A look back at 2019

This year has flown by! A sea of stages, trains and universities. Here I've summarised the ten elements that sum up my year. Thanks to those of you who joined me on the journey.


2019 in numbers

20,000 miles travelled on trains

13,570 audience members

797 researchers trained

208 salsa classes taught

78 live events

34 REF case studies and grants consulted on

14 Universities worked with

1 book written


1. Officially freelance

Planet Freelance can be a scary and inhospitable place and I wanted to be sure I could make myself a comfortable home there before I committed. In June 2019 I had enough experience to know it was working and it was time to embrace it fully and I decided to commit to this life in the long term. I have worked incredibly hard this year. I’m exhausted and proud. I was worried that not having an organisation behind me that I’d lose my voice in the engagement landscape – but the opposite was true. I now have a louder and more independent voice than when I was working to further just one organisation. So here I stand, independent, honest and ready for the next challenge.


2. The sentence I never thought I’d say…

I’ve written a book. I thought writing a 350-page thesis had put me off writing forever but when the opportunity arose, I decided it would be a good challenge for me. So, this summer I set about tackling the Chemistry of Cola and produced a book of experiments, puzzles and stories which will be out next year in America, Australia and the UK. It wasn’t easy but I enjoyed tackling something outside my comfort zone. I might even consider writing another…


3. Science on stage

This year over 13.5 thousand people came along to my shows. I love being on stage and it is such a privilege to have so many opportunities to so. There are two secrets to being on stage that has allowed me to continue to learn and improve. The first is that I’m very comfortable on stage, for me it is the safest and most controlled environment possible. This allows me to relax and be a “person” instead of “presenter. The second is that I’m never happy with what I do. After every performance I work out what I could have done better so I continue to change, develop and grow in terms of performing.


4. Consultancy

One of the most rewarding parts of 2019 is also the part I can speak the least about. I’ve loved working one on one with individuals and groups. This is something I struggled to find time for when I was working in central support at a university. I’ve been able to help shape projects, ensure robust evaluation and help researchers write their REF case studies.


5. The International Year of the Periodic Table.

I’ve had a longstanding obsession with the periodic table and have spoken about it on stage for years but 2019 was special. As it was 150 years since Dmitri Mendeleev released his first version of the iconic table, I got to talk about it LOTS. The Royal Society of Chemistry gave me £420 to buy some props and I managed to share my favourite stories on stage with 5,400 people.


6. Training

Running workshops for researchers is a big part of what I do. It’s been a joy to share my engagement thinking with 797 researchers across the UK. I work hard to make sure my workshops are creative, supportive learning environments and the feedback and the repeat bookings has been fantastically encouraging. I’ve also carried on the conversations long beyond the training room with dozens of researchers getting in touch to show how their learning has been put into practice and hope I’ve helped them.


7. Getting Social

In February 2019 I launched Glasgow Sci Comm Social. There have now been 10 events and dozens of people have come along. It’s been particularly great that so many of the conversations and friendships formed at the events have continued throughout the year. Glasgow Sci Comm Social will be back in 2020.


8. Rainbow Badges

This year saw more rainbow badge designs than ever before. I now have seventeen different designs and have raised £1,800 to support the excellent work of the Albert Kennedy Trust who help young LGBTQ+ people who are facing homelessness or living hostile environments.


It’s been especially lovely to see these badges out in the wild all across the world in classrooms and labs. They are a subtle little message to queer people that they are in a supportive environment.


It’s been fantastic to connect with so many beautiful souls around the world and to hear their stories.


9. Salsa February 2020 will mark my 10th anniversary teaching Cuban salsa. This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster. I started the year teaching more than I ever have with eight classes a week but I’m finishing the year with just two. As my work takes me further away from home, I’ve struggled to find time to dance and I’ve had to give up most of my classes to priorities my engagement work. I don’t dance enough, but I’m glad I’m still dancing when I can.


10. Next year

I jump straight into a busy year. In January alone I will be recording a TV series, delivering workshops in Slovenia, headlining a Polish science festival and delivering 4 days of evaluation training. Bring on 2020!


Thanks to all the organisations I worked with in 2019!