Friday, 28 October 2016

Christmas Lectures: Day 12

So, last time I mentioned a new section of the Ri website I had been helping to work on which had a bunch of old archive video footage of science done back in the early 1900's by the Bragg’s. This is all now live and can be found here:
So, who were the Bragg’s? William and Lawrence Bragg were a father son duo who led the field of x-ray crystallography (Looking at the molecular structure of things). They’re also the only father son duo to have jointly received the nobel prize with both of them actually being alive. (Also I’ve actually touched one of their nobel prize book things). So if you do anything with molecular structures or crystallography, this is worth a look.
Pretty soap bubbles are a thing

So, what have I been doing? I’ve now finished 2 press releases, one for a bursary competition to win tickets to the Lectures, and one to advertise the event we have going on in Edinburgh. Hopefully something based on them will appear on websites and in newspapers which is kind of exciting. (To be fair, they have since been edited so it’s not all me, and most of the actual basic writing I took from elsewhere so it’s not exactly my work anyway). I’ve also been emailing loads of people and places asking them to spread the word about our Edinburgh event, and it is kind of awesome to see them all up on the websites.
I also got to go help out in the prep room for an afternoon (the prep room is where we test out all the experiments and things for the Lectures and other cool video’s made by the Ri). Once December starts, the Ri channel will release its Advent calendar, and you’ll be able to see what we were doing. (Your only hint is that it involved liquid nitrogen and lots of mess).
Liquid nitrogen is cool

Also Wednesday afternoon, I got to go help out in the Young Scientists Centre. It’s essentially a science lab down in the basement next to the museum where school kids can come do some science. We had a group over from Ireland who were all around 15-16, and on their strange and kind of awesome year of doing practical’s and school trips rather than lessons and exams. They had to solve a ‘crime scene’ by matching up a set of DNA. They had 6 samples – the crime scene sample and 5 ‘suspects’. By processing and running the DNA using electrophoresis, they could see a match between the killer and the crime scene sample. It was nice to see kids of that age being able to try something that I have done, sometimes on a daily basis, during my PhD, and that I didn’t get to try until my third year of my undergraduate.
This is what DNA looks like after electrophoresis. Sort of...

I’m also watching through some old lectures from 1991 (the year I was born!). I’m going through checking for copyright content so we can release the old lectures on youtube so everyone can enjoy them. The ones from 1991 are really interesting, presented by Richard Dawkins on evolution. Plus I’m sorting out some fact sheets on the lectures, and press releases for the Lectures themselves.
Finally, here at the Ri they have evening events on, talks and lectures and things on various topics. Staff get to steward the events (Be the guy on the door who checks your tickets etc) and then watch the session, which is pretty awesome, and you get paid to do it. This week I managed to get 2 shifts, one for a talk with Mike Massimo, an astronaut who has been into space a bunch of times and now has a book out about it. The other was on the science of stress, where they had a panel of neuroscience experts on stress giving everyone an introduction to the subject. They were both good evenings, but meant I was pretty knackered the next day a I didn’t get home till gone 10. Totally worth it though.
So I think that’s pretty much it. It’s all going well at week 2, and I’m still enjoying it. I’m also getting more used to the travelling and times so hopefully I’ll be less tired as time goes on.
I’ll update again next week. Have fun!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Christmas lectures: Day 6

So, the first week is over, and I have to say I'm pretty tired. London, plus the hour commute each way takes a bit of getting used to. But it's going good.

Annoyingly the IT system at the Ri doesn't seem to like me very much! Something went wrong when I first arrived and all of the calendar invites I got sent before I arrived got deleted! So its been a week of trying to get people to resend things, as well as finding out I'm supposed to be places at the last minute. It all worked out in the end though!

So, stuff I have been doing. I've written my first 2 press releases for local media in Edinburgh and Gloucestershire. Neither of them have actually gone to the press yet, but they will do hopefully next week. We're trying to get people excited for a show based on the 2014 xmas lectures that is going to Edinburgh December 1st this year (so if you know anyone with kids in the area...). I've also helped to sort out and proof read a new section of the website that is going live on Monday - I'll put up a link once it's up. There is a bunch of really awesome heritage video's about old science stuff, some of it relevant to some of my science friends.

