• Question: how does your work affect me? (the average schoolboy)

    Asked by Josh to Pete, Natalie, Keith, Abbey, Aaron on 8 Nov 2015. This question was also asked by The Jackson 5, Ben, Michael Jackson.
    • Photo: Keith Franklin

      Keith Franklin answered on 8 Nov 2015:

      If you use electricity my work affects you.

      There are many different ways of making electricity. All of them affect the environment in some way.

      Burning stuff (oil, coal, gas) to makes a lot of electricity, but it puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which will cause climate change. We also have to buy the stuff from many different countries around the world (some of them not so friendly..).

      Getting electricity from wind and the sun means we have to cover lots of land in solar panels and windfarms. You don’t get as much from solar panels or windfarms as you do from other power stations so you need a lot, lot more of them. It is a good way of making electricity but is unreliable as the wind doesn’t blow all the time and the sun doesn’t shine all the time.

      Getting electricity from Nuclear Power doesn’t put Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and gives a lot of electricity from quite a small building. However you need to be able to deal with the waste which is produced, and to clean up afterwards.

      If we can make nuclear power as safe as possible, then it is one of the best ways to make electricity. I am making sure that everyone shares as much of their knowledge about nuclear energy as possible so that power stations work as well as possible.

      We all need energy for everything we do (including using the web!) if the world doesn’t have enough energy then people start arguing and (often) fighting so making sure we have enough energy is a good thing!

    • Photo: Aaron Boardley

      Aaron Boardley answered on 9 Nov 2015:

      Great question!

      Have you read about engineering on a website, newspaper or blog recently? Or heard about it on TV or radio? The journalists producing that story need experts to make it interesting and correct – so I provide them with the information they need, and hook them up with experts. Without people in my job – you’d have no science or engineering news (or, if you did, it would be far less accurate!)

      To look at my job a bit wider, at the ‘science communication’ industry – everything from exhibits in science museums to wildlife documentaries involves people in a science communication role, providing the bridge between scientists and the general public and helping scientists share their work.

      You might not feel the impact of my work directly, I’ve also worked on resources for teachers – so it could be that I have helped shape your lessons at school if your teachers have read or used my work.

      So, how does it affect you? I hope that because of the work I do I play a small part in you being entertained, informed, or a bit more curious about science.

    • Photo: Natalie Garrett

      Natalie Garrett answered on 10 Nov 2015:

      Some of the work I do involves making new kinds of medicines (nanoparticles) that can send drugs into the brain more effectively, so it’s possible that one day you’ll actually use this medication yourself. Because of the work I’ve done, we understand better how these nanoparticles work, which has helped in developing them.

      I have also looked at how tiny pieces of plastics end up inside animals that live in water. So, in that sense my work might help us to better understand what the effects of plastics are on the environment. In other countries, governments have looked at what scientists have told them about this (mostly that plastics seem to end up inside aquatic animals and it’s bad news all round) and have decided to make some things illegal to try to stop the negative environmental effects. For instance, tiny plastic beads in face washes are no longer allowed in Canada. So, it’s possible that my work looking at this stuff will one day affect our government’s policies and that could affect what you’re able to buy at the supermarket.