A doctoral scholarship is currently available for the spintronics group in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
The official document, with full details can be found here: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/scholarship/forms/Natali%20Regs.pdf
Last month, courtesy of a scholarship from MESA to cover registration, I was fortunate enough to attend the Science Media Centre’s SAVVY workshop in Auckland. Twelve researchers, including myself, participated in the two-day long media skills workshop, and initially I have to say I felt a bit out of my depth when meeting my cohort; the participants had a broad range of prior experience with the media (nearly all more than myself), came from a wide range of disciplines and research institutions, and ranged from PhD students and early to mid-career researchers, to professors and Heads of Department. The diversity of the group however was a definite asset, and it was somewhat reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt out of my comfort zone – even the most experienced of the workshop participants seemed to have a few nerves during on-camera practice interviews.Auckland SAVVY participants on the Breakfast couch inside TVNZ Studio 4 [reproduced from here]
Over two days, we each developed media pitches on our own research, which we presented to a panel of journalists on the second day. Despite my suspicions being confirmed that materials science is somewhat harder to sell to the media and the public than some other fields of science, SAVVY was definitely a valuable experience. The focus was very much on media skills, and as such a fair portion of the workshop was devoted to learning about how the media works; this included a visit to TVNZ and a media Q&A panel with journalists from both television and print media. Many of the skills developed, however, were more general communication skills, and as such are definitely applicable to any form of science communication. At this point I’d like to share a few pieces of advice I picked up over the workshop. These aren’t necessarily key take-home messages from SAVVY, but they’re tidbits that really resonated with me.
1. When talking to the media, you are talking to the sofa people.
The sofa people being your average people who sit on the sofa in the evening and channel surf. The point is, that when talking about your science, you need to think about who your audience is and find a way to engage with them. It’s not actually the interviewer that you are speaking to – it’s the public who are going to watch that interview.
2. ‘Eliminate the latinate’ or ‘cut the crap’.
Avoid jargon. This one seems obvious, but what didn’t occur to me is that the ‘jargon’ is not necessarily just niche scientific terms, but can just be overly complicated language. The way we’re trained to communicate as scientists means that we regularly use a lot of ‘big words’ (eg. utilise, generate, parameters, propagate, phenomenon) when a simpler expression (eg. use, make, limits, spread, event) would do just as well, and probably make us sound a lot less pretentious.
3. Beware the tyranny of precision.
I work with conducting polymers. I hate referring to my polymers as ‘plastics’ when trying to explain my research to a non-science person… it’s just so imprecise! But sometimes you just have to sacrifice precision or your audience will tune out after three words because they don’t understand what you’re talking about. I know, it’s hard to do.
So that’s it from me. Many thanks go to MESA and to the Science Media Centre for giving me the opportunity to attend SAVVY. Thanks in particular to the workshop facilitators, Michael Brown, Peter Griffin and Dacia Herbulock, whose advice and feedback was invaluable. I would highly recommend SAVVY to anyone in working in science who ever talks to anyone outside their field. Which, apart from some reclusive mathematicians, is pretty much everyone.
The 8th MacDiarmid Student and Postdoc Symposium will be held at University of Canterbury 22-23 November 2012.
The theme this year is Mind the Gap – Future Proofing your Skillset.
Registration is open to all students and postdocs whose supervisor is a MacDiarmid Investigator whether funded or unfunded.
We will pay for one night’s accommodation and meals during the symposium. You will also get a MacDiarmid t-shirt!
All students and postdocs, who are not already presenting oral contributions, must present a poster. The poster should be A1 sized and clearly describe your research to your target audience. You may choose at least one of the following target audiences:
(a) Outreach for school kids aged 15-18 yrs old,
(b) Informing the media & public,
(c) Lobbying government and policy makers to make some change,
(d) Obtaining funding for a commercial enterprise.
The posters will be judged according to best presentation and prizes will be awarded at the end of conference.
To register please go to our website:
Registration closes Friday 9 November.
