Bringing science to life with the Pint of Science series

  • Date

    Mon 7 Oct 19

Pint of Science

You might have heard about Pint of Science, but you may not know how it started and how the popular science talks came to Colchester.

You also might not realise that you can help support the festival get bigger and better next year.

For the last three years, PhD student Shellie Wall from the School of Life Sciences has used her time outside the lab to promote, organise and run the festival which takes place in pubs and bars across the historic town.

Shellie and her dedicated team of volunteers have worked tirelessly to connect academics with the local community.

She said: “We want science to be at the heart of the community and we believe that background and personal circumstances shouldn’t determine a person’s potential to engage with research.”

Shellie, who is in her third year of a Plant Physiology PhD, says she has enjoyed working on Pint of Science whilst studying at Essex.

“The process of organising the festival has seen lots of laughter, camaraderie, a bit of stress and learning lots of new ways of promoting and communicating science. We also had the odd pint and learnt a lot more than we bargained for!”

Pint of Science is a worldwide non-profit science festival which brings researchers to local pubs and cafes to share their scientific discoveries. 

The annual festival, was first started by two Imperial College London researchers in 2013, has surged in popularity and reached over 600 events across the UK in May 2019.

PhD researcher Alex Bowles, Colchester Co-ordinator for Pint of Science, says the festival helps to demonstrate the research excellence at Essex. 

He said: “The research at the University of Essex is fascinating and world-leading. There’s so much going on and the Pint of Science festival is a great way to showcase the diversity of work.”

Alex, who is studying plant evolution at Essex, says the festival aims to make research topics, such as voting behaviour, the science of successful ageing and deep-sea science accessible for everyone.

“Pint of Science provides a space where the public engage with research without barriers, allowing anybody to share questions, thoughts and ideas. For members of the University, it’s a brilliant way of hearing about research that you would have no other way of accessing.”

For 2020, Shellie and Alex are looking for 15 to 20 volunteers to help with organisation of the talks, which will include event hosting, website management and marketing. They are also looking for team leaders to head one of four teams and a videographer to capture the spirit of the festival.

Now that Shellie is in her final year of her PhD, she hopes a new group of volunteers can continue her legacy when she completes her studies.

She said: “The festival has taught me a few things along the way: Managing a PhD and organising a festival is hard, things always take longer than you think, and a smile goes a long way!

It has also shown that having support from your lab team, supervisor and most importantly your Pint of Science volunteer team, you can do amazing things. This experience has also had a profound effect on my time and people management, for which I will be eternally grateful.” 

In 2019, Shellie and her team organised 45 researchers to take part in the Pint of Science talks, which took place at five local venues over three evenings. In addition, the team also arranged special Pint of Science talks with former NASA astronauts Tony Antonelli and Michael Foale.

Shellie and her team are looking for people from all skills and backgrounds to help run Pint of Science 2020. You don’t have to be a scientist or researcher to volunteer, everyone is welcome to take part.

If you are interested in volunteering, please come along to the first organisational meeting on Tuesday 15 October, from 5pm in the LTB Foyer.