort of fell into science by accident, and completely lucked out! I thought I wanted to become a medical doctor, and was set on applying for medicine, but unfortunately didn’t get in. I was offered a place at Cardiff University to study Biomedical Sciences, specialising in Neuroscience, which I took up instead and I am so happy I did. I loved psychology and medical science, and thoroughly enjoyed my degree – I love neuroscience so much that I want to share it with others and make other people excited about it too.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Alice: I have learnt to question science. As much as I love and adore science, the culture needs to change.
During my degree, while we were studying consciousness disorders, we had a lecture from Professor Jenny Kitzingen from Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Jenny had a sister who had been involved in a car accident and ended up in a coma. She gave us a lecture on her experience of the treatment of her sister and the issues of ego that can often occur in scientific research, and how this can impact on proper diagnosis.
This lecture opened my eyes to the imperfections in science, and how we need to look at the culture of science to improve it.
What’s your most memorable moment in your science journey?
Alice: I started my blog just to vent my frustrations at the lack of discussion about the low levels of women in STEM, but never thought it would be paid attention to, as I felt I was simply shouting into the voids of the internet. I would never of thought that four years later, I am actively helping to address these issues, that I would be mentioned on the BBC’s 100 inspirational women for 2015 or that I would have done a TEDx Talk.
I used to be scared of talking infant of people, and was often described as shy and passive. I now raise my voice to better the landscape for women in STEM and would happily give a lecture to a large or intimidating crowd – like at the European Space Agency or the National Assembly for Wales. I think this has taught me that passion can be the driving force that helps to do things you never thought you would do.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Alice: I work out a lot, enjoy cycling and weightlifting, as well as art and baking.
What made you want to start your blog and YouTube channel?
Alice: As part of my university degree, we did a module called ‘Science in Society’ which looked at different aspects of science in the contests of the wider world – including sustainability and animal testing. As a liberal student interested in the women’s movement, I was really excited that ‘Feminism in Science’ was on the list of topics the module would cover. In actual fact, this part of the module only took up 30 seconds of a four hour lecture, and I was incredibly disappointed. So, I stormed home and started a blog looking about the gender and equality issues in science.
Since then, it has grown and gained momentum. By utilising social media, I can draw attention to these issues.
How do you know what YouTube videos to make?
Alice: I try to take questions that people want answered, or take a broad scientific concept and find an interesting angle to it. I want people to be interested and passionate about it, and potentially go on to do their own research in the topic – encouraging a scientific-way of thinking.
I aim to capture their imagination and investigate what they are interested in.
What opportunities have you gained from your YouTube and scicomm work?
Alice: I have been able to learn more and learn about myself, but also merge my passion for art and science. All of my graphics on my blog and in my videos are drawn by myself, allowing me to use my passion and skill to enhance the science products I produce. I taught myself graphics design and video editing, which has been amazing to learn new things and apply my art skills to scicomm.
I was, also, invited to give a TEDx talk as part of the TEDx Swansea Women event in 2016, which was an event celebrating women in Wales.
Why is science communication important to you?
Alice: I just love sharing what I love, and making people interested in what I am interested in.
And in my blog, I am passionate about making female role models for young girls and increasing the representation of women in STEM in the media. By putting myself out there, I can help young girls realise what they can do and help increase representation of women in STEM.
Who were your science role models?
Alice: Sir David Attenborough and Dr Alice Roberts were always inspirational for me. But closer to home, my mother and grandmother has scientific minds that I think really influenced me.
My grandmother was a midwife, and would have become a doctor if she wasn’t born when she was, and before I was born my mother was a Laboratory Manager, and I feel lucky that I was raised by such intelligent and passionate women who inspired me.
And finally, where in the world should be my next travel destination?
Alice: Iceland! I always wanted to go to Iceland and went last year. I completely fell in love with the country. Plus – they have a 50:50 gender split in their STEM industry!
Massive thank you to Alice for getting involved with my blog again! So proud to see another Pembrokeshire gal doing so well in the world of science communication – and there’s more where that came from in the next post! Hint Hint! But if you fancy learning a little but about that big ol’ brain inside your head then check out Alice’s YouTube channel Gray Matter where Alice answers questions such as ‘Can babies smell in the womb?’ to ‘What is a migraine?’. Also, make sure you head over and follow her on Instagram and her blog for snippets of STEMinist life 🙂
S P O T L I G H T S E P T E M B E R 2017 continues! Make sure to check back in every Monday and Friday this month for a new scientist’s story. PLUS I will be sprinkling these blog posts with a few #waybackwednesday and #throwbackthursday posts on my social media pages (see links below) to show you what my previous Scientist in the Spotlight scientists are getting up to now! AND at the end of the month I have another announcement to make! So there is LOTS going on across Soph talks science in September. Make sure you don’t miss out and subscribe to my mailing list at the top right of this page or follow me over on social media! Thank you all for your continued support. I am absolutely loving my science communication side hustle at the moment – especially as the last month has been the most successful EVER on my blog and I have so many new exciting collaborations and projects coming up! Not sure I’ve got time for this PhD malarky 😛