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Female scientists get on their soapbox to showcase science

3 June 2016

Soapbox Science in Cardiff

University scientists are stepping on to a soapbox in Cardiff City centre to enthuse the passing public about their research.

The streets of Cardiff will be transformed into a public arena this Saturday, 4 June, as nine female scientists from Cardiff University step on to a soapbox to tell passers-by about the fascinating research they are involved in.

From 1-4pm outside the St David’s 2 Shopping Centre (Hills Street), members of the public will be able to enjoy, learn from, heckle, question, probe, interact with and be inspired by some of the leading scientists in Wales.

Soapbox Science, which travels around the UK, showcases role models of successful women in science at all stages of their careers and from various backgrounds. Thescientists are given an upturned crate in a busy urban street and told to get their message across to passers-by.

The nine scientists taking part from the University are: Ms Mallika Arora; Professor Lynne Boddy; Ms Henrieka Detlef; Dr Kristin Ladell; Dr Emma Lane; Ms Nicole Pacchiarini; Dr Polina Prokopovich; Dr Dominique Tanner; and Dr Hayley Wyatt.

Dr Emma Lane, a senior lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is involved in research looking at ways in which Parkinson’s disease can be treated using stem cells.

Ahead of the event, Dr Lane said: “I’m really excited to be part Soapbox Science this year. I’m looking forward to the challenge of talking about my research and making it accessible and engaging to anyone who wants to listen, as well as the added challenge of having to draw people in.

“It’s really important that we use this event to encourage females to start thinking about science. I had fabulous female mentors from an early stage in my career, and their advice and support was invaluable. Having an independent mentor help gives perspective on where you are now, and where you want to be in the future.”

Dr Hayley Wyatt, from the School of Mathematics, undertakes research to understand cellular solids found in nature, such as plant stems and animal paws, and how they behave under large deformations.

She said: “I am really excited, but also very nervous, about taking part in soapbox science, but I am looking forward to presenting some interesting science and hopefully inspiring others into science and engineering.”

Professor Karen Holford, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering at Cardiff University, has taken part in previous Soapbox Science events and is passionate about getting more women to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).

“It’s important to show the public the diversity in the STEM workforce – times are changing and we are certainly not all conforming to the old stereotype of bearded, fuzzy haired old men in lab coats,” Professor Holford said.

“I had always been fascinated by technology. But the thing that really sparked my interest was watching the moon landing with my family when I was seven years old. But now discovery is what drives me. I find it fascinating to work with brilliant people who are full of ideas; the process of working in a team to solve a problem and the sense of achievement when you find something new that no-one has discovered before are both important to me.”

A total of 12 scientists from Cardiff, Bangor University, Aberystwyth University and Cardiff Metropolitan University will take part in the event.

The event will form part of Cardiff University's Summer of Innovation - a celebration of the University's best innovative work.