Cornmarket Street
Some of the country's top female scientists will be giving a series of fascinating talks in Cornmarket Street on Saturday afternoon.

Image credit: Flickr user David Nicholls (via Creative Commons)

Leading female scientists get on their soapboxes

Stuart Gillespie

Some of the UK's top female scientists will be taking to their soapboxes in Oxford this weekend to share their passion for their subjects with the public.

This Saturday, 18 June, the national Soapbox Science initiative will be making its debut in Oxford. From 2pm to 5pm in Cornmarket Street, 12 female scientists from across the country will be giving a series of fascinating talks on topics as diverse as facial recognition, oral health, the body clock, saving elephants in Mali, and even what tea bags can tell us about soil.

Now in its sixth year, Soapbox Science aims to challenge perceptions of who a scientist is by celebrating the diverse backgrounds of women in science. With speakers ranging from PhD students to professors, Soapbox Science represents the full spectrum of the academic career path and gives the speakers themselves the chance to meet and network with other women in science.

The talks are free and open to the public, and anyone stopping by can expect hands-on props, experiments and specimens, as well as bags of enthusiasm from the speakers.

Carlyn Samuel, ICCS Research Coordinator in the Department of Zoology at Oxford, is coordinating the Oxford leg of Soapbox Science. She said: 'Being part of the great team that has brought Soapbox Science to Oxford for the first time has been an amazing experience. It has opened my eyes to some really interesting research that I would never have heard about otherwise, and I am sure visitors to Cornmarket Street this Saturday will agree.

'Our aim is to bring cutting-edge science to the public in an accessible, fun and unintimidating way. We're hoping to inspire people who never normally get exposed to science – particularly young people. I'm excited that there is such a wide range of topics to learn about, from contentious issues like nuclear energy to saving desert elephants or finding out how chemists have much to learn from nature.'

Among those representing Oxford University on Saturday will be Dr Susan Canney, from the Department of Zoology, whose work involves assessing the threats facing elephants in Mali, and Dr Irina Velsko, from the School of Archaeology, who studies ancient dental calculus and will be talking about how the bacteria that live in our mouths can have a big impact on our overall health.

Soapbox Science co-founder, Dr Nathalie Pettorelli of the Zoological Society of London, said: 'Soapbox Science gives female scientists the much-needed boost to their visibility and profile they need to help achieve equality in science. In the five years of Soapbox, we have seen real impact on the career paths of our speakers, raising their profiles and opening new opportunities for them within the science communities.'