An Outreach Coordinator, a Pharmaceutics Lecturer, and an Astronomer Walk into a Café

By Piotr Oleskiewicz

Science. We all feel that we know what it means, and even that it proves itself incredibly useful. But do you really know what science is — from a scientist’s perspective? Would you be able to explain why you are passionate about it — or the contrary?

Last Tuesday, during this year’s first Café Scientifique talk, we have invited three speakers — Dr Lorraine Coghill, Dr Kathi Edkins and Josh Borrow — from across the University, to tell us why they feel science is universally relevant, not only to them, but to everyone, and why everyone should be thrilled and excited about it. The talks were aimed equally at scientists, who need to see themselves as a part of the bigger picture, and those to whom science seems a foreign and distant discipline.

(l-r) Dr Lorraine Coghill, Dr Kathi Edkins and Josh Borrow at Café Scientifique (Photo: Pen-Yuan Hsing)
(l-r) Dr Lorraine Coghill, Dr Kathi Edkins and Josh Borrow at Café Scientifique (Photo: Pen-Yuan Hsing)

Did you think you knew what science was all about? Our first speaker, Lorraine, might make you think twice! Lorraine works as a Science Outreach Coordinator, and she introduced the audience to different ways of thinking about science. She has also convinved us, by distributing mysterious sealed boxes, that the scientific method — a foundation stone of many disciplines — is not only reliable, but also extremely simple and natural to all of us.

Our second speaker, Kathi, invited the audience to take a broader look into why science is important in general. A lecturer in Pharmaceutics, Kathi is an expert in Health Sciences, and argued that if we all adopt scientific thinking, we can fight unfounded prejudice and progress towards a better society. Kathi talked, amongst many things, about what it means when you read that something causes cancer, how every carrot is a genetically modified organism, and why that is actually good news.

Josh Barrow, our last presenter, took up the challenge of convincing us that astronomy, a discipline seemingly so detached from everyday life, is something from which we can all benefit. Astronomers’ work, as portrayed by Josh, can reach far beyond mere practical applications — it not only puts our life, our problems and our planet in a different perspective, but can also serve as an example of how to share and cooperate. Astronomers all need to share the one-and-only Hubble space telescope, yet they have managed to reforge this limitation into a platform of international cooperation. Is this not an example we should all look up to?

Since Café Scientifique is all about bringing science back to the public discussion space, our speakers have concluded the evening by inviting the questions from the audience. It is something truly unique and special about the Café that sets it apart from all other popular science events, this time when all talks are over and the audience can take its turn in the conversation, and when the speakers can share their passion outside the boundaries of a prepared talk.

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