Undergrads take science to the public

It is fairly common for students to complete a Bachelor’s degree without ever applying what they learn to ‘real world’ problems. But in science communication that is not the case.

Students in SCOM2001 Practical Skills for Communicating Science not only learn to give public presentations of a professional standard. They must also organise a public science communication conference and speak at it.

Course convenor Dr Will Grant believes throwing students in the deep end is the best way for them to learn.

"One of the best ways to get students engaged in a topic is to make it as real and challenging as possible. Students want to feel ownership and responsibility for what they deliver, and this project provides that in spades," he said.

And students love it. Student feedback on the course has included comments like, "Very beneficial", "Highly recommended" and "I loved this course! It was so much fun and one of the highlights of my week!"

Conference organising and presenting are core activities for science graduates in many careers. Research scientists, public servants working in science policy, business people involved in technology development, and community lobbyists concerned about the place of science in society will all benefit from honing their skills in these areas.

"Doing research is only half the job of science," said Dr Grant. "Communicating it in the public arena, where it really starts to matter to people’s lives, makes doing the research worthwhile."