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5 questions for Holly Kershaw

14 October 2019
Our new Senior Science Communicator - Chemistry and Geosciences
Meet Holly Kershaw, who runs chemistry and geoscience activities for school students and the public, as part of the Faculty of Science’s outreach activities.
Holly Kershaw

1. What are the secret tools of a great science communicator?

A great science communicator needs to have a passion for science, wonder and a sense of humour. Passion, because if you’re not excited your audience can see right through you. Wonder because you need to be constantly learning about old and new science. And a sense of humour, because sometimes science doesn’t always work the way you expect it to – especially when you’re in front of a few hundred people!

2. Where have you been on your outreach journey to end up at the University of Sydney?

I've actually come full circle – I started in science education as a demonstrator in the first-year chemistry labs when I was a science student at the University!

After my degree I began working for Fizzics Education, a small business that did science programs in primary schools and science birthday parties and I was hooked on science education and outreach. Over the next 8 years, heading up the Fizzics Education team, I had the opportunity to present science programs all over Australia, in South Africa and USA and to students in many more countries through virtual visits. I’ve created and delivered programs for all ages, from preschool to retirement villages, and teacher professional development, and in many different contexts, from the TV show Playschool to Splendour in the Grass music festival.

3. Which of your previous roles in STEM has been the most rewarding so far?

This is like asking a parent which child is their favourite! In terms of rewarding, I have always enjoyed working with teachers to help upskill them with tangible and accessible tools to create effective science lessons that engage and inspire students. A very close second has been producing The Science Tent at Splendour in the Grass music festival, where early career researchers have to opportunity to talk about science in a very unique environment – it gives them a very good reason to be interested in science communication!

4. How much common ground is there between the sciences of chemistry and geoscience?

A lot! Geosciences is a very broad field, but there are many places where the two collide. For example, understanding chemical processes is key to understanding changes to coral reefs as a result of ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures, or the formation of crystals or rocks as a result of tectonic processes.

5. If you had $1 million dollars to produce any STEM program you liked, what sort of thing would it be?

I’d love to produce resources for teachers across the K-12 STEM curriculum to include the diverse people who have contributed to science, but who are commonly overlooked because they were unable or not allowed to be scientists! There are so many role models for students who are not represented in a lot of texts, and these role models are so important for allowing students to see themselves in STEM careers.