Last month we offered to sponsor a MacDiarmid-affiliated student with $1500 to attend the 2012 Transit of Venus Forum – this was a a great chance to join delegates from the science, business, iwi and government communities talking about Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision for New Zealand – a place where talent wants to live. PhD student Riyad Mucadam, from Victoria University Wellington, took this chance to attend the forum, and gives his impressions below:
A handful of students in New Zealand had the chance to be student delegates to the Transit of Venus conference in Gisborne on June 5-7th. Elf and I were lucky to part of that inspiring event. Despite predictions of unfavourable weather, the universe aligned itself otherwise. It did not rain, it was not grey during the duration of the conference. During the sighting hours the clouds parted at the right moment to let the Transit of Venus be witnessed at the serene Tolaga Bay school grounds and historic, rugged wharf.
Attended by a sort of truncated who’s who or their proxies in science, science education, policy, maori science, innovation led technology or vice-versa, and its promoters, the Transit of Venus forum was a congregation that had no “authority”, but a vision: to commemorate Sir Paul Callaghan and to advance to action the idea that science will be a strong player in the economy environment and cohesive society in New Zealand. It was palpably energised by a diverse roll call of achievers or protagonists who found its purpose worthy enough to commit to and engage in with gusto.
Garth Morgan, Derek Handley, Sir Peter Gluckman, Dame Anne Salmond, Sam Johnson (Young New Zealander of the Year), Sir Peter Blake awardees, hi-fi professors, crown research institute kahunas, tech start up stars, Greater Council chairs, Iwi Trusts, bankers with a science-community thumb, Prime Ministers Science Prize awardees…the Wattage could go on and higher : the old school and the flash new kids on the block. And…MESA reps
There was not a single presentation that was …death by power point. I remember most as mature, thorough, with a latent fervour that accompanies achievement and deep experience, despite some bristling at being “held back” by the “system” – perhaps government, or the small scale of science and society in New Zealand, or an attitude or institution that prevented collaboration or the four letter…PBRF. We witnessed an interpretation of Capt Cook’s first encounters with the Maori communities of the North East coast, of a period before “disciplines had fragmented”. We got a hint of what the logistics of protecting biodiversity meant for a port authority and what role molecular i.d. technology could play in facilitating that role. We were asked how sustainable development could be explained, seriously and honestly, to a child who is growing up in New Zealand. Our notions of green New Zealand were turned brownish with facts about water quality. Dairy or agriculture’s voice was heard in response to perhaps pointed fingers. There was a proposition that the close to the heart of NewZealanders environment required management by people who had studied and grown up here.
Some speakers were so engaging the panel chair just let them transit right through the timekeeper’s signals: Sam Johnson’s narration of the volunteer army of Christchurch’s use of the web and telecom tech and his meeting with Hillary Clinton. For statistical purposes, a very small fraction of the talks made me nod for a few minutes or step out of the room to stretch. The science described by the believer-doers-leaders ranged from rock and seaweed- that of the exploration of the EEZ and marine education in coastal reserves to the thoughtscape of evaluation of risk , the role of innovation in reducing risk, of the networks of collaboration, the evolution of homo hubris and ecosystems of innovation .
A few simple themes appeared : Science should be relevant to the tool of diplomacy; Matauranga Maori should develop its own identity without the rejection of modern science; science scholarship is not a luxury for rich countries but a necessity; silo-isation of science ain’t helping, cut it out whoever you are; scientists should provide advice – focussed, based on knowledge, and the emotions should respond to knowledge; New Zealand should see itself as and be a small clever nation relevant to the Pacific doing better in science and art than it is at the moment; the communication of science, speaking the same language across platforms of collaboration and tapping into the need to help were essential in engaging with youth.
If the speakers were enough of a spread, the attendees or their backgrounds were..flat out. Germans, Americans, Latinos, Pacifika, Asiana, Oceania, Kiwiana, consultants, paediatricians, psychologists, radio station hosts…I met the world record holder for the longest continuous FM broadcast while downing a koha based mussel chowder in Tolaga Bay. If you haven’t grown up along the coast in a small community, and you think you know a lot, go spend a sabbatical or summa at Tolaga Bay. Ill share this with you as a primer: UAWA : unrelenting attitude with achievement.
