I realize this report is coming in a little later than I had planned. Twenty-one days rather than two weeks. However, my excuse it that I have been incredibly busy, as I hope the following will adequately justify!
Allow me to take you through my last three weeks.
I managed to acquire Adobe Photoshop and ran through a few basic tutorials thanks to few YouTube videos and blogs. I’m in the progress of creating a few avatars for my blog/brand, such as a cartoon headshot of myself, but having zero previous experience and a lot else on my plate it’s going fairly slowly. I have almost finished the headshot I described and will be posting it here soon. I now appreciate how tricky graphic design is! Especially if you’re a perfectionist.
After Issue #19 was finished and printed, I was involved in magazine distribution around the university. I made sure stands, shelves, and tables are stocked in the popular areas of the university. During that process I also handed out issues to interested students and spoke with them about the magazine, including offering them the chance to write for the student section.
It has been interesting to learn about aspects of a university based magazine such as how the employees and the publication itself are funded. I also learnt about how to determine format/layout of an issue of THINK, according to it’s own style, including how many pages to give to each article, whether they would include two page spreads, and what order they should appear in the magazine.
I was lucky enough to be interviewed for Radio 2 Malta. My friend Dan Far (who I also met at the STEAM summer school last year) hosts a science show broadcast on Monday afternoons, so she had me on and asked about my research back in Edinburgh. It was fascinating to see the inside of a radio studio and find out what goes on behind the scenes. Upon listening to my interview, I was reminded that I need to work on eliminating ‘ums’ and ‘erms’ from my speaking.
For the first time when launching a new issue of THINK, there was to be a corresponding event where authors of three of the most interesting articles would give a short talk before engaging in dialogue with a public audience, as well as providing demonstrations related to their work. The articles featured this time were on neutron stars for probing extreme gravity, miniaturizing satellites to reduce the cost of launching them, and the potential for medical marijuana to treat chronic pain. In preparation for this I created a plan and schedule of promotional content for Facebook event page, including researcher bios and photographs, related articles, news stories and videos. I wrote copy for each of these posts and edited and proofread the event description and press release. On the day I collected and set up the low smoke machine, as well as manning the door to take register, sign people up for the mailing list, and invite more people inside.
Another very project I was involved in was the application for EU funding for a project called VentureFest Med. VentureFest is a series of events that connects innovators and entrepreneurs to capitalists and those who can provide funding. The events also facilitate the creation of a network to achieve the same goals. Given what we are learning in OPTIMA, it was made all the more interesting for me to learn about. Already successful in the UK, the aim was to bring it to five Mediterranean countries initially, before expanding to more. I was tasked with making sure the different work packages of the document were coherent, by proofreading, editing, and trimming them down before and during their input into the submission system. It opened my eyes to the complexity and numerous steps involved in applying for funding on such a large scale.
After Issue #19 had been released it was time to shift focus to Issue #20, which was already under way. Being a new issue there were no completed articles yet, which meant I got to assess the narrative and structure of several longer articles, including one about smart electric grids, as well as edit five student articles and two shorter ones. I’m beginning to understand the feel and tone of the articles required for THINK, as well as the language and scientific detail used. This will all be very useful as I have been given the opportunity to write a 1500 word article for Startup section. The company I’m writing about are called Thought 3D. They’ve had a number of projects but their biggest success so far has been Magigoo; an adhesive to stabilize the printed object throughout the printing process, and then release it easily after completion. This topic is doubly fascinating for me, as a) in the OPTIMA program we are learning about innovation and entrepreneurship, and Thought 3D are a successful example of technology startup, and b) in my own research I have used 3D printing to create part of my experimental setup, so it was already an industry I had some knowledge of and a lot of interest in. Initially I researched the company and the 3D printing industry, including the history of both. Then, with Cassi (THINK assistant editor) I discussed good interviewing techniques and etiquette. After that I prepared the questions to ask, focusing on their journey from concept to company. Along with Cassi and the photography/design team, I travelled to the startup / business incubation centre where Thought 3D were based. We were shown around their lab and office, before I interviewed two of the team for 50 minutes whilst recording. The interview process was very enlightening, and made easy by the fact that the guys were friendly and relaxed. Over the following days I listened to recording and wrote up the information contained within. With Edward (THINK editor) I discussed how to plan, outline and write articles, particularly how to foster the type of narrative found in THINK. Then I planned, outlined and wrote the article. As I wrote I found it hard to not edit the fresh chunks of text. This plus the fact I was probably being too perfectionist during the first draft (rather than getting the raw information and structure down) meant it all took quite a while. I also found that being engrossed in writing for long periods of time over several days made me feel overwhelmed and the necessary words seemed to surface in my mind less often. Once I finished the first draft I felt relieved; I look forward to returning and editing the text after some time spent away from it.
Another opportunity I had thanks to the upcoming issue was accompanying the photography/design team on a photoshoot. This was for the Toolkit section of THINK, which describes a piece of research equipment being used at the university. I got lucky again because we visited an anechoic chamber (a room built to minimise sound within it), the inside of which I had only previously seen in pictures. That morning I learnt about lighting, lenses, angles, colours and camera settings etc, with particular focus on achieving THINK’s sci-fi like feel.
Regarding STEAM, these last few weeks I have put together social media content and a schedule for the Facebook page. I was also involved in the STEAM Malta workshops. This involved going to high schools and doing scientific/mathematic interactive demonstrations. I helped prepare a chemistry demonstration that explained chemical reactions and how to test for potentially invisible products, in this case carbon dioxide. On the day of the first demonstration, several of the volunteers were sick, so I ended up performing the “Pythagoras Mountain” demo with no training, only an explanation on the day. This demo involved using lego squares to prove Pythagoras theorem and using it to determine the height of a paper-mache mountain. Having no previous practice made it a very useful learning experience. I kept an eye on the time during the demo (20 mins in total), and throughout the different groups of pupils I adjusted the demo accordingly, depending on how long they took to complete the interactive parts, answer questions etc. I was also able to take mental notes of which parts of what I was saying they found interesting or entertaining, and again adjust accordingly to help them get the most of out the demo. Another factor I had to take into consideration was how I spoke. We were outside, which meant I had the wind and other distractions to contend with, and English was a secondary language for most students, which meant I had to speak more slowly, enunciate more clearly and avoid using words that foreign high school students would be unaware of at their age and level of education. Afterwards quite a number of them said thanks and that they enjoyed it. I look forward to the next event!
I also attended the next Cinexjenza event, although this time not in a PowerPoint presenting capacity. The film being shown was Prometheus (for it’s entire duration) and the topics to be discussed were human origins and related philosophy. In the discussion afterwards I was tasked with being the ‘expert’ on the film (Edward took genetics and human history; Jessica took philosophy). The audience was smaller than the last event, but they had a lot of questions. The discussion flow of the conversation was more meandering than before, and we ended up talking about human origins, philosophy, religion, science, sci-fi, aliens, nature of consciousness, the existence (or not) of free will, ethics and morality, AI, and pretty much anything else related. I really enjoy these rather more informal type of group chats, as I think it makes those involved feel more comfortable, willing to speak their minds and ask questions which they might otherwise dare not. I think this type of event could work well in Edinburgh. There may already be something like it, I shall find out!