Explaining science to members of the public is something Jackie Woods already had a taste of when she volunteered at the International Centre for Life and Diabetes UK to enhance her experience linked to her degree. Jackie, a final year Human Nutrition student at Northumbria University, Newcastle is thinking about signing up for the new MSc Public Engagement with Science programme.
Jackie, 47, from Jarrow, joined Northumbria University as a mature student after deciding to change from a career as a press officer to one involving science.
She said: “I’d always had an interest in biology but didn’t pursue it but when I was faced with redundancy a few years ago I decided to see it positively as a chance to change direction. I took an access course at Gateshead College and then applied to study Human Nutrition at Northumbria. I’ve not regretted my decision as I’ve really enjoyed the degree and the opportunities and support I’ve received from my lecturers.
“Last year I volunteered at Northumbria University’s ‘Full of Beans’ exhibition in the International Centre for Life. It was a hands-on interactive display aimed at teaching parents and children the science behind healthy eating.
“It was a really interesting experience that was doing exactly what the MSc is seeking to do. Taking the knowledge from the science labs and making it accessible and easily understood by people of all ages.”
The ‘Be Full of B.E.A.N.S (Brain Energy Activity Nutrition Success)’ exhibition saw Northumbria University and the International Centre for Life work together last year to give academics an opportunity to share their research with the general public.
Jackie, who will graduate this summer, also volunteered as a Diabetes UK Risk Assessor during their public engagement roadshows. This role involved assessing people’s risk of developing Type II Diabetes by measuring their waist, calculating their BMI and considering other factors such as gender, ethnicity and whether close family members had diabetes.
“I explained the science behind diabetes to people and advised that the risk of developing the condition could be minimised through knowledge of food and nutrition,” she added. “It was really enjoyable.
“Knowing that you can be passing on information that will have a significant impact on people’s lives in terms of dietary decisions is exciting.”
The MSc Public Engagement with Science degree will be delivered by Northumbria University, Newcastle and the International Centre for Life. Its first cohort of students will begin in September 2014.