I have to admit I was dreading it a bit – after all, 17/18 year old students can be a tough audience… And judging from the first comments “There’s no such thing as ‘biophysics’, it’s either physics or biology!”, I started preparing for a rough time.
But as I got them to prepare some protein crystallization conditions and began talking, things got quieter and soon I had their attention.
Unlike what we are used to do in seminars and conference talks, they normally ask questions as the teacher speaks, interrupting. So that’s what I got as well, several raised arms, eager to ask the question that just popped in to their heads in that moment. This gave my ‘talk’ a completely different momentum, much more like a conversation, a two way communication route, instead of the usual speech-like nature of our seminars.
Their questions showed not only curiosity but also that they were really thinking about what I was explaining, probing for more details. It turned out to be an interesting discussion, much beyond a strict “lecture”. By the end, I think I managed to convince them that interdisciplinarity is key to science and research and that biophysics is a subject in its own right.
As much as I enjoyed talking about my work, for me the highlight was visiting the Science Fair. It was great to see how some students really used a scientific approach! Even if their chosen ‘research questions’ might seem trivial as “Does chewing gum help you concentrate” or “Which is the better air conditioner?”, the experiment design was well thought, with good controls set-up and a critical evaluation of the results.
Brilliant! Made me think that we might be OK when it comes to the next generation of scientists – they are already stepping forward!