Image: Katy Pallister

Getting experience in science communication

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Having been told countless times by academics and careers advisors to get work experience in the summer of my penultimate year, I panicked. Last October I was struggling to decide whether my degree was actually right for me, let alone see beyond that to a career. However, all of that changed when I attended a careers event by the university which targeted the media industries. Speaking to alumni of the university, as well as established professionals in this competitive sector, spurred me on to seek experience in this industry. Not wanting to leave my degree in maths and physics completely behind, I began to look for internships in science communication.

After several extensive Google searches, I came across an opportunity for a Digital News Academy with News UK. Although not specifically science related, this week-long summer school offered a chance for journalists to work alongside developers and designers to create a new and innovative digital product. In previous years, the summer school was exclusively for journalists and gave writers the chance to make and print their own paper. This year, it was adapted to represent the changing world of journalism. The application required a few short answers in addition to a 500-word article of my choice – I chose the Science of Candy Crush! Applications closed around May, and I found out in late June that I was lucky enough to have been selected to be a journalist on the programme in August.

Last October I was struggling to decide whether my degree was actually right for me, let alone see beyond that to a career…

Arriving on my first day I felt incredibly apprehensive; the tall buildings and even higher expectations were prevalent during introductions. Little did I know that by the end of the week, my confidence in the field would have amounted to a lot more than I had ever expected! Our journey started at Unruly- a digital marketing firm which housed a model of what a home might look like in 2020. Complete with a personalised AI, AR products in abandon and the wardrobe of my dreams; the house suggested that a future we thought would not happen in our lifetimes is only a few years away. Here we received some advice for our week ahead and in our teams settled on two very different products to pursue.

 

Image: News Digital Academy / Katy Pallister

Our product, Natter, was pitched as a ‘London guide from the inside’, with video interviews from the people of London picking out hidden gems in the city. Thrown into the deep end from the beginning I was forced to quickly learn skills in gaining interviews, writing good questions and video editing. Wanting to make my stamp on the week I sourced an interview with the public engagement manager at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the home of time and space! Conducting my first ever interview in such an incredible venue was an amazing experience, and one that I would not have been able to do had it not been for this internship.

Conducting my first ever interview in such an incredible venue was an amazing experience, and one that I would not have been able to do had it not been for this internship…

Alongside our project, we were given talks from various members within the News UK group. This let us hear about other sides of journalism, from law to digital communications. One of the stand out talks came from Tony Gallagher, editor of the Sun, who took the time to speak with us and answer our questions very honestly. This talk was interrupted by Dan Wootton, award winning showbiz reporter, who brought in the new head judge of Strictly Come Dancing, Shirley Ballas, for a quick meet and greet. As a Strictly super fan this appearance really was the cherry on top of the cake in terms of once in a lifetime experiences the week had given to me.

Although it was physically and mentally tough, with 12-14 hour work days, I can honestly say I would not have had a week like this anywhere else. The leaders were very knowledgeable and pushed us to get the most out of the week, and with their encouragement I even managed to have a chat with the Science Editor for the Times. I have left the week with not only more knowledge about journalism, but also with several useful contacts that could help me to further fulfil my ambitions.

I have left the week with not only more knowledge about journalism, but also with several useful contacts…

For those of you who have no idea of what you want from the future, I wholeheartedly recommend attending careers events held by the university, as the people who attend want to help and can give invaluable advice. For those who are looking for internships – keep searching! It took me weeks to find what I was looking for, but the opportunities are out there and you just have to be motivated enough to discover them. As for this summer school- anyone with a passion for journalism wanting to challenge themselves and learn from the best, this is for you.

 

 

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