Congratulations to Natalie, a worthy winner!
Favourite Thing: Creating things to automatically carry out long or boring tasks – in my case this usually involves Excel spreadsheets, but I love hearing about when people do it with machinery!
Kirkley High School (2001-2006), University of Bath (2006-2010), University of the West of England (2012-2014)
GCSEs including drama, business studies and French; A Levels in maths, further maths, chemistry and physics; BSc in maths and physics, MSc in science communication
LOTS OF PLACES. A t-shirt printing factory, Primark, at a Morrison’s customer service desk, and more. More recently, I did a similar job to my current one at the Economic and Social Research Council.
Press and communciations officer
Royal Academy of Engineering
Me and my work
I write about engineering and the science behind it – for journalists, for social media, and for the web.
When you read about science in the news, it’s not always a scientist who is writing about it. Similarly, a TV program about science is made by lots of non-scientists. So where do they get their information from? And how do they make sure they’re getting it right as well as keeping it interesting? My job is to help them do that.
I write articles about science and engineering and train science and engineering experts to talk about their work. I’ve also written articles about science in magazines.
My job means I cover lots of different science projects, like gadgets that cows swallow to monitor their health, or new types of membranes that could make it easier to filter water. I’m always drawing on my physics background here to get my head around the concepts and ask some good questions – but the engineers I work with are the real experts. I also write about wider issues affecting the world of engineering – like the shortage of people choosing engineering careers (it’s a great job!) and how we want to encourage more women to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
When I’m not writing to journalists or talking to scientists and engineers, I’m reading the papers and checking online news to see what’s happening in the world and how we might want to respond to it. I also monitor how much coverage our own news stories are getting – so I get to do a nice bit of number crunching and make some fun little graphs.
My Typical Day
Find the science in the news, speak to scientists about their latest work, write about the latest developments, come up with ideas for new stories, drink coffee…
No two days are the same!
I always try to kick off my day by flicking through the papers and checking the latest news reports to see where we’ve been mentioned, what science and engineering is in the news, and what big stories might be coming up. After making a note of all of this and telling colleagues who might be interested, then it starts to vary a lot.
On a typical day I might do any or all of the following (sometimes multiple times, and in no particular order…)
- Receive an enquiry from a journalist looking for an engineering expert to speak on a breaking news story – I then have to find one, speak to them to find their availability and if their expertise is right for the story, and then connect them with the journalists – or take a statement to pass on if they’re pressed for time.
- Write a press release – with news on our latest event, a new report, or some great engineering developments we’ve been a part of. I have to speak to the people involved to find out what to write about, get interesting quotes from them, put it all in an interesting format, and send it out to the right journalists – all to a tight deadline.
- Update the website – it’s the first port of call for lots of people looking for our latest news, so it needs to be updated regularly.
- Post on Twitter/Facebook – I share our latest news, or other interesting stories from the world of science and engineering. I might have enquiries to respond to here, too.
- Write reports – other staff need to be updated on what science and engineering is making the news, so I have a lot of people to update inside our organisation. This involves a bit of number-crunching, which I love.
- Go along to an event – we often have events where scientists and engineers will show off their latest inventions, and I’m lucky that I get to go along and meet them! I usually have to write about the event, and tweet along too, but it’s always fun to hear about the latest developments (and have a go on some of the new technology!)
I’m based at a desk in an open-plan office using normal software everyone is familiar with – my job essentially comes down to writing, reading and talking.
What I'd do with the money
Help fund five places for disadvantaged students to give university a try on a Headstart course.
It can be hard to decide what to do after leaving school – there are so many options. They might not all be the right fit for everyone, but nobody should be excluded from giving any of them a go because of their background. Many students are put off university because they think it’s not for them, or they don’t know anybody who has been before. Headstart courses are a great opportunity to visit a university for a week, have fun meeting new people and developing a few engineering skills, and help strengthen your application if you decide it is the right route for you.
I attended a similar course when I was 16 and it was so much fun – I remain best friends with one of the guys I met there, and it ultimately led to me going to university in Bath when I perhaps wouldn’t have considered it before!
I know that the country is facing a massive shortage of engineers, as many are approaching retirement and not enough people are choosing a degree or apprenticeship in the industry. At this rate, we need around 75,000 more people a year to enter the profession – there’s a lot of roads, buildings, computer networks and new inventions that won’t happen otherwise.
By donating the prize money to Headstart, I can help fund five places for students to attend a Headstart course. It would be great to share the wonderful benefits of science and engineering courses and careers, and I’d love to see more students have the great opportunities I had.
Find out more at the EDT website, which says:
Headstart has been established for more than 16 years as a charitable trust providing hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) activities and engineering taster courses to encourage young people into technology-based careers. Taking place at some of the top universities in the country and run by inspirational leaders, our courses are perfect for finding out more about what exciting career opportunities a degree course might lead to.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Tall, beardy, punny
Who is your favourite singer or band?
David Bowie…probably. It varies!
What's your favourite food?
Bacon sandwich. Hands down.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Appeared on a few TV gameshows – though I’ve still not won any.
What did you want to be after you left school?
When I was young: a writer. When I was older: a scientist or mathematician. I guess I now combine the two.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No…I spent 10 years earning a good reputation so by the time I was in Sixth Form I could get away with being a bit cheeky. Although I did have to stay behind for chewing gum once (such a rebel!)
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the coolest job related to physics you've come across?
That’s a tough one. Either a rollercoaster engineer or a pyrotechnic (fire and explosions!) engineer.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To visit space, to visit every continent on earth, to be happy.
Tell us a joke.
Why were the lion and the witch hiding in the wardrobe? Narnia business.
What do you think is the best physics discovery in history?
‘The wheel’ is a tempting answer – but I’ll say the transistor. It makes electronics as we know it possible.