Dr Ruth Holland
With British Science Week just drawn to a close and the passing of Stephen Hawking gaining global media coverage, science is about as topical as it gets.
It is certainly top of the agenda in the city with Leeds Festival of Science hitting a host of venues right now. These events, managed by the STEM team at the University of Leeds, run until 28 March.
The Festival is an annual celebration of science. Now in its 13th year, the festival is packed full of exciting activities to enthuse and inspire everyone, whatever their age and experience. Events take place in schools, on campus, and across the city.
Here, Dr Ruth Holland, STEM Coordinator at the University of Leeds, talks about why bringing science to the masses is so vital:
How did the Leeds Festival of Science come into being?
The Leeds Festival of Science began as the University of Leeds’ offering to local schools during National Science and Engineering Week (now British Science Week). We wanted to celebrate science with young people and also introduce them to the different science departments at the University.
Over the years the festival has grown considerably, introducing events that can travel into schools across the region as well as holding events on campus, and extended the offering to a public programme as well – this year it spans four weeks of activities!
What is your involvement?
I coordinate the festival which is co-organised by outreach officers from the STEM team. I’m involved with everything from developing the programme with contributors at the University and a range of partners across the city, through to delivering some events myself.
At whom is it aimed?
Everybody! School and college students aged 7 to 19 and their teachers are still a primary audience, and we have a schools’ programme devoted to them with activities from the whole spectrum of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. However, through the public programme, there is now something for everybody.
This year we are pleased to welcome an exciting new comedian, Matt Winning. On Thursday 22nd March, 7.30-9.00pm, Matt will perform his climate-change “Filibuster.” The show has rave reviews and describes how “global warming is destroying both the planet and his life!” Tickets are available for just £6.
More details of the remaining Festival events are on our website: www.stem.leeds.ac.uk/lfos-public.
What were the objectives of the Festival and have these evolved?
The main objective is to celebrate science, engineering, and mathematics. We aim to find exciting and engaging ways for people to learn something new about these subjects which underpin so much of our modern everyday world.
It gives people an insight into the discoveries made by academics. We hope to inspire the next generation – who knows what they’ll discover in the future and how it may revolutionise our lives!
Why are events like these so important?
These events give people the chance to meet real scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Too often people have a stereotyped image of a “mad professor in a white coat” who seems very distant and un-relatable, and many people don’t have a clear idea of what an engineer is at all.
These events enable us to dispel myths, discover the real people involved in these fascinating areas of study, and also get hands-on with the science.
Is Leeds a city that supports science, and if so, what makes it so good?
Yes, there is a lot of support for science. The University itself conducts world-leading research across different disciplines, but there are also many science, technology and engineering companies in the region who look to recruit people with strong STEM skills.
Everything around us relies on STEM in some way – it affects us all. We would like everyone to feel comfortable with science, confident to voice their opinions and ask questions, and curious to find out more.