We are so pleased to announce that we will be working with Dr Niamh Shaw later this year, during Science Week 2020 and the annual Midlands Science Festival. Niamh is a performer, writer & communicator with 2 degrees in engineering & a PhD in science. Passionate about igniting peoples curiosity she explores crossovers in STEM, art & communication to share the human story of science. We caught up with Niamh to find out more about what to expect from her upcoming work in the Midlands this year …
Niamh, we are so delighted that you will be coming to the Midlands region to work with us this year as we continue to spread the message that science is all around us in much in everyday life. I know it is too soon to provide the finer details of what will be involved but can you give us a little flavour of what your events are like and what people might be able to expect..
Firstly, I’m delighted to be a part of Midlands Science festival this year. You also curate such a wide variety of events that cater for all types of people. My events will all obviously be space-themed and shared with stories and videos about my own space adventures. While there are lots of facts in my events, they aren’t science shows and I’ve made them especially for people who feel that science isn’t really their cup of tea. So lots of videos, pictures and stories about space and designed for people of all ages and all interests.
With everyone at home during the current Coronavirus outbreak, are there any tips that you can give to young people to ensure they stay engaged in science learning, albeit in new and different ways?
Science is about analysis really isn’t it? It’s about gathering information and based on the facts, you can better understand something. So my best tip for people to stay engaged in science is to find ways of using your analysis-time brain around the house.
For instance, have you as a family made a daily schedule? if so, what’s on the schedule? Is it the most efficient use of your time? Is someone doing more work than the other? What are the shared tasks? Have you all agreed on the procedures for each task? Do you have a logging system? Can you analyse the schedule at the end of the day? Can it be improved? That’s science right there, everyone!
And if you want to get involved in a home activity, just go outside when its dark and look up! Can you see the moon? If not, why not? How many stars can you see? What are the brightest ones in the sky? Do you see any planets? If you want to know more about what you see in the night sky, there are tons of apps that can help teach you astronomy. The moon will soon be back in our night skies, the planet Venus will be with us a few more weeks and Mercury, Jupiter and Mars will be more visible in the weeks ahead. So much to see, even without a telescope. So just look up!
We have heard you have a very exciting life’s mission..can you tell us more?
I have devoted the rest of my life to get to space. I haven’t it all fully figured out just yet but that’s the best part! I do know that in achieving this, that I get to share stories about the adventure with all of you! I want to be the ‘normalnaut’ storyteller! And so far, I’ve shared a few of my adventures- like being on a simulated Mars mission in the middle of the desert in America, then I went to Star City in Moscow and took a zero-gravity flight to feel what microgravity (or weightlessness) feels like in the body (very strange, in short!). And other adventures too which I’ll share with you all at the festival in November.
You were also recently the co-recipient of a very special award, can you tell us what that meant to you and a little bit about what it was?
I was absolutely thrilled to be given an award from Science Foundation Ireland for my work in communicating STEM, in recognition for all the events and talks and writing that I do about space and science. That was pretty cool.
Hard to choose I know but can you share with us what is your favourite science fact ever?
That we are such a tiny species living on a tiny planet that orbits an insignificant star in the Milky Way galaxy, 100,000 light-years in diameter, one galaxy of hundreds of galaxies grouped together in a cluster, the Virgo Cluster, which is part of a supercluster of other clusters and that 55 superclusters make up everything we currently know about our visible Universe, the edge of which is 46.6 billion light-years away from us right now. And yet, we regularly propel 3 people regularly into space and keep them alive onboard the International Space Station and return them safely to earth. That we are incredibly tine in this vast Universe and yet, when people come together and work towards a shared goal, we can literally make the impossible possible. I love that.
Anything else coming up that you can share with us? We are really interested to know what you have been up to recently?
My book ‘Dream Big’ from Mercier Press (a memoir of sorts of the story so far in getting to space) came out in bookstores about 2 days before the first COVID restrictions hit the country. We still have to have the official launch for that, which will probably happen when the book stores re-open. I’ve been working with RTE’s Home School Hub and have contributed some space content for them, which has been a privilege. I am planning the next big space adventure which will hopefully be ready to roll out when the lockdown and restrictions begin to loosen up (whenever that will be). I should be working with the International Space University this summer on their graduate programme in Space Humanities activities. And lots of online activities too.
Looking forward to meeting you all at Midlands Science Festival!
STAY SAFE SAFE HOME