Last week two of your digital ambassadors volunteered during the first Swedish Brain Awareness week (Hjärnfestivalen). During this five day event for the public, many activities sharing knowledge from neuroscience and related fields were arranged. One could come to various presentations by scientists, a pub quiz with brain trivia, bring children to a science cafe or to swing by an interactive fair at the Stockholm’s main square Sergels Torg. Bellow you can read a chat between the two volunteers, Nika and Yildiz and learn more about their experiences during the festival.
Nika: So what did you do for the festival?
Yildiz: I helped during the Multisensory Integration session to set things up.
Nika: Oh, what was that?
Yildiz: A very interesting talk about food perception and how it is affected by all our senses as well as our expectations. During the festival, there was also a practical session to demonstrate the complexity of our taste experience.
Nika: Cool! And did you do something else?
Yildiz: Yes, I was also in the Neuroanatomy tent during the interactive sessions at Sergels Torg. There I guided people to look at human brain sections under the microscope, discussed the morphology and functions of the regions we were looking at and how they were altered in neurodegenerative diseases. What was your part in the festival?
Nika: I did a few things. Before the festival, I went to two labs at KI, interviewed those working there and took some pictures for communication purposes and advertising of the event.
Yildiz: Wow, that sounds great! Did those labs host people as an open science event during the festival? Where can we find those interviews?
Nika: Yes, it was the labs taking part in the festival, so people could see a bit of what they do and get excited. You can find the pictures on Instagram. The interviews were only for me to learn about what they do and take pictures accordingly. It was so much fun! I got a Game of Thrones King’s Hand pin printed by a 3D printer! Did you enjoy the volunteering? Was it cool?
Yildiz: Beyond cool. I think it was fantastic. People from every age participated and they were really engaged. I didn’t even realize how the time passed, I could go on the whole day if they would let us keep the tents and the tables.
Nika: Yeah I know! There were many cool things! It was nice to see people engaging in the event. And to see them touching the gelé brain! Why did you decide to volunteer?
Yildiz: I have a genuine interest in neuroscience and I really enjoy communicating science to a general audience. It helps me to put the scientific terms and concepts in perspective and realize why we do research from the beginning. I think this Brain festival was the perfect opportunity for people like me. Plus I made a brain hat! (:
Nika: Haha your brain hat was fantastic! I agree it was fun to talk to people about what we do. I got so excited when someone wanted to hear about my research and thought it was interesting. It gave me energy to continue. I found it quite inspiring that people took their time in the evenings and the weekend to come and engage with us.
Yildiz: Yeah, it was the same for me. The biggest inspiration is the connection we, scientists, made with everyone who participated in the festival. I was also enlivened by thinking that the little kids now hopefully think of science as fun, by parents who want their children to be engaged and develop, and also everyone who spared time to learn and improve.
As you can see, both Yildiz and Nika enjoyed the event and plan to volunteer next year. Even if maybe with bit selfish motives. Yildiz said that “maybe I need more human interaction in the loneliness of the PhD because I am Mediterranean (: Interacting with all those people through science felt amazing”. Nika on the other hand admitted that she liked taking the photos even though she is not by any means a professional photographer. However, sometimes she misses more creative outlets during the PhD. Either way, we both think that the event was a success and gave everyone an opportunity to interact with science and scientists and to see their human and accessible side. We look forward to seeing you at Hjärnfestivalen 2017!