Kate's story

Science Outreach means I can give back to the community

Kate, Functional Ingredients



I joined the Community committee not long after joining RSSL and was part of the Science Outreach aspect at this point. I then took over the role of leading the science outreach team in 2018 because I liked the idea of giving back to local schools and community groups. But it’s not just me, I work with a great group of colleagues who are as passionate as I am about promoting science to the younger generation.


I think part of my enthusiasm comes from the fact that I want to change the perception of what a career in science looks like. And even where a degree in chemistry could lead. When I was growing up this sort of information was limited, which is why I’m so keen to engage as many children as possible in the world of science and show them the possibilities that are open to them.

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Over the years, we’ve had great fun coming up with different ideas for science sessions to entertain the kids. Obviously, we adapt the content and presentation style to suit different ages, but generally our focus is on capturing their imagination and showing them how science is used in everyday life. 


Sometimes we ask younger kids to help ‘Barry Bourbon’, who has had a fire in his biscuit factory and doesn’t know what’s in his containers because the water sprinklers have washed off the labels. They then carry out a series of simple tests to identify sugar, salt, calcium carbonate, and so on - and help save Mr Bourbon thousands of pounds. 


We also go into schools and run sessions on recycling, sustainability and the science behind plastics, so really trying to given them an insight into the role that science plays in these topical issues.


Of course, a bit of drama always goes down well too. One of our colleagues loves to include a fire experiment and will find an opportunity, if at all possible, to include a science trick or two. All obviously under strictly supervised conditions and for the trained scientists only.


One annual event that I’m really proud of is the RSSL science roadshow. Sadly, we couldn’t run it recently due to covid restrictions, but we definitely want to bring it back as soon as possible. It involves a big team of RSSL volunteers spending a day at the Early Crescent Community Centre in Reading, where we set up lots of different table experiments ranging from pressure rockets to slime making. All of them are done in ten minutes which means we can get loads of kids involved throughout the day. It’s hard work, but totally worth it.


I love being part of Science Outreach and have continued to make time for it, even as my career and responsibilities at RSSL have grown. Afterall, it gave me my first claim to fame; a tv interview on the local BBC. I’m just glad no-one else was in the room when they filmed it!