I'm also helping to organise a bursary which gets kids who could never normally afford to come to the Lectures, which is nice to do. And setting up surveys, and hopefully next week I'll start up the instagram again so you can all follow cool pictures from behind the scenes. 

I also got to meet the lecturer himself, Prof. Saiful Islam. He is genuinely lovely and very interesting, and I think he's going to be a great lecturer. 

And finally, one of the coolest part of the week, I got to go see the archives of the Ri. If you come to the Ri itself, down in the basement there is an awesome science museum with loads of cool stuff in, including the first crystallography machine, various original electrical generators and also the first ever isolated samples of the elements discovered in the Ri back in the days of research:

Potassium – isolated from caustic potash by Humphry Davy in 1807 using electrolysis.
Sodium – Humphry Davy first isolated sodium in 1807 from molten sodium hydroxide.
Barium – isolated by electrolysis of molten barium salts by Humphry Davy in 1808.
Boron – discovered by Humphry Davy who first used electrolysis to produce a brown precipitate from a solution of borates in 1808. He produced enough of the substance to identify it as an element but pure boron was not produced until 1909.
Calcium – isolated by Humphry Davy in 1808 from a mixture of lime and mercuric oxide using electrolysis.
Chlorine – Elemental chlorine was discovered in 1774 but was thought to be a compound and was called "dephlogisticated muriatic acid air". Humphry Davy named it chlorine in 1810 after experimenting with it and declared it was an element.

I got to go behind the scenes, actually stand in Faradays old lab (not a replica, the actual lab), and see the hidden archive room which included cool things like the original worlds largest pencil (it has since been usurped by another one), a piece of original meteorite, and original letters and books written by some of the most highly prestigious scientists in history.
So all in all week one has gone well. Everyone has been really lovely, and I'm looking forward to next week and seeing what it has to bring. 

It's lovely to hear from everyone by the way, thank you for the comments left, they make me smile!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Christmas Lectures: Day 1

So my first day working for the Royal Institution of science (yes, THE royal institution of science!) is over. And good lords I am knackered!

The actual Royal Institution
This weekend just gone saw me up sticks and move to London to start my 3 month placement here. For those who are unaware, my PhD is part of the BBSRC DTP groups (BBSRC = Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. A.K.A. the people who give me money and let me do science) (DTP = Doctoral Training Program A.K.A a program which has lots of PhD's as part of it, and lots of other things we have to do alongside it).

One of the other things we have to do is spend 3 months doing something that isn't our PhD. And I was lucky enough to be successful in applying for the Christmas Lectures position with the Royal Institution.

My role is as a Media assistant - from what I can gather so far that means being organised a lot and knowing how to write things and use social media well. I'm hoping to be involved in some of the actual lecture prep as well, and I'm apparently going to be around for a lot of the rehearsals, though sadly I won't be in the room during the actual filming.
They've allowed me to read the preliminary script today, and it already looks set to be awesome! Obviously I'm not allowed to give details away, but I highly recommend you all tune in. It's going to be a great introduction/recap on all things energy, accessible to people at all levels. And there isn't just chemistry in there (though there is a lot granted), there is even some biology and physics too.

That first moment when I walked into the building did feel pretty awesome. That place just has so much history to it. Specifically the history of science, which is my thing (science, not history). And then I got to go stand in the lecture theatre itself! The actual lecture theatre from the actual lectures! (yes I am a fangirl). The me from my childhood could never have dreamed that was possible

The lecture theatre, where I stood this morning!

The work days are going to feel pretty long for a while. 8 hours working is fine, no problem, but it's the near hour commute either end that is the killer. Mainly because I'm not used to it. (Yes I know many of you work longer/harder/further etc. Changes are always tiring). Hopefully everything will become normal asap and I'll be used to it all before you know it.

Well, that's all for today. I'll do another update when I have more to say.
Have fun!