Minghui Yin: a review of my BSPP Outreach internship

05 Sep 2014

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I had a great time joining the BSPP Outreach team from April – June this year, even though it went by really quickly! I got the chance to work on new resources, help run events, use social media and I even made a few new friends along the way.

Working in Edinburgh, a long distance away from the outreach team in Bristol meant working independently. Overall, the internship has given me an insight into science communication and outreach, which will be valuable for my future career.

Events

I helped with three events during my internship, which made me an 'events intern'! My first event was running the Plant Doctor activity at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, as part of Edinburgh International Science Festival. Luckily for me the event was local, which made my first day a lot easier! It was cool to set up our exhibition in a big glass room with a lovely view of the garden. We also went on a trip around the garden with Dr Stephan Helfer to hunt for plant pathogens. This was the first BSPP Outreach event in Scotland and I hope there'll be many more similar Scottish adventures!

June was a very busy month; we ran two events within three weeks. On 13th of June, we visited Hethersett VC Junior School near Norwich and ran a full day of activities with Dr Mark Banfield (John Innes Centre). I loved going into the school playing field with students to hunt for diseased plants. We couldn't believe that there were so many interesting plant pathogens on their doorstep! We had a very short lunch break and were exhausted by the end of day, but also happy that the students had enjoyed taking part in the activities and learning about plant pathology.

My last event was at the Inspirations Education Showcase on the 26th of June at York Air Museum. It was a great place for an event; we even had our lunch in a World War II bunker! The event is for students (aged 11 to 19) to showcase their own project work. We were there to promote plant pathology to these young scientists, many of whom asked very insightful questions. We also had our own chance to play with some visual illusions!

Resources and activity development

I spent a lot of time creating new educational resources and activities for the BSPP website. I enjoyed the process, especially the development of a new game (online shortly), where students become potato farmers and use weather forecasts to decide when best to spray fungicides to control potato late blight. At first, it was hard to decide which activity to develop, as I had so many ideas. With Katie's (BSPP Outreach Officer) help, we came with up a good plan for the potato game. Based on real data and research, we refined it and also played the game over Skype several times. It took a while to develop the game, and we only just finished it by the end of my internship, which sadly meant I didn't have time to trial it. Katie is now trialling it with a group of secondary school students, and I'm looking forward to hearing how it goes.

Board meeting

I also attended the BSPP board meeting in May. It was very interesting to meet everyone and see how the organisation works.

Social media

I believe that as a scientist, it's not only important to have good laboratory skills, but you also need to be able to promote and communicate research with scientists and members of the public. This is something my internship has really helped me with! At first, I found using Twitter and the BSPP website a little difficult. But with Katie's help, I soon started using Twitter and writing online science content aimed at school children; it was a fun process!

I'm so glad that I signed for this internship. It gave me many different experiences from my PhD, and will benefit me in my future career path. I just felt a bit sad that the time went by so quickly and I'm hoping to join the BSPP Outreach team at events in future!

Thank you

I'd like to give a great big thanks to Katie for all the step-by-step help she gave me, Dr Diane Hird (University of Bristol) for coming up with really good project ideas and the BSPP for all their support.

Katie Tomlinson (BSPP Outreach Officer): 'Minghui has done a brilliant job of developing a new game on the cost/benefits of spraying fungicides and using resistant potatoes. Minghui's high level of enthusiasm has meant that her ability to communicate science to members of the public has really grown.'