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Dr Natalie Garrett, from Exeter’s Physics and Astronomy department, gave a talk entitled "Brilliant brains and biophotonics”.

Female scientists took to their soapboxes at city centre spectacle

A host of Devon’s leading female scientists took to their soapboxes at the weekend to showcase their fascinating science to the general public at a free event in Exeter city centre.

On Saturday 13th June 2015 Princesshay Square was transformed into a hub of scientific learning and discussion, with 12 experts speaking on subjects as far ranging as the human brain, alien planets, animal migration and marine fish poo. 

This event was part of a nation-wide initiative by Soapbox Science, which aims to bring science to the people and challenge gender stereotypes in science careers by raising the profile of women in science. Its organisers want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, learn from, heckle, question, probe, interact with and be inspired by some of our leading scientists. 

Dr Safi Darden of the University of Exeter, who co-ordinated Exeter’s Soapbox Science, said: “I could not have been more pleased with Saturday’s event. Our spectacular speakers had prepared an array of exciting material and props and they each spent an hour on their soapbox speaking to and engaging with the public. 

I want to thank all the people who made the Soapbox Science event in Exeter possible, our speakers and volunteers, but especially a big thank you to our audience of all ages who attended the event and probed our speakers with fantastic questions.” 

Speakers included Hannah Wakeford, who has just handed in her PhD thesis in astrophysics at the University of Exeter and will shortly take up a new role with NASA based in the USA. Her soapbox talk ‘Exploring alien planets’ made use of a selection of props including a fluffy toy sun and a well-stocked fruit basket. Hannah said: “Soapbox Science is a brilliant way to showcase the amazing work being done by scientists that the general public do not normally get to learn about.”

Dr Lucy Hawkes of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter showed how she and colleagues are using “very cool” tracking technology to study animal migration and reveal the fastest, furthest and highest animal champions in the world. 

During her spell on the soapbox, Dr Ana Neves of Engineering amazed the audience with the possibilities of smart textiles and her research into building electronic devices directly onto textile fibres, posing the question, “What if you could make a phone call using your sweater instead of your mobile?” 

Dr Natalie Garrett, from Exeter’s Physics and Astronomy department, gave a talk entitled "Brilliant brains and biophotonics”, where she explained how lasers can help us find out the ways that nano-particles improve drug uptake to the brain. Dr Garrett said: “I’m a keen science communicator and I enjoy discovering new ways to bring my research to the general public’s attention. When I heard about Soapbox Science I thought it sounded great, so I had to get involved.” 

Soapbox Science events are part funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Natural and Environmental Research Council (NERC). In addition the Exeter event was funded by the University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences. The soapboxes were provided by Creative Carpentry South West.     

For a full list of the speakers and more information about Soapbox Science visit:

Date: 15 June 2015

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