The Start of Semester and a New Teaching Project – Effectively Communicating Science in Modern Society

Waking up early after the clocks changed, realizing that I should post a blog before my Friday tutorial, that’s how my day started; it was dark outside at the time, but I was rewarded with a rosy pink sunrise later as I sat on the bus. If, by this time, you are thinking “What is this guy on?”, well, it’s a lack of biodiesel (coffee), which was rapidly fixed; back to business.

October started with our first cohort of students on the brand new MSci Biochemistry at the University of Surrey, which includes a “Developing as a Scientist – Effectively Communicating Science in Modern Society” module.  One of the tasks for students on this module is to write a blog about their research project, targeting the tone at a scientifically-knowledgeable lay public. The rumour mill has started grinding and I am getting informal feedback about anxiety linked to the blog. My first response is that I am also apprehensive about writing this blog. How will it come across? Is the tone relaxed and the content understandable? And, aaaagh, those times when I realize that another blog should be posted; I should read and respond to those comments (and maybe hoping that my posts go under the radar – no chance).

So, I am going to review October from my perspective as an educator and learner. The start of the new academic year requires some adjustment. Campus gets noisy, no, vibrant, and packed lecture theatres are a joy, especially when I hear that “yes!” from the back of the lecture theatre – this happened a few days ago, we were discussing pH and pKA at the time, not the most exciting of topics. On the other hand, yesterday I had one of those difficult lectures where I tried explaining a concept from one angle, then another, then got the students to explain it to each other and, still, I had some blank faces at the end. I hope that a few days of self-study and reflection brings a few more “ping” moments and enlightenment (more formally known as threshold concepts).

I am “snack writing”, time to head to my 9 am lecture to discuss the biochemical relevance of water, a major constituent of the human body [pause].

A little early for my lecture, it was the first one of the day, I took a stroll across the piazza.  Meet Alan Turing on a frisky autumn morning and in the background the latest version of “Steve the Stag” on campus. The lecture went reasonably well, I think, then it was back to the office for some potentially “twitchy” meetings.  All good; my general approach: prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

I will close for now, back to reality, and look forward to comments & feedback, with further iterations to follow. 

To end, Go Springboks! [it will be a proud moment for me, as an African, should Siya Kolisi lift the Webb Ellis trophy]