By Ruth Blackburn, a PhD student within the THIN team at Primary Care and Population Health.
UCL are now recruiting for PhD students to join their team of Post Graduate Student Engagers.
The Student Engagers use the tens of thousands of objects (ranging from mummies to moles to work by Rembrandt) that are housed in UCL’s three Museums to engage members of the public about their research. The Museums are all free for anyone and everyone to enter, which provides a unique opportunity for talking to a dynamic and varied group of people about your research.
Whilst undertaking my PhD on the prevention of cardiovascular disease in people with severe mental illness I started working as a Student Engager: initially, I had no real experience of ‘how to engage’ and was armed only with enthusiasm for making my research accessible and interesting. However, the role has been hugely rewarding and has prepared me for PhD-related hurdles such the (often dreaded) upgrade process.
I was also able to work with PhD students across the spectrum of academic study: together we curated interdisciplinary exhibitions and events to promote discussions about why we undertake research, and to explain the purpose and findings of our PhD projects to researchers and the public. Most recently, I worked with a PhD student of history and – with the aid of two projectors, some Technicolor film and a darkened room – we re-created a bus journey through post-war London. This was a journey that provided insight into the first studies of coronary heart disease (which compared bus conductors and drivers to understand the impact of increased physical activity at work) and was artfully positioned in the context of post-war Britain. Public engagement provides a rare opportunity for truly interdisciplinary working that is enjoyable, challenging and insightful in equal measure.
If you are a PhD student in UCL with an enthusiasm for communicating your research to people beyond the academic bubble then please consider applying for a paid Post Graduate Student Engagement role (deadline October 2nd 2014). You can find out more information here, and follow our Twitter feed.