‘Inspiring Stories’ with Lareb Dean
Research Fellow, Clinical and Experimental Sciences
This is part of the Engaged Medicine ‘Inspiring Stories’ blog series. The blogs explore the stories behind outreach and patient-public engagement activities of staff and students from the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine.
Science is fun! I began my public engagement journey, with the intention of sharing this good news, during my years of PhD study at Imperial College in London. I had the opportunity to take part in large-scale events, such as the annual Imperial Festival, which invited the public to participate in STEM activities. These events were a great platform to share my own research interests in the field of Respiratory Science and Toxicology in the context of Air Pollution. I commonly found some of the most interesting and rewarding experiences came from engagement with younger audiences – they asked stimulating (often weird and wonderful) questions, enjoyed themselves, and (hopefully) went away having learned a little something. As a bonus, I also frequently acquired new knowledge, discovering engagement was very much a two-way process.
Having joined the University of Southampton as a Postdoctoral Researcher, I became involved with the LifeLab Initiative’s “Meet the Scientist” sessions with several goals in mind: (1) dispel stereotypes around scientists and their work, thus promote the sciences as a prospective career path for young people from any background; (2) raise awareness of the health impacts of air pollution particulate matter and potential mitigation strategies; (3) be entertained. Mighty aims for 15 minutes with a room full of teenagers but every Meet the Scientist session has been thought-provoking and a pleasure with no two sessions ever the same, and I hope I am reaching my aim of encouraging young people to reach for the stars (NASA, not Hollywood).
Post-pandemic, it has been a pleasure to join a large-scale festival again; The New Forest & Hampshire County Show in July 2022 allowed me to exhibit and discuss my own research as well as joining the Wessex Immunology Group to explore lung health. This annual show is important for the University to build relationships with the public by giving them access to a wide variety of research projects with open and transparent debate, generating a mutually beneficial relationship.
I hope to continue with outreach and public engagement activities in collaboration with the University as it’s a great way for me to flex my creativity outside of the laboratory and meet with people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to work which is relevant to and for them. I would like to become more involved with stakeholders and policymakers, in addition to schools and the general public, to make a positive impact on human health in the face of declining air quality.
Stay Connected! To find out more about the ‘Inspiring Stories’ series, Faculty of Medicine educational programmes and research, or to get involved use the links below or contact Dr Lucy Green.
University staff or students click here for the Engaged Medicine SharePoint.