I’ve been fortunate to find a career which allows me to indulge my two passions in life; my fascination of science since I was 12 years old, and my attraction to acting and other involvement in live theatre from my early 30s. I became a scientist to fulfil the adolescent dream and then managed an amateur theatre company to immerse myself in my adult captivation. I had no idea that my two interests would soon merge and be fulfilled by an area of work that was yet to have a name.
People tell me that my career sounds like I took a left turn but I see it mainly as a westerly-trending journey with a step to the north. My impulse for science took me from Brooklyn, NY, to Berkeley, CA, and then far to the southwest to Canberra. The ACT was my cocoon where the science-adolescent transformed into the theatrical-hopeful. It was after the move north, to work on the Powerhouse Museum project in Sydney, when the adult science communicator truly emerged.
It occurred to me that developing museum exhibitions was much like putting on a stage production. The wide range of display media seemed like the sets, props, lights, sound, scripts, and so on of live theatre. I found I could use my science background and theatre experience to bring meaning and fun to science-related ideas.
Being exposed to the broad range of subject interests of the Powerhouse, such as science and technology, decorative arts, social history, and design, was also helpful. They gave me the idea and the means of placing science within a broad cultural context.
Although my job title was Senior curator of sciences, from the mid-1990s, around the time the ASC was formed, I started to say that I was a science communicator. The term science communication was fairly new then, and even today I get asked to explain what a science communicator is.
I’ve now clocked up 28 years of communicating science and welcome the chance to put energy into the broader area of the profession through the ASC and its activities. If I could find a way to describe what it is that we do in around 25 words or 140 characters I’d feel that I made a real breakthrough.
It is exciting to be active with the ASC at a time when its profile is rising and it’s becoming increasingly influential. At our recent national conference we stepped up to a new level of organisation and amenity. Attendance numbers increased and so did financial support. Feedback from delegates was overwhelmingly positive and we had many constructive comments about how to do things better for the next event.
I’m looking forward to the ASC taking its next steps forward as an organisation but I may be a tad overly optimistic that our profession will become a household word. Now if I can only get on stage again I’d be really happy. Did someone say, “To be, or not to be – a science communicator”?