Scientific Outreach/Public Engagement

This is now a very incomplete listing of scientific outreach/public engagement type activities I have been/am involved in since my first exposure to public engagement as a summer planetarium operator (in 1998!).

I tweet regularly about my work and other interesting stories about astronomy/science (Follow me).

I collect blog posts from all the other places I write them, and also write about other science things at my personal science blog: Beautiful Stars.

I have written a Book Chapter about Mary Somerville, for the Ada Lovelace Day charity (you can read it free at the above link, or purchase the eBook in support of Ada Lovelace Day promoting stories of women in science.

I was the Public Engagement Co-ordinator for ICG, Portsmouth (2011-2017). In latter years this was mostly just telling Jen Gupta she was doing an awesome job.

Galaxy Zoo

I am very pleased to be involved in the Galaxy Zoo project. I am using Galaxy Zoo classifications in much of my current research, and I'm a contributor to the Galaxy Zoo blog. You can see all of my postings here. I'm especially proud of organizing the She's an Astronomer series, which was part of the IYA2009 She's an Astronomer project.


I was the Public Engagement Co-ordinator and Spokesperson for LOFAR-UK (~2009-2013). This was a role I started as the installation of the first LOFAR-UK station in Chilbolton began. This has involved co-ordinating press releases, rennovating and leading. the online presence for LOFAR-UK, dealing with media enquiries etc. Check out the LOFAR-UK website and our blog. You can also watch videos I produced (and presented) about LOFAR-UK on my YouTube Channel including the below Tour of the Chilbolton station.

School Visits

I like to visit schools to talk about astronomy when I can. I will often blog about such visits school visit tag on my blog, which will give an idea of the content I can offer. I often talk about The Solar System and the Scale of the Universe and give out my "Colour the Solar System" activity. If you are a school teacher looking for a visit (particularly in Portsmouth) please get in touch. I am able to tailor the content to your curriculum needs/age group. My email is at the base of this page.

I am a member of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight STEMNET programme which provides a CRB check, training and links to local schools needing visits.

Public Talks

I can currently offer public talks about "The Science of Galaxy Zoo", "A Zoo of Galaxies", LOFAR/Radio Astronomy History, "The Transit of Venus and the Scale of the Universe", and "End of the World 2012?".

Recent public talks:

2012 Debunking

Somehow I managed to get myself involved in debunking the 2012 myth (just Google "2012" and brace yourself if you've never heard of this). It all stems from an answer I posted on the Curious? Ask an Astronomer site to the question What's Going to Happen on Dec 21st 2012. The only real astronomical answer is that it's the winter solstic at 11.11 UT and solstices happen twice a year every year. I'll say it again - there is no astronomical evidence to suggest that there is anything special about this date at all. It is no more likely that the world will end on this day that any other.

I was invited to discuss 2012 on the Montel William radio show "Montel Across America" on May 14th 2009 (podcast of entire show).

Sometimes I get asked to explain in more detail the science around the myth. Here is a rather lengthy interview I did for someone researching a 2012 book.

I also have a public/schools talk about the topic which I blogged about School visit: the End of the World in 2012?

Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer

I was a question answerer and website developer for Curious? Ask an Astronomer, (a service of the Astronomy Department at Cornell University) starting in 2000. The Ask an Astronomer program, (started and run mainly by Graduate Students at Cornell on a completely voluntary basis) maintains a website and answers questions sent in by the public on all areas of astronomy. We completed a drastic up-date of our website and launched the new version in May 2002. I continue to be involved as a "guest question answerer".

Questions answered by me.

Project ASTRO, Boston

In 2006-2007 I was involved in Project-ASTRO in Boston. I co-planned and taught an 8th Grade Astronomy Enrichment Seminar with Cathy Longley-Cook (8th Grade Earth Sciences Teacher), Wilson Middle School, Natick, MA. I returned to the school in 2008 to talk at their Star Party.

Expanding Your Horizons

Expanding your Horizons is a one day conference on the Cornell Campus for middle school age girls. The aim is to encourage them in their interest in science, maths and engineering. I was involved in this program 2002-2005, first as a workshop leader of the Galaxies Galore workshop, then also as one of the organizational committee chairs in 2003 (T-shirt chair). In 2004 and 2005 I was one of the three Conference Co-chairs responsible for the over-all management. EYH at Cornell has grown into a large program in the last few years. We have many sponsors responsible for providing us with a budget of over $20,000 and invite up to 200 girls (and their chaperones) for the day. Over 300 volunteers from the Cornell community make this one day event possible.


GSSOP (Graduate Student Schools Outreach Program) is designed to help Cornell graduate students teach a mini-course in a local school. In the Spring semester of 2004 I taught a course 'Understanding the Sky' to Ms. Snow's 2nd grade class at R.C. Buckeley Elementary School in Lansing, NY. MSWord Documentation (hosted at the GSSOP site).

Focus for Teens

Focus For Teens Astronomy Program, Cornell University, Summer 2001-2005. In 2001 I ran the galaxies workshop with Kristine Spekkens. We played with Chris Mihos's Java Applet on merging galaxies (GalCrash). I also ran the workshop on Life in the Universe with Timothy McConnochie. In 2002 Kristine and me did the Galaxies workshop again. I also did the Planet Walk with Wynn Ho. In 2003 I did Galaxies with Amelie and the Planet Walk with Wynn. In 2004 and 2005 I just did the Planet Walk.

Cornell Adult University

Summer 2002-2005. In 2002 and 2003 I helped Wynn Ho run the observing nights at the Fuertes Observatory on campus for the CAU participants and their famillies. In 2004 and 2005 Brian Kent and myself took on the running of this program.

CONTOUR Comet Challenge

CONTOUR Comet Challenge. 2002. I was part of the panel doing the preliminary judging of the entries for this US national competition run by NASA, and I was also one of three graduate students to accompany the winners on their trip to see the launch from Florida on July 3rd 2002. Unfortunately CONTOUR stopped working (exploded?) during it's third stage firing just a few weeks later. That's life I guess.

Oxford Space and Astronomical Society

  • President, Oxford Space and Astronomical Society, Oxford, UK, 1999-2000. The year term ran from April-April. Duties included organising the speaker schedule and introducing and entertaining the speakers.
  • Publicity Officer, Oxford Space and Astronomical Society, Oxford, UK, 1998-1999. Produced term-card and kept members informed of events via mailing list. The Publicity Officer was also incharge of recruiting new members.

Davis Planetarium at the Maryland Science Center

I was a Console Operator at the Davis Planetarium in the Maryland Science Center, Baltimore,USA, June-September 1998. My main job was to help run the planetarium show every 20 minutes during the summer season. I got the chance to participate in some live star shows and also helped out with the opening of the Crosby Ramsy Memorial Observatory which is located on the roof of the Science Center. I was also involved in the yearly projector maintenance at the end of the summer. This summer in the US was done as part of BUNAC's Work America program.

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