Adding real value
As well as providing development opportunities for Tom and Catherine, the partnership was as big boost to the Christmas lecture team’s preparations and Dominic McDonald, head of education at the Royal Institution, hopes that it will help to show the invaluable contribution of technical expertise.
“There’s a very immediate need that we have: we need an extra pair of hands but some very skilled hands, people who can actually build demos and props,” says Dominic, “So it allows us to produce a TV programme which is of better quality given the time constraints we operate under.
“They were super. We were able to give them bits of prop that were fiddly – they won't look particularly fiddly on screen but they were genuinely really fiddly – and set a question of how we should actually do this. We had an idea but actually putting it into practise in a way that would stand up to the rigours... the ability to just give them that job saved us an enormous amount of time. It was absolutely terrific.
“What made this possible was the funding from Gatsby and the commitment from the universities and supporting organisations. Obviously we also recognise there's a real shortage of technical skills. So anything we can do to show that these are valued members of teams like this is something that we're very happy to do. It's a small thing that we're doing but if it feeds into this bigger project that's happening then why on earth wouldn't we do that?”
A shot at the limelight
The experience has enabled Tom and Catherine to build stronger links between their universities and also with the Royal Institution, and has also contributed to one of the aims of the Technician Commitment around raising the visibility of technicians.
“In science, you get famous scientists supported by this huge team of technicians who very rarely get a shot at the limelight,” says Tom. “I’m really proud – I feel really lucky that I got given an opportunity to do that.
“I definitely want to enhance the links between Nottingham chemistry and the Royal Institution. They were fantastic people to work with. I've said to them if they want to run any courses or masterclasses – they do masterclasses out in schools as an outreach activity – in Nottingham then they're more than welcome to come to my building.”
“I was really grateful for the opportunity because I'm really keen to explore outreach opportunities in my career,” adds Catherine. “So it was great being able to see that done in a different setting that maybe I hadn't considered. I'm very proud that I got to contribute to this national institution that's been going on since 1825 and be a part of that history.”
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