Hi, my name is Jas and I am a third year Genomics trainee working in Cambridge. Over the past couple of years on the STP I have been involved in public engagement which is an important part of the programme. During the pandemic opportunities for face-to-face public engagement were limited. However, I was invited to take part in a virtual careers events for a University that I had previously attended. I had the opportunity to talk to Biomedical science students about my experience with the STP. It was really rewarding talking to the students as they clearly were enthusiastic about the event as their opportunities to learn more about their career options had been limited by the pandemic. They had many interesting questions to ask and I enjoyed informing them about my experience on the STP and the application process.
I have also volunteered at RAREfest in Cambridge which is a rare disease inspired festival that features interactive talks, demos and exhibits from organisations hoping to improve lives for those affected with rare conditions. As part of the event I helped to develop an activity to teach people about inheritance patterns in genomics. One of the most difficult parts of developing the activity was to make it easy enough that the general public would be able to complete it, but not too easy that it would not be engaging. I ensured that people would be able to engage with the activity by asking if they understood what autosomal recessive inheritance was and based on their answer I would adapt how I would explain the activity. As some people themselves were affected with an autosomal recessive condition, they therefore only needed a simple explanation. However, some people had no prior knowledge and therefore I offered a more detailed explanation. Overall, the event was very rewarding and I had the opportunity to speak to a wide range of people.
Benefits of public engagement
The most obvious benefit of getting involved in public engagement is gaining evidence for the all important professional practice competencies. However, there are many other benefits to getting involved.
I particularly enjoyed meeting the public as I am not in a patient facing role. One patient in particular I talked to had Parkinson’s disease; he was really eager to talk about the charity he worked for called Parkylife that provides a deck of positive thinking cards for people who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I could see how this simple creation could really bring benefit to a patient’s life. Public engagement also helps to raise awareness of the importance of the work that healthcare scientists do in the NHS. This can help to increase patient engagement in their own healthcare and allow them to make changes to the systems. It also raises awareness of the possible roles in healthcare science and can help with future recruitment.
Advice for getting involved with public engagement
- Ask other STPs about events that they have been involved in or contact your local Training Network to see if they know of any opportunities.
- Ask your training officer or other colleagues if they know of any events that you could attend.
- See if you can get involved in careers fairs at universities or colleges.
- Becoming a STEM ambassador
- Make sure to get permission from your workplace and training officer when taking part in public events.
Overall, public engagement is hugely beneficial in numerous ways while part of the STP and I would make the most of every opportunity that is available to you.