Science Articles

Eight weeks as a Naked Scientist

Thu, 24th Sep 2015

Rosalind Davies

Rosalind usually spends her time investigating materials for storing hydrogen at the University of Birmingham. Thanks to The Royal Academy of Engineering, she is spending eight weeks as an intern with The Naked Scientists – follow this blog for Rosalind's take on her time with us.

Week One:

Despite arriving late because of traffic, and tired due to a long haul flight, my first day with The Naked Scientists was great! We began by looking through the papers that had been recently published, and deciding who would cover each as a news piece. After this, we call the researchers to check that they would be a good interviewee and that we can get good quality audio of them speaking. It was great to speak to some researchers about their work, and help to get their research to a wider audience.

I’ll be carrying out my first recorded interview next week, so I can tell you all about how it goes, and how we edit the pieces then. This week I was writing some short articles for the website and helping this week’s producer arrange studio spaces for our guest speakers during Sunday’s show. I’m learning more every day here, and the other members of the team have been great at giving feedback so that we can improve really quickly. It’s a new way of writing that takes a bit of getting used to, but I’m already a lot better than I was at the beginning of the week.

Madingley Hall

Week Two:

We had lots of exciting news stories this week that had been published in the USA, so there were some points when we were waiting for people on the other side of the world to wake up. Much closer to home, I arranged an interview with a Professor from Cambridge. This led to some speedy tuition on how to use the mobile recording equipment and some less speedy navigation around Cambridge to find the zoology building.

Both navigation and recording were successful and my interviewee was great. I even got back in time to do a research call to the states. During my editing on Wednesday, Chris invited me to join him for his regular appearance in the science question and answer session on BBC Radio Norfolk in the evening. Live. I said yes before thinking about it, and then tried not to get too nervous during the afternoon!

Being live on air is definitely something that takes practice, but I’m glad I tried, and as soon as I was asked a question on my research topic I was much more relaxed. I might regret saying this now, but I would be keen to have another go if I get the chance. Maybe it’s addictive…?

Nervous Rosie

Week Three:

After spending the weekend exploring Cambridge, Sunday saw my first visit to the BBC Cambridgeshire studio for our live show. I was expecting a dark underground room, but it's a nice airy studio and we'd filled it with lots of guests for our Q & A show. I had a lot of fun updating the twitter account with the answers our panel were giving to the varied questions sent in by our audience.

Clearly I hadn’t been too useless live on air last week, as I got persuaded to join Chris Mann on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to talk about a news piece during his drivetime show on Monday. Live! We looked through the news pieces and found one that had been released that day. In between my research calls, I found the paper and highlighted the key points, thinking how I could explain them to a general audience. And then it was time! I was much more relaxed and so the 5 minutes flew by.

Despite some connection problems, I got my news interview successfully recorded, although got a bit excited and talked to the researcher for far too long. This made editing tougher than last week, but I got down to 4 minutes in the end. It was worth the work, as my piece went into the show we send to BBC live science, broadcast to the whole UK on a Saturday morning. I’m researching for next week’s Question of the Week at the moment, so I’d better get back to reading about trucks!


Week Four:

Well I thought that booking interviews with Americans was hard! The beginning of this week was a bit challenging, as our main story came from Australia… I learnt not to use the words “today” and “tomorrow” as they always meant different things to me and the guest. After some 2am e-mailing (me) and a phone call from a quiet space at a conference dinner (the guest), I was able to book a studio in Melbourne at a time when just about both interviewer and interviewee would be awake.

I also had my first audio disaster, when my interviewee’s file corrupted. I managed to rescue enough for a special, but not quickly enough to make the 5live deadline. The end of the week became a bit crazy, as my work for “Question of the Week” picked up, and we moved offices to another building across the road!

But we made it - and have now got a large, light office to work in. I’m off next week back to being a PhD student at a neutron beam source, but I’ll be back, and have a show to start putting together.

Last one in

Week Five:

After a rather eventful week of PhD work away from the Naked Scientists last week, and accidentally leaving the keys to my Cambridge room in my house in Birmingham, I did manage to make it into our new offices on Monday morning. There was heaps of news this week, and a lot of it from the UK, so we were busy doing research calls and arranging interviews. Unfortunately the researcher for the paper I was looking into was on sabbatical, so I was left searching for a local commentator.

As the paper was on materials chemistry, and that’s my area of research, I persuaded one of the post-doctoral researchers from my department to speak to me about the paper. It felt a bit weird doing an interview like this, knowing that you both knew the same information about the paper, but it was good experience to give something new a go.

I also did some research calls for my show, and it’s definitely starting to come together!

Week Six:

This week I somehow managed to be super efficient. In a flurry of activity between 4:30 and 6 on Monday afternoon I managed to get one of Chris’ interviews scheduled and mine booked in for first thing Tuesday morning. This meant I was essentially one day ahead of myself all week which gave me a good opportunity to focus on planning my show.

I made quite a lot of phone calls to researchers in different areas trying to get and idea of what i should cover when discussing big data, and how to do this without any of the sections of my show repeating themselves. I also took a trip into Cambridge for the “Festival of Ideas” to see Data Shadow: one of their art exhibitions on personal data and privacy. It was really interesting, and prompted me to think twice about logging onto unknown wifi networks.

Data Shadow

Week Seven:

The week started quite unusually, as I set off at lunchtime on Monday with my rucksack full of recording equipment to record my on location piece for my show. It was a really interesting afternoon - I found out all about what a data storage centre looks like and how it works, genome sequencing and also about a novel way of storing data using DNA.

This did, however, leave me in a tricky position when it came to the news! I had sent some emails before I left on Monday but had no replies by Tuesday morning and so took on a story we had planned for Chris before we realised he was going to South Africa!

Having the pre-recorded piece done, I was able to spend all my free time during the week editing that and my other pre-rec meaning that by Friday, with a whole week left before the show, I was in pretty good shape….

To be continued...


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