My journey to Babraham

My journey to Babraham

Hello!  I’m Fergus, the new Schools Officer within the Public Engagement team.  My job involves delivering curriculum-aligned outreach events to engage and inspire young people with Institute research.

Just over three years ago, I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences.  The Natural Sciences course offers a lot of flexibility, which I tried to take full advantage of.  Although I ended up studying chemistry as my main subject, I took several other modules including physics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy of science.  Unlike many of my peers, who remained studying, after three years I had decided that a research career was not for me.  Laboratory work, although enjoyable, was not something I could see myself doing every day.   One indication that I wasn’t the best suited to lab work came when I spent two weeks repeating the same (very straightforward) experiment.  My supervisor and I were baffled when I kept failing to synthesise the right compound, until we realised that I had been throwing the correct product away and diligently purifying the waste material for analysis!

But what to do next?  After a brief stint supporting science teaching at my old high school, I wound up with two job offers: a trainee programme at an environmental consultancy firm, or Schools Liaison Officer for one of the Cambridge colleges.  Two very different roles, with very different career paths.

The faces of a man with glasses and a black dog
Working from home with my co-worker
(or should that be woofer?)

I chose the outreach role, and I'm very glad that I did.  I already knew from previous volunteering and work experience that I liked working with young people.  In addition, as someone who attended a non-selective state school, I was keen to support the collegiate University’s attempts to widen participation.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this role, which gave me lots of experience in forming connections with schools and delivering outreach events.  However, after two years I found myself wanting to do something a bit more, well, science-y.

I then enrolled on the Science Communication master’s course at the University of Manchester.  The programme was really useful for thinking about communicating science and engaging public audiences from an academic perspective.  One aspect of the course I particularly enjoyed was a practical project in which I designed an interactive activity for an open day at a large research institution.  So, when I saw the opportunity to apply for a role in Public Engagement at a world-class research institute, I jumped at the chance!

That brings us to the present.  I started at Babraham a few weeks ago, and have been blown away by how friendly and welcoming everyone has been.  Starting a new role remotely has its challenges, but I have been well-supported.  I’m excited to get stuck in, connect researchers with school audiences, and showcase the brilliant work we do here at the Institute.  For me, this role is the best of both worlds: I get to learn about fascinating science and share it with broader audiences, without having to personally don a lab coat and safety goggles!

The calendar for the rest of 2020 and beyond is already starting to shape up.  While some events may look a little different to previous years, there’s certainly plenty to look forward to!

For more information about upcoming events, please click here.  Alternatively, if you’re a teacher who would like to be added to our schools’ mailing list, an Institute staff member who would like to get involved in engagement, or anyone who is curious to know more, please get in touch.