“You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother” this sentence is traditionally attributed to Albert Einstein, even if there is no proof he actually said that. Independently from the source, this sentence perfectly summarises what science should be.
Often scientists spend their days in a lab or at their desks trying to understand and discover the secrets of nature. We read papers, we perform experiments, observe results and often we communicate these observations and our hypothesis to other scientists. Science is based on communication and spreading of knowledge, but often this communication is limited to the “scientific world”. We present our results during lab meetings, conferences, seminars, workshops and many other events, but always to other scientists. We know how to explain our research in a scientific and professional way, but… would I be able to explain it to my grandmother, to my dad or to my friend who graduated in law?
To answer this question and to bring my research for PATHSENSE out of the lab, I took part in the Soapbox Science Galway 2018 event. Soapbox Science is a successful outreach platform, founded in 2011 by Dr. Nathalie Pettorelli and Dr. Seirian Sumner, that brings science on the street in a simple, catching and informal way, without presentations or jargon. The main protagonists are women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
When I decided to volunteer as a speaker for Soapbox Science Galway I couldn’t imagine how exciting this experience would have been. The organisers Jessamyn Fairfield and Dara Stanley introduced me to the world of Soapbox Science and they encouraged me to write a blog and explain why I am so enthusiastic about Science and Microbiology and what made me be a researcher. It was really fun to go back to my childhood and remember what made me be a scientist and that is what you can find in my blog for Soapbox Science “From the telescope to the microscope: how the lunar eclipse made me be a microbiologist. Meet Laura Cutugno”.
But the most interesting part was the event itself, it took place on the 7th of July at the Spanish Arch in Galway and, during the whole day, I had to stand up on a soapbox for four times and tell everyone interested (tourists, children, families and students) about the “Brain of microbes”. I talked to many people about stressosome, stress sensing in bacteria and my research for PATHSENSE. I met lots of curious people, other 11 brilliant women in STEM and many volunteers. The interest of people, stopping by to hear about my research, was absolutely surprising and it was amazing to receive many questions after every speech. Here a short extract of my talk “The brain of microbes” during the event Soapbox Science Galway 2018.
The whole experience was really beneficial to me, I had to fight with the fear of public speaking and it was challenging and really interesting to find the best way to explain my research in an easy and accessible way to the audience. Moreover, it made me understand that people are curious about science and research, they want to know more about what happens into labs and they need to know how public money is invested in scientific research.
This was a great start and I hope to be involved in more outreach activities in the future.