Past Projects

Eureka Sir Paul Callaghan Young Science Orators Awards:

April this year, I was enlisted by the Rotary Club of Wellington to travel to nine university campuses around New Zealand and facilitate workshops for secondary school students and undergraduates. The aim was to inspire and train young kiwis to follow in the legacy of my mentor Sir Paul Callaghan and to develop ideas for how science, technology and engineering can help New Zealand. Students were encouraged to enter the Eureka Sir Paul Callaghan Young Science Orators Awards. Twelve finalists presented their ideas to an audience of politicians, business people and scientists at Massey University in Wellington this July. 

It was a very proud moment, sitting in the dining room at the governor general's house for the awards ceremony, watching one of the students I'd coached receiving his award for runner-up in the competition.

The workshop series and challenge will continue, even bigger and better, in years to come.

The Magnificent Science Variety Show

I always like to add a touch of crazy to my work - it makes people feel comfortable and keeps them on their toes. For this outrageous science entertainment experience we lifted the flood-gates and let all the crazy out. The show has been described as "The Monty Python of science". The sell out performance was hosted by my alter ego (Sylvia) along with Edwin (the alter ego of my colleague Brandon Mikel's). It featured 9 acts by local scientists and science enthusiasts including lobster mating rituals, physical theatre, erotic space fiction, a journey to the heart of matter and live experiments. We hope to repeat the show later in the year.

9 Scientists and an Architect

Piloted at Victoria University of Wellington in 2012 this programme acts like a connection machine.  It trains up to 10 scientists or technical professionals in communication and collaboration skills then connects them with key people in different sectors and disciplines. The result was an explosion of profoundly fruitful relationships across sectors and disciplines from which collaboration and career opportunities has naturally followed. Contact me for more information. I love talking about this programme!

Tell Us a Story:

Tell Us a Story was the culmination of my Prime Minister's Prize Project Adventure. It's aim was to give postgraduate scientists the skills, confidence and inspiration to connect their science with the world. I organised it along with Elf Eldridge, physicist extraordinaire. Thirty postgraduates entered the challenge and each was challenged to tell a seven-minute story about their science to a general audience.  We ran a series workshops to help them find, develop and present their stories, then heats to select ten finalists. At the two grand finale shows we launched an entirely new genre of entertainment: "The Musical Science Storytelling Show".  It was a huge success as you can read from the audience and participant comments.  Over 200 people came along to the two shows, one in a bar and the other in a theatre. Tell Us a Story had a huge impact on my career. It was proof that my the ideas and methodology I've been researching and developing really works.  The response from participants and audience was so encouraging, I have been inspired to build my new business on this foundation. You can read more about the programme here.

The Ripple Effect:

The Ripple Effect was the initial research phase of my Prime Minister’s Prize Project Adventure; a six month journey of discovery around New Zealand. The aim of the journey was to connect with "rebellious optimists" – people with a vision for the country who are working hard to make that happen. The aim was to discover the needs for science communication in New Zealand and to continue my research into communication for collaboration. I met with key people in the business, science, arts and environmental sectors and developed  a network through which to spread a social epidemic of science enthusiasm. You can read about my discoveries and some of the people I met here.

Intersect Events:

Through the Intersect Network, a local community of young professionals, I've facilitated two events exploring and experimenting with some of the deeper questions around science, philosophy and social change. The themes of the evenings were the Power of Storytelling and Emergence.

Pecha Kucha Science Sessions:

In March 2011 I co-curated New Zealand's first science-themed Pecha Kucha evening along with Christine Harper from Landcare Research. "Pecha Kucha" is a specific format of presentation, which allows each speaker twenty slides of twenty seconds each to tell their story. We gathered together thirteen scientists including Sir Paul Callaghan, Geologist Hamish Campbell and Green candidate Sea Rottman. The presentations were inspiring, funny and very diverse. 250 people came to watch and it was so popular we had to turn forty away. The event had a huge impact on me, revealing an insatiable appetite for science in society. It also struck me that although several of the speakers were very good, a good proportion could do with some help. It was this inspiration that lead to the Tell Us a Story workshop series and competition. 

Writing for the MacDiarmid Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials:

Picture of Nanotechnology Equipment by Dafnis Vargas
It was my mentor, Paul Callaghan who gave me my first science-writing job back in 2004. He sent me around the country interviewing researchers in the MacDiarmid Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials and writing articles on their lives and work. Finally I found a way to combine science and creativity. Through metaphors and stories I was able to express the excitement of science and the passion of the scientists. I have worked as a freelance writer for the MacDiarmid Institute ever since, producing web material, articles for their Interface Magazine and writing a booklet of stories about their incredible nanotechnology equipment; Tools for Transformation.

Much of my work has focused the life and work of Sir Paul, including a school resource for the Nature of Science Curriculum.

BlueFern - Transforming High Performance Computing in New Zealand:

In 2009 I produced a booklet on the Bluefern Supercomputer for Canterbury University and IBM. By profiling human stories of how the supercomputer was transforming lives and research throughout New Zealand we were able to persuade the government to fund further supercomputing in New Zealand.

Radio and Podcasting:

When I studied radio with BBC presenter Gareth Mitchell at Imperial College I fell in love with the medium. My first radio package on Music Therapy was short-listed for the BBC/ ABSW New Voice Award in 2006. I have spent time working as a researcher and producer in the BBC Radio Science Unit and for Radio New Zealand’s Our Changing World show. In London I also worked for a specialist podcasting company YadaYada Productions and explored the medium with my own personal podcasting projects and creative collaborations. Read more about my philosophy behind radio here.