Tuesday, 24 June 2014

BUFI Science Festival... by Jack Lacey

Presenters all ready for the Science Festival
Last fortnight saw us celebrate the amazing work of over 80 post graduate research students at the annual BUFI (BGS University Funding Initiative) Festival. Their work represents £250,000 in financing and the equivalent of 6-years supervision and training by our staff each year. BUFI affords each student the opportunity to present and communicate their research at this annual festival which is attended by students, staff, A-Level pupils and even some famous faces! University of Leicester presenter Jack Lacey shares his experience.

I am currently in the second year of my PhD and so have now had the chance to present my work at the BUFI Science Festival on two occasions. The Festival incorporates a wide range of research, showcasing the breadth of projects that BUFI funds – from studying impact craters on Mars to reconstructing 560 million-year old fossils. This makes the whole day a great experience as not only do you get to present your own research to specialists and non-specialists alike, but you get to discuss a whole range of interesting topics with students at the forefront of their fields – who are at a similar stage in their career to you.

Very busy day for the
This year I decided to present some work on how we can study the impacts of volcanic super eruptions using lake sediment records. The Toba eruption (74,000 years ago) in Indonesia is one of the largest ever known – bigger than Yellowstone – and is thought to have caused a severe period of global cooling. The signal for this ‘volcanic winter’ is recorded in sediments from Lake Prespa (southern Mediterranean), which suggest a major drop in lake level, less rainfall and a decrease in tree cover surrounding the lake. This information helps us understand how super eruptions influence different regions, how cooler temperatures and less rainfall can effect lake processes and vegetation and also can be linked to human population and migration patterns.

My award presented by
If enhancing communication and presentation skills is not enough of an incentive, there are also several prizes available. This year my poster was awarded the Sixth Form Students Prize – a new category where local sixth form students are invited to attend and judge posters. This is a great new addition to the Festival (not only as they chose my poster!) as you can make your research accessible to a wider range of people and hopefully inspire the next generation of researchers.

The skill of being able to interest and engage with every member of an audience is no easy task. Discussing complex scientific principles, methodologies and results with someone who may have no scientific background is difficult. Yet it is highly important that we, as scientists, are able to and is perhaps one of the most vital components of research training. The guest speaker for the Festival was Professor Iain Stewart who gave a fantastic presentation on ‘Communicating you Science’.

Presenting my poster on 'Super eruptions and lake sediments'
The Science Festival is great fun and a worthwhile experience – if you are a BUFI student I would highly recommend getting involved. If not, come along next year anyway to see all the posters and talk to some keen research students!

Jack Lacey

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