‘Inspiring Stories’ with Melanie Smith and Roxanna Ramnarine Sanchez

Research Technician, Human Development and Health

Senior Research Assistant, Human Development and Health

This is part of the Engaged Medicine ā€˜Inspiring Storiesā€™ blog series. The blogs explore the stories behind outreach and patient-public engagement activities of staff and students from the University of Southamptonā€™s Faculty of Medicine.

In their blog Melanie and Roxanna share their experiences of public engagement, they talk about their participation in the “Getting Started in Public Engagement” training, and their future engagement activity plans…


I am an early career researcher with a track record of linking fundamental soft matter research to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, whose original career path changed significantly from the dental clinic to the bench top. Since very early in my career, I understood the importance of public engagement as a tool to contribute to effective dental care and general health. Now as a scientist, I was keen to continue these activities. Although the approach and focus are significantly different the outcomes are as promising. I experienced the benefits myself when I met my PhDā€™s supervisors at a Great British Science Festival.


Public engagement, specifically involving school children, has always been a passion of mine. I completed a ā€œstudents as tutorsā€ scheme as an undergrad and engaged with secondary schools in the lab during my PhD.  I then worked in industry before taking a career break. During this time, I worked with local schools, running science practicals and STEM activities. I returned to research at the University of Southampton 18 months ago and this course was the perfect opportunity for me to refresh and enable me to re-engage with the public.

When I first began research, I was very aware that as a teenager, I didnā€™t know what a research scientist did. Or even the jobs that existed in this field. I believe itā€™s essential to break down barriers and equip the future generation with the information to make informed career choices.  Loving my job, science, and the research I do helps me to facilitate this and champion science.

Following on from attending ā€œGetting Started in Public Engagementā€ training, Roxanna and I re-designed the Stem Cell Stand for the New Forest Show.  The training provided us with a valuable toolkit to be able to develop these activities, assess their success and implement post-event changes.  It was great to see the public loving our stand and giving us valuable feedback.  We also both took part in the LifeLab training for ā€œMeet the Scientistā€ around this time and feel that ā€œGetting Started in Public Engagementā€ training boosted our confidence to do this.  This is now another way to put our research out there in the public domain!  We both successfully applied for Public Engagement Development Funding after completing the ā€œGetting Started in Public Engagementā€ training and we are developing interactive activities for future roadshows. Itā€™s all exciting stuff!  We have felt very supported by the Universityā€™s well-established PERu department and its staff.

The first round of our ā€œGetting Started in Public Engagementā€ training ran between March and June this year. The training covers a range of topics relating to public engagement including how to engage different audiences and publics, how to plan public engagement activities, and how to evaluate them. We will be running this training again in 2023 so keep a look out for further information!

Stay Connected! To find out more about the ā€˜Inspiring Storiesā€™ series, Faculty of Medicine educational programmes and research, or to get involved use the links below or contactĀ Dr Lucy Green.

University staff or studentsĀ click hereĀ for the Engaged Medicine SharePoint.

‘Inspiring Stories’ with Melanie Smith and Roxanna Ramnarine Sanchez

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