By James Dacey
Scientific outreach is a noble activity and if done well it can be equally exhilarating for both scientists and their audiences. One young physicist with a natural flair for communication is Melanie Windridge, a nuclear fusion researcher who recently worked at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in Oxfordshire, UK.
Melanie has been chosen as the 2010 schools lecturer by the Institute of Physics (which publishes Physics World), a role that sees her travelling the UK, delivering talks to more than 13,000 students between the ages of 14 and 16.
In this special video report, I caught up with Melanie at a school in Derbyshire, a recent stop on the school lecture tour. Melanie talks passionately about why she chooses to devote her time and energy to scientific outreach and the people that have inspired her along the way.
Describing her experiences of being on the road giving the 2010 IOP lecture tour, Melanie believes that she is lucky with her area of expertise. “Fusion is inherently very interesting and energy is a very emotive subject, so it’s relevant to people’s lives,” she says
Melanie then talks me through one of her favourite plasma demonstrations, and provides some practical advice for other researchers who want to engage in outreach activities. “The first thing – people always mention it, but it is really important – is to think about your audience. To think about what age group they are and so what they will understand…but also think about their attention spans.”
Music for the video was kindly supplied by my brother’s up-and-coming electro-rock band, the Spires.
And if the video has whetted your appetite for nuclear energy, you can also download a free PDF of October’s Physics World magazine, a special issue on nuclear power.