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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Emma Slater BSc Biology, 2013

Public Engagement Officer, The Royal Society

Emma Slater's Photo

After leaving university, I knew I loved science (biology in particular) and having worked for not for profit organisations for most of my life, I decided to join a small charity where I built up my skills and got myself used to the world of work. Alongside this I became a Learning Volunteer at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, talking to the public about worldwide conservation and the animals themselves. After taking a break to go travelling (which I couldn’t recommend more), I realised that everything I had ever enjoyed doing was engaging the public with science in one way or another. I decided to move into public engagement and found an internship at The Royal Society, one of the world’s most prestigious and oldest scientific academies, dedicated to promoting excellence in science. They have a fantastic public engagement team who are really committed to getting the public involved with and inspired by science.

I had exposure to cutting edge research, flexibility to shape my degree to fit my interests, fantastic lecturers and a world class department building.

Now, as a permanent member of staff, I share responsibility for our programme of public events, our events at literary and science festivals across the country and our annual Summer Science Exhibition in London. As we cover all the sciences, there’s a huge level of variety, one day it could be newts or nuclear fusion, the next atoms or astronomy. It’s extremely rewarding. I would recommend public engagement to those who have a passion for all the sciences, love people and think that getting everyone talking about science is really important.

What I enjoyed most about my time at Southampton was the sheer level of opportunity it provided me with. On the academic side I had exposure to cutting edge research, flexibility to shape my degree to fit my interests, fantastic lecturers and a world class department building. Equally important (perhaps even more so) were the non-academic opportunities: I was a student ambassador, part of the Alumni Discovery Initiative, Treasurer of the SULCC and helped the department with National Science and Engineering week each year. Not only did this give me real world skills, like time management, budget handling and ability to organise outreach activities, it helped me to broaden my horizons and meet new people.

My studies prepared me for work by forcing me to get a lot better at time management. You can never underestimate the importance of this in any role. Studying a science also gave me ability to weigh up evidence, spot any bias and pick out trends from big sets of data. It all helped me to know how to come to a logical and robust conclusion when faced with any problem in the working world. No less importantly, I also understand how science works, and the pressures researchers are often under. Having been so close to that world enables me to communicate with lots of people at difference levels in the scientific community, which is important for my job.

The friends I made at Southampton were the highlight of my time there, I’ll never lose touch with them. That, and getting a first class degree - it was incredibly rewarding knowing that my blood, sweat and tears paid off!

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