Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Real Deal: Marieke Navin, particle physicist turned science communicator

In the 3rd post of the series, I interviewed Marieke Navin, an enthusiastic and talented science communicator with a PhD in particle physics and a long-held dream of being an astronaut. Here's what she had to tell me.

You can find Marieke on twitter: @lisamarieke

Tell us about you & what you do?

I have recently completed my PhD in particle physics, studying particles called neutrinos. The experiment I worked on is located deep within a mine in Japan so I had the opportunity to do shifts out there, which could also coincide with skiing in the Japanese Alps! Now I work as Science Communication Officer at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Manchester.  It’s a really varied role and involves organising informal science events showcasing scientific research in Manchester and the northwest, organising the MOSI programme for Manchester science festival and developing science busking activities to name a few.

What career did you think you would have when you were younger?

I was always going to be an astronaut. I even won a competition to go to Space Camp. I’m still harbouring that dream to be honest…

What is it that makes you want to come to work each day?

Marieke during the FameLab competition
When I was a PhD student it was the excitement of trying to solve the problems and create the right materials for the job. There were so many challenges to face, such as finding a bug in my code, growing mould in my samples, even producing posters or talks for conferences. Sometimes the challenges were overwhelming! Now in this job, I’m excited to plan a variety of science events and make contact with and meet a wide variety of scientists in Manchester and provide them with a platform to showcase their work. Ultimately my main motivation is to enhance the visitor’s day at the museum and enthuse them about science (and engineering and maths!)

If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
Don’t stress and worry so much, it’ll all work out OK in the end.

What is the best/worst thing about your job?
Best – variety, satisfaction of putting on great events with fantastic feedback from visitors. Worst – Not having enough money to do all the things I want to do! Constantly being pressured to look for funding that is being cut.

What do you enjoy other than science?
Travelling – I took my baby to Paris and Helsinki recently. I also love swimming but I do it a lot less now. I love cycling and cycle everywhere I can with a baby seat on the back.

Who or what is your greatest inspiration (science or otherwise)?
I am inspired by ladies like Vivienne Parry – a long and varied career in science communication and broadcasting as well as managing a family life.

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