Ten undergraduate and postgraduate students from across all Science departments took part in a new Science Communication Ambassador scheme run by the Faculty of Science to get some valuable experience in science communications and promote research from the faculty in new and engaging ways.

The project was led by Dr Anna Powell (Faculty Research Manager) and Sarah Baker-Gaunt (Faculty Digital Content Manager) and funded by the Research England’s Research Culture Fund.

Projects highlighted included: Using artificial intelligence to help combat human trafficking; Whether tea bags release microplastics; and how far-ultraviolet light could be used to kill viruses.

Following initial training from Vicky Just and Vittoria D’Alessio from the Media Team, and Rob Cooper from Public Engagement, the Ambassadors were given ongoing support from Anna and Sarah to decide on which research areas they wanted to showcase. After compiling possible research stories to cover, they pitched their ideas to the panel (Vittoria, Anna and Sarah) for feedback before working alongside academics across the Faculty to produce a variety of content, including articles for the web explainer videos, interviews with academics and “Day in the Life” vlogs.

They celebrated their success at an event on Wednesday 1 May with talks from two of the University’s media stars: Director of the Milner Centre for Evolution Professor Turi King, and Dr Kit Yates, Director of the University’s Centre for Mathematical Biology. Turi talked about her experiences with media and TV, starting with the media interest resulting from her PhD project on how men from different parts of the world with the same surnames also have the same type of Y chromosome, and working on the DNA identification of Richard III when his remains were found in a car park in 2012.

Turi also talked about her work as scientific advisor on television productions such as BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? and about the BBC Two genealogy series she co-hosts with Stacey Dooley, DNA Family Secrets.

Kit talked to the ambassadors about his extensive media experience as a science expert commenting on the mathematics behind stories in the news, appearing on national and international TV, radio and online outlets.

Kit was part of the Independent SAGE during the Covid-19 crisis and appeared on outlets such as BBC News and Sky as an expert to comment on the evolving government guidelines.

He talked about the good and bad points of using social media to engage the public with science, as well as the challenges of balancing science communications work with the research and teaching elements of an academic career.

He also talked about his science writing including guest columns for The Guardian, articles for The Conversation and authoring two popular science books: The Maths of Life and Death and How to Expect the Unexpected.

Anna Powell, Faculty of Science Research Manager, said: “We’re really pleased at the success of our first Science Communication Ambassador Scheme and have been impressed by the quality and breadth of the content produced by the students. “We’re hoping to be able to run many more successful programmes like this in the future.”