We had a flash dinner with a genuine Iwi-Pinky forget-the-P.C.-rubbish -host, the naval band, a bit of old school graze-n- bump dancing, a Mayor with Pavarottian vocal chords and some random speeches. Historical, stimulating, memorable, a tribute, the journey starts, in Sir Paul’s words- “its all about love”.
- Riyad M. M. Mucadam
The Transit of Venus Forum 2012 will take place in Gisborne 5th – 8th of June. MESA is happy to pay for one MacDiarmid-affiliated student to attend the forum and to experience this great chance to join delegates from the science, business, iwi and government communities talking about Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision for New Zealand – a place where talent wants to live.
Objectives of the forum are to inspire younger people to play a role in their future and to give people across all sectors a scientific, and therefore apolitical, evidence-based summary of New Zealand’s current realities, risks and opportunities. There will be over 30 talented New Zealanders speaking at the forum. Session chairs are Prof Sir Peter Gluckman, Richard Brooking, Greg Pollock, Dr Gareth Morgan, Peter Griffin and Sir Ray Avery. Have a look at the website for further information.
To take a place in the forum with MESA simply write a short paragraph about why the forum would be of specific interest to you and your career goals, attach your CV and send it all to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will decide on relevance considerations and CV-evaluation who will get a 1500 NZ$ support. This support will cover registration fee and travel to/from Gisborne. Although the winner will get the full $1500 NZD, there might be the need to top up on accommodation costs, which MESA cannot cover.
To apply for the forum with MESA please send us your documents by the23rd of May.
- Your MESA committee
MESA is pleased to present a very topical seminar on ‘Data analysis and plotting with free and open source tools’. Unlike many previous seminars, this talk will not be recorded but all the slides and handouts will be posted online.
– ABSTRACT –
Spreadsheet-based data analysis and graphics software such as Origin
or Excel have a number of intrinsic limitations, and are not always
suited to the needs of scientific research.
This talk will present three popular open source alternatives that we
hope will encourage you to rethink how you create graphs and analyse
data. With specific, worked examples using gnuplot, Python and R, we
will discuss the strengths and advantages of a scripting (text-based)
approach to data analysis and plotting in particular.
This approach can help you in all aspects of the data analysis, from
routine exploratory graphics with many data files, to the fine
aesthetic requirements of publications, as well as achieving
consistency and reproducibility in the presentation of your thesis.
Girls, get in quick!! Great fellowship open for female scientists. Please find details here.
We will use our extensive experience in pattern formation including our unique
capability of replicating the detailed topology of biological cells (Bioimprint) and our
extensive knowledge in cell culture and functions to develop a model for studying the
effects of substrate patterning on cell behaviour and growth.
We will study for the first time how cells interact with their positive and negative replicas
of their exact signature. The outcome will have significant implications for the
development of artificial tissues in which cells are affected by their neighbours, the use
of implants and scaffolds in tissue repair and regeneration, and in the potential to direct
cell function in treatments of pathologies such as cancer or in a diverse set of
applications utilising stem cells.
This study is also expected to shed light on how the cells interact with surrounding
environment and how patterns affect or guide organs in forming their final shape and
size. It will help in developing a model for cell / surface interface interactions and to
differentiate between the roles of chemical and topographical environments in cell
We are looking for a candidate with micro-nanofabrication / bioengineering interest and hold a
PhD degree in relevant subjects to carryout this exciting work. This project will provide a base
for the construction of precisely engineered and controlled surfaces with topologies that will
induce cells to develop to the cell phenotype with characteristics appropriate to a therapeutic
• Good understanding of biological cells
• Practical experience in micro/nanofabrication
• Experience in Microscopy and imaging
The term of this appointment is for two years commencing May 2012.
This project is in collaborations with Christchurch School of Medicine/Department of Obstetrics
and Gynaecology, Christchurch Women’s Hospital.
Associate Professor: Maan Alkaisi
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
Tel: +643364 2987 extn 7272