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Soapbox Science brings immunology to the people

BSI member Katie Walwyn-Brown recently took part in Soapbox Science, a new public outreach scheme to promote women scientists and the science they do. Here, she tells us about the experience and why it’s important for women to speak out.

My journey to the Soapbox started in February when my supervisor emailed me the call for speakers. I am always interested in exciting ways to involve the community with science, and was looking for opportunities to get myself out there and face my p​ublic speaking nerves; I had to apply. Before I knew it I was in London playing ‘Scientist Pictionary’ at the Soapbox Science training event and sharing hopes and fears with my fellow speakers.

After much preparation, the day of the event finally arrived. To curious looks from shoppers, I stepped onto the Soapbox and delivered my opening line: ‘Do you trust me?’ I went on to talk about how your immune system knows what to trust, complete with volunteers playing selfproteins on the cell surface. The hour flew by as I answered questions – ranging from the detailed, ‘How does my immune system get rid of tonsillitis?’ to the bigger picture, ‘So why don’t antibiotics work as well anymore?’. It was fantastic to see people excited and curious about the workings of their immune cells.

Afterwards I could relax and be entertained by the other speakers, learning about fluorescent nanoparticles for detecting disease, the genetics of prostate cancer and what happens when galaxies collide. What really struck me from the whole experience was the diversity that is at the core of Soapbox Science. As well as venturing beyond my usual life sciences niche, I enjoyed hearing the different career stories of my fellow speakers – women who had started or returned to research later in life, who had travelled all over the world, who were raising families alongside their research. I had applied hoping to provide a role model for aspiring female scientists but I also gained some role models of my own.

  

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