Archive for January, 2010

Dawn in the Caitlins

January 26, 2010

The crack between the worlds from whence flows possibility and dreaming.

The Waking Incubator

January 25, 2010

My thoughts on the Waking project

It has taken me a while to find the time to set up a WordPress account, but I am on my way now hopefully.

I am really excited about the Waking project – and a little nervous.  I know very little “scientifically” about sleep and waking, although clock genes and biological rhythms have fascinated me for many years.  My research over the past decade has largely focused on the ovary, in particular the causes of ovarian cancer, on the identity of the cells that become cancerous and on the role of ovulation in the development of ovarian cancer.  It strikes me that the ovary is a tissue that undergoes several sleep-wake cycles during development, as the eggs lie dormant for many years until puberty, when select ones “wake up” and begin to grow again. And I guess cancer remission and re-development could also be described in those terms, though I personally I’d rather concentrate on less depressing topics. The aspect of my scientific research that I love is the visual nature of cell biology – I am one of those crazy scientists that love how cells look down a microscope.  I am also a great fan of scanning electron microscopy. Here is a picture of the “wound” left behind on the surface of a mouse ovary, once the egg has burst through the surface of the tissue at ovulation.

An egg has burst through the surface of this mouse ovary.

More recently I have become a science communicator – whatever that means – and run courses aimed to awaken graduate students to better ways of describing science to those without science in their lives. My Popularising Science students communicate science through exhibitions, photo-essays, science shows and drama, digital or print media, but we have other students in the Centre who communicate science through film or non-fiction creative writing (  I have learnt a great deal from these students over the past two years – you could say I have been awaked to the possibilities of science communication. My experiences in science communication, especially concerning controversial issues such as genetic modification, tell me it always takes two to tango – true dialogue and mutual respect is needed before communication can be successful. This project seems to tick all the boxes for me and I look forward to listening and learning from your experiences.

I feel very honoured to be included in the Waking project and I look forward to getting to know you all over the week.

Hello world!

January 25, 2010

You have not understood something unless you can explain it in terms that can be understood by an English barmaid.

Lord Ernest Rutherford, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 1908

The importance of science communication has been recognised since New Zealand’s most famous scientist, Sir Ernest Rutherford, made the claim above. Awareness and understanding of scientific ideas and issues by those without scientific training is vital, if the world is to regulate carbon emissions, control over-population or make the best use of nano-technology. Today’s science is big and complicated and often very controversial. At the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication in Dunedin, New Zealand (, we are training people to communicate science using film, the written word, image and digital media. Everyone has an opinion: we should all be talking with barmaids, rather than to them.