Outreach at the beach: University of Sussex to bring science to the seaside

The 12 Soapbox Scientists can't wait for the event on 2 June on Brighton seafront.

Visitors to Brighton seafront can expect a little more than the usual fare of buckets and spades, fish 'n' chips and deckchairs when the Soapbox Scientists return to the beach this summer.

A dozen female scientists will be stepping on to their soapbox for the second ever Soapbox Science event in Brighton to deliver short and entertaining talks on their area of expertise.

Beachgoers will get the chance to learn more about exploding stars, wind-buffeted bees, medically minded robots and a host of other fascinating subjects when Soapbox Science comes to town on Saturday 2 June between 11am and 2pm.

Organiser Dr Katy Petherick, public engagement coordinator at the University of Sussex, said: “This year we have a wonderful line-up of really talented scientists who will be speaking about a wide range of subjects. Scientists are increasingly passionate about the important role of engaging the public in their work and there is no better place to do that than on a busy Brighton beach – as long as the sun is shining.”

The call has now gone out for a team of volunteers to help assist the scientists on the day.

Volunteers will be asked to play a crucial role in attracting beachgoers to the Soapbox talks, assisting scientists with any props, handing out goodies to lucky audience members and gathering feedback data to help monitor the success of the event.

Soapbox Science, which launched in London in 2011, is inspired by the concept of Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park and aims to celebrate women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, Medicine), break down barriers and challenge the image of a stereotypical STEMM researcher.

In its first seven years, it has spread to more than a dozen UK towns and cities and even reached halfway round the world to Australia.

The University of Sussex helped bring Soapbox Science to Brighton for the first time last July, when 12 academics braved unseasonable weather to bring science to the masses.

Raysa Khan, research fellow in Chemistry at the University of Sussex, said: “I’m really excited to be taking part in Soapbox Science under the shadow of the i360.

"As a scientist we don’t want to operate in an academic bubble and it’s really important for us to be able to explain our research to the wider public in layman’s terms. 

"The Soapbox Science format offers a really fantastic opportunity to engage directly with the public and we’re hopeful the day will be a great learning experience for both beachgoers and for all us scientists taking part.”

This year’s event, which also includes academics from the University of Southampton, King’s College London, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University College London, the University of Brighton and Royal Holloway, University of London, will be held in the flexible event space to the west of the i360.

New subjects being discussed on the soapbox this year include drug design, maths, stem cell research and astrochemistry.

Councillor Alan Robins, Brighton and Hove City Council’s chair of tourism, development and culture, said: “This event sounds like a perfect blend of fun and education and exactly the sort of thing we envisaged for the new beachfront plaza when it was designed. It’s an inspiring addition to the city’s programme of free events and another great reason to get down to our fabulous seafront.”

The University of Sussex is the host institution for Soapbox Science Brighton, providing volunteers, logistical and financial support.

The event sponsors include the South-East Physics Network, New England Biolabs, Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, University of Sussex Schools of Life Sciences and Engineering and Informatics, University of Brighton and University of Southampton.

For more information about Soapbox Science in Brighton and a full list of scientists taking part and their talk subjects, visit the Soapbox Science website.

Volunteer for Soapbox Science Brighton.

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Thursday, 14 June 2018