Lorraine Coghill, Science Outreach Specialist (Episode 12) | Lorraine wants to give people permission to be curious
“For me science is in everything and everywhere and it is creative and it is curious and it’s about problem solving and it’s about collaboration.”
For this week’s episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to science outreach specialist Lorraine Coghill. Lorraine is currently Deputy Director of Science Outreach and Engagement at Durham University. There she organises a whole host of science enrichment activities for young people and teachers, as well as training for students and staff.
Permission to be curious
Like so many of my guests, Lorraine fell in love with outreach and engagement during her PhD. As a student in Edinburgh she was able to voluteer at events like the Edinburgh Science Festival. This led to various science communication and teaching roles before joining Durham University in 2010. Lorraine explains that despite having science in her job title, her work is really about people. She uses science as a way of encouraging curiosity and problem solving.
“We’re very much about supporting people to develop their own ideas, to have agency, to be okay with being curious and investigating things.”
Life affirming and life changing
Although usually focussed on young people her projects also involve researchers from all disciplines and often artists, including everything from theatre to animation. Putting young people in charge is a common theme in her work. One collaboration, which culminated in a theatre performance called ‘What if…?’ was co-created by young people and scientists with support from a theatre company. Reflecting on the performance she said;
“It just it blew me away. They produced an interactive theatre piece which was performed by professional actors, but it involved the whole audience. And it brought so many different aspects of the researchers work, the lives of the researchers, the lives of the young people. And it was quite an emotional piece. It was it’s just wonderful.”
But what really motivates her are the individual stories of change. She recalls working with a group of young people who were not in work or training, some of whom had been in trouble with the police. Years later a colleague bumped into one of these young people who had turned his life around after being inspired by a science chef at one of her events.
“And so he’d enrolled in a college course and he was the top student, and was going on to become a chef. And I’m not necessarily a proponent that a one-off events make that difference, but actually, I think sometimes it can be one of those moments that can make a difference to someone’s life.”
Celebrating our professionalism
Lorraine finds strength and support in her networks including NCCPE and the Ogden Trust. Because of that she is enthusiastic about making things better for public engagement professionals (PEPs) and was part of a PEP Insights panel for NCCPE.
“Let’s celebrate our professionalism and let’s celebrate what we actually do. We’ve talked before about the invisibility of public engagement professionals, but also the invisibility of the the skills that we bring. And a lot of that is because they are soft skills, because they happen in the background.”
Find out more
- Connect with Lorraine on LinkedIn
- NCCPE case study on the ‘What If…?’ theatre project
- Durham University science outreach website
- Ogden Trust
How was it for you…?
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