When I was fourteen I had a vision of a new renaissance. It would start right here in New Zealand and spread across the world reuniting science and the arts and reconciling conflicts. I was a dreamer! But when I came to university and met the great Sir Paul Callaghan, physicist, writer and rebellious optimist, I began to think my dream might be possible. Sir Paul was my mentor and the inspiration for my career. He had a vision for New Zealand to become an exemplar to the world - a buzzing centre of creativity, innovation and environmental and social best practice – “the place talent wants to live.” He was a dreamer too but through his unshakable belief, commitment, passion and hard work he inspired and changed the country.
My mission is to help create a future for New Zealand in Sir Paul’s legacy by connecting the huge potential of science and technology with the real opportunities and needs of the country. I've always got the renaissance in the back of my mind.
It's so easy to get stuck in a box - whether it's an office box - a laboratory box, a business box, an X box or an anything box. Mainstream education encourages us to dig deeper and deeper into our specialist fields but fails to teach us how to connect and communicate across disciplines. The language we use in academic papers and reports doesn't work with real people to achieve real world change. So how do we escape our boxes? How do we bring our work and our passion to life? I've discovered a miraculous and yet seemingly obvious solution. We are all human! Despite the diversity of our professions, language and cultures, we have our humanity in common. When we shed our professional costumes and start talking and connecting as human beings, something incredible and unexpected happens. We create the ground for collaboration. This really works.
It was an epiphany! I found I had a talent for getting past the jargon to the real passion and adventure of the science. Paul was very encouraging. He helped me win a scholarship to attend the world renowned Masters in Science Communication at Imperial College London. The doors of my world flung open.
I worked in radio and podcasting work for the BBC Science Unit, Radio NZ and a cool company called Yada Yada Productions; I travelled the UK with a Maths Circus; taught extremely naughty London kids science and maths using creative dance and theatre. Until all I wanted to do was come home to NZ. When I got here I was blown away by a sense of openness, freedom and possibility. People's professional costumes seemed thin. I could see through to the humans beneath. I was inspired (you can read about it here) This felt like the perfect spot to start a renaissance. I reconnected with Sir Paul and he helped me win the inaugural Prime Minister's Prize for Science Communication. This was an incredible opportunity to work towards my dream. I started with a journey of discovery around New Zealand in search of rebellious optimists. I developed and ran Tell Us a Story,a storytelling competition and workshop series for postgraduate scientists and engineers (We launched a new genre of entertainment - the musical science storytelling show) Over the last couple of years I've been working to distill everything I've learnt about science communication and collaboration into a set of Services to help scientists and engineers escape their boxes and connect their potential and passion with the world. The culmination of this work was the programme I ran at Victoria University in 2012. I've just been travelling around the country facilitating workshops for the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! programme - inspiring for secondary school students and undergraduates to speak about how science and technology can change the country. I now work from my desk in the Enspiral collaborative workspace - an inspiringly human environment where I'm surrounded by social entrepreneurs and creative people with very thin professional costumes. Look out! The renaissance is beginning.