Inspiring the next generation of scientists was a major theme that came through when SCI members came together at the inaugural Members' Forum last November. SCI’s Liverpool and North West (LNW) Regional Group has endeavoured to do as much as it can to achieve this, using a key weapon – the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre in Widnes, Cheshire.
Catalyst is the only centre of its kind in the UK. With chemistry as its main theme, it is a jewel in the crown of North West chemistry outreach activities for schoolchildren.
The LNW Regional Group has expanded its work with Catalyst this year, building on the success of recent collaboration. The Group sponsors Catalyst’s over-subscribed Saturday Science Club, which provides an opportunity for schoolchildren to experience hands-on science outside of school, with each monthly session usually led by a different industrial scientist. The increased sponsorship has allowed the club to split into two age groups, which, over the last year, have undertaken activities such as making pinhole cameras and extracting vitamin C from different sources.
Catalyst also hosts the LNW Regional Group’s annual family event.
The LNW Regional Group is now working to expand outreach activities across the region, which stretches from Anglesey to Cumbria, including Liverpool and Manchester. Catalyst is supporting this programme by identifying speakers who can travel out to partner institutions to reproduce successful lectures and demonstrations that have been developed. This is being pioneered in North Wales with Bangor University and the Royal Society of Chemistry North Wales Section as partners. With the same partners, the LNW Regional Group is holding a prestigious lecture in Bangor in 2009, delivered by Professor Martyn Poliakoff CBE.
Strong links to the region’s universities are also vital for our annual student careers event – Kickstart Your Career. The support of the chemistry, chemical engineering and bioscience departments in promoting and hosting the evening helps generate high attendance and provides excellent exposure of SCI to undergraduates and postgraduates. Again, a relationship with RSC Chemsoc groups and the Young Members Network has enhanced the impact of the event.
These partnering models, particularly for outreach activity, are ones that the LNW Regional Group feels could be applied elsewhere in SCI, and have a knock-on effect in recruiting energetic members. The Group’s experience is that the majority of the active committee members became involved because they wanted to enthuse the next generations of scientists. Indeed, some of the committee members only contribute to these activities without participating in the wider Group programme. However, without these members, the events would not be so successful.
Alongside all of this, the LNW Group Chair, Dr Mike Pitts, spoke at the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s Festival of Science, in September 2008 during Liverpool's European Capital of Culture year. The message of the talk was clear – with so many ways that chemistry can contribute to solving society’s problems, there is no better time for a young person to become a chemist.
The Liverpool and North West Regional Group is continuing to look to the future and continuing to find new ways in which to inspire the next generation of scientists.
Liverpool and North West Regional Group Chairman