Soapbox Science 2017
This summer, I was thrilled to be able to participate in Exeter’s Soapbox Science event. Soapbox Science is an outreach platform to showcase women scientists and dispel gender-based stereotypes in science. Our event was held in a busy shopping center on a Saturday afternoon, thereby catching a diverse audience.
My topic was “The Solar-Stellar Connection: From the Sun to Other Stars with Habitable Worlds”. In my hour on the soapbox (yes, we literally got to stand on soapboxes) I introduced the concept of magnetism, explained how stars can generate magnetic fields ‘from scratch’, discussed observations of the Sun, and talked about the magnetism of stars with possibly habitable worlds. I showed the audience snippets of my computer code that models how ropes of magnetic field travel from inside the Sun (and similar stars) to the surface. Audience members had key roles to play, for example, demonstrating magnetic tension by stretching a bungee cord. I used beach balls to represent a selection of low-mass stars, with reasonably accurate starspots drawn on each one. One of my key ‘take home’ points for the audience is that an in depth knowledge of the Sun is key, especially in our increasingly technological world. Extreme solar events can expose astronauts to dangerous levels of radiation, damage earth-orbiting satellites, hinder telecommunications, and wreak havoc on our worldwide electrical power grid. To truly understand our Sun and ultimately predict its magnetically-driven behavior, we need to understand what goes on in its interior to create this magnetism in the first place (that is where my research comes in).
I also wrote a blog post for Soapbox Science about finally, after too too many years, having the courage to say ‘I’m a nerd, and a geek, and that’s okay!’ Click on the link if you’d like to give it a read.
Videos of our event has also been posted to YouTube. Check out this one, where I talk about the Sun, my female science role models, and encouraging young women to study physics.
This video is an overview of our 2017 Exeter event. During the course of our three hour residency, we shared our knowledge with greater than 1000 people (despite the rainy weather). Our science was quite diverse, covering many specialized topics within astrophysics, physics, geology, genetics, and engineering.
Stay tuned. I’m in the process of trying to bring the first US Soapbox Science event to Chicago!
Postcards At Exeter
Here are some postcards that I created during the summer of 2016 showcasing the awesome science done by members of the University of Exeter Astrophysics Group (where I was from Sept. 2014 – Sept. 2017). If you want some copies, let me know.