The best scientists may not often be the best speakers, but the best science is often communicated by people who are passionate and excited about the subject area.
If those speakers then throw in juggling to explain DNA mutations, rock guitar to explain physics and “cute” robots that breakdance to explain artificial intelligence, then the idea that science talks are dry and boring goes way out of the window.
We usually have two speakers and the talks can be on anything related to science, maths, engineering and technology. We’re really inclusive, you don’t have to be an active researcher to speak, we’ve had teachers, students and general enthusiasts give great talks.
The only pre-requisite is that you’re happy to stand in front of a room full of people and present a talk to them about an area you’re passionate and knowledgeable about.
There are also opportunities to win prizes in our quiz at the same time as indulging in science whilst sipping on beer and eating pizza!
The relationship between Science Café Cardiff and NCMH started a couple of years ago (2015, wow that went fast!) when I stepped in for one of our researchers to deliver a talk about the work that NCMH does. It was part public engagement, part recruitment drive and part me practising my public speaking skills.
The talk went the way of many talks in that the laptop decided to have a wobbly.
Other than that it was a great night and a great opportunity to engage with the public. I helped the Science Café get another couple of speakers from our department over the following months and then decided to become a regular volunteer.
Since then we have continued to grow and in 2017 we became part of the British Science Association.
This means we can apply for grants and do more engagement events across Cardiff and South Wales, we also have great support from an organisation that has been promoting science engagement for over 170 years.
Since 2016 NCMH and the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics have supported the Science Café and, with their support, we can afford to give prizes for our quiz and gifts for our speakers (we’re nice like that). We’re also able to advertise our events to make sure that as many people as possible know about them and can attend.
This is also great news for NCMH and the MRC Centre as (with my NCMH Research Coordinator hat on) we’re able to engage even more people to let them know about the work the centres do in mental health and neuropsychiatric research; we also let everyone know of the ways that they can get involved.
This is especially exciting as Science Café audiences are enthusiastic about research and often get involved.
We’ve had some great talks from really interesting speakers with varying levels of audience participation. The whole spectrum of science has been covered, from the psychology of falling in love to how you can build cars at a molecular level to the biodiversity of coal tips.
The best talks are often on subject areas you have no idea about, they’re a chance to learn more, to spark a conversation over a drink.
During the Q&A after each talk, I’ve seen speakers asked questions that genuinely intrigue them and researchers, in particular, walk away from the experience with a fresh perspective on their work but also new questions that can help their research.
I love our Science Café in Cardiff, so come along, feed your belly with stuff from the bar and your mind with science, I’m pretty sure you’ll love it as well!
Upcoming Science Café Cardiff dates at Porter’s Bar, Cardiff City Centre: