A great season of talking science

With school finishing for the summer, it’s a perfect moment to look back on a busy academic year, filled with opportunities to Talk Science.

The Talk Science programme at Irvine Bay ran through the winter months combining school events with public talks. The programme is organised by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and supported by Irvine Bay. Some of Scotland’s leading scientists took part, providing inspirational reasons for local young people to consider a career in science.

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In the classroom

Local primary and secondary schools were able to benefit from input from a wide range of experts.

For example, Physics students at Kilwinning Academy got to discuss Gravitation Waves with Dr Giles Hammond, from the Institute for Gravitational Research at Glasgow University. The detection of gravitational waves was one of the most significant discoveries in the world of physics in the last year, so it was exciting for young people to benefit from insights from a local expert.

Another great example of a senior school event was Prof Burden talking to pupils at Greenwood Academy about “The Suffering Gene”. Roy Burdon’s book of the same title explains to the lay person what science now knows about how our genes are adversely affected by the modern environment in which we live. He explains how our genes work, and how they are adversely impacted by many different factors in modern society.  Roy Burdon is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He was professor of biochemistry at Glasgow and of molecular biology at Strathclyde, and is the author of over 200 scientific papers and six books.

Primary schools have had many interesting visitors too. Sabrina Malpede, Director at ACT Blade Ltd and SMAR Azure Ltd visited Winton Primary School to give a talk about the forces requied in sailing. Sabrina has a PhD in Sail Design from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. She was awarded with the Enterprise Fellowship in 2003 by Scottish Enterprise and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 2004 she won the SMART: Scotland Award for the development of an innovative technology for the rig design. The technology is now commercialised by SMAR Azure Ltd.

These are just a few of many visits to schools in the Irvine Bay area, illustrating the benefits of this far-reaching programme.

And with the wider public

While the main work of the programme is in schools, the visible tip of the iceberg has been the public programme.

The series of public talks got off to a high profile start back in October with a conversation between Ian Rankin the crime writer and Prof Sue Black, a forensic anthropologist. Together they explored the question, “Do crime writers have a responsibility to write good science?” A rapt audience enjoyed the discussion about exploring real crime and fictional crime, which plenty of challenging questions for the experts. As part of the visit  Ian Rankin spent the afternoon at St Matthew's Academy and spoke to over 200 senior pupils who were delighted to meet such a high profile author.

Another high profile visitor was Iain Stewart, an Earth scientist and broadcaster who specialises in recent geological change. Iain’s talk was titled Scotland rocks - a tartan tour of planet earth. Many of the fundamental ideas which underpin our current understanding of how planet Earth works come from the work of Scottish scientists. Ian’s engaging talk explored and celebrated this tartan contribution to modern Earth Science, and examined how many of the contemporary challenges facing society in the 21st Century also root into Scotland's industrious past.

A vital element in regeneration

There were many other events in the course of the successful 2015/16 programme which provided local people of all ages with a way of exploring science. The programme first ran in 2014/15, replacing an established regeneration programme which had run in schools for a number of years, arranged directly by Irvine Bay.

Influencing the future for young people

The Talk Science programme provides schools in the area with the opportunity to invite experts from a very wide range of scientific fields to visit schools and help young people to grasp the opportunities that science presents in Scotland today.