In a small ceremony held on Thursday the 30th of January at the NDM’s outreach Lunchtime Taster Session, Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe awarded the inaugural Head of Department Prize for Public Engagement to Dr Katharine Plant. The prize was established by NDM Strategic to recognise the efforts of a researcher (or researchers) who have gone above-and-beyond to contribute to public engagement.
Dr Plant is a postdoctoral researcher and laboratory manager in Dr Julian Knight’s group. She works in the area of regulatory genetic variation and its association with autoimmune disease, and completed her DPhil in Clinical Genetics in the Knight group in 2012. She has been an enthusiastic volunteer for public engagement, and played a major role in NDM outreach activities in 2013, including the Oxfordshire Science Festival and Oxford Open Doors.
Dr Plant has also assisted the NDM Strategic team in designing activities for upcoming science fairs, and is looking forward to taking part in a number of outreach events in 2014, including the Cheltenham Science Festival in June. Her approachable manner and excitement about science outreach is a model for NDM researchers and volunteers.
Here Dr Plant answers a few questions about why she got involved in public engagement in the first place, and what keeps her coming back...
What is the purpose of Public Engagement in science?
To interact with the public, increase enthusiasm for science and research, and to gain different perspectives and viewpoints, from “the real world” that help put our work in context.
What made you decide to get involved in public engagement?
We receive a lot of public funding, so I think it is important to make people aware of what we research and why it should be supported! I love my job, and I find my work really inspiring, it’s great to share that with others.
Which event have you enjoyed the most and why?
The Open Doors event in Magdalen College where the NDM had a mini-science fair was great fun (despite the cold weather!). There were loads of kids who were really interested in the activities, and as it was less busy than the Science Festival in Bonn Square there was a chance to have slightly longer chats with people who were interested.
What are some of the common misconceptions about Public Engagement in science?
I think people sometimes feel it’s a box-ticking exercise, but nearly everyone I’ve spoken to has been fascinated to learn more about medical research, and it makes me realise how lucky I am to have such a varied and exciting job.
How do you feel about winning this award?
It is really great that the NDM is so supportive of public engagement, and it is humbling to win an award for spending some spare time in such a rewarding manner.
If you, or your research group, would like to get involved in any upcoming Outreach or Public Engagement events please contact the NDM Strategic team for more information.