Soapbox science

A scientist from our school left her lab to stand on a soapbox to explain nuclear physics to members of the public and to help eliminate gender inequality in science.

Chantal Nobs, a PhD student at the University of Brighton, was one of 12 women selected to participate in the Soapbox Science London event on London’s Southbank.
Her session ‘Nuclear physics: Exploring the centre of the atom and harnessing its potential’ involved discussing her work and her experiences as a female scientist.

Chantal said she was impressed with the reaction from members of the public. One said: “Now, not only do I know what it means, but I know that women can do it.”

The key aim was to help eliminate gender inequality in science by raising the profile and challenging the public’s view of women in science. In addition to sharing their research with the general public, all 12 women became role-models for future generations.


Chantal said: “Although I was incredibly nervous before stepping onto my soapbox I thoroughly enjoyed the hour-long session. As soon as I had introduced myself, out of no-where, a full crowd had formed around me. A complete mixture of young and old, male and female, some who knew all about nuclear physics, and some who had never heard of a nucleus.

“The best part of the event for me was the variety of questions asked, everything from ‘how did you get into nuclear physics’ to ‘how do we know whether we have created a nucleus if we cannot see it’.”

Watch video highlights from Chantal’s talk here

Universities of Brighton and Cambridge share £368,000 Leverhulme grant

The universities of Brighton and Cambridge have won a £367,700 grant to research the use of diagrams instead of mathematical symbols to make complex data accessible to more people.

Scientific advances today increasingly depend on understanding, manipulating and querying data – and businesses which can capitalise on the value of information will have a competitive edge.

Traditional mathematical logics used to represent information are inaccessible to most people but by combining computer science and cognitive science, researchers aim to develop a novel and accessible diagram-based logic suitable for information representation and reasoning across a wide range of subject areas.

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Dr. Gem Stapleton

Dr Gem Stapleton, Reader in Computer Science in the University of Brighton’s College of Life, Health and Physical Sciences, said: “The tools we develop will enable better communication and understanding between those who produce models to represent information, and those who use them, and ultimately lead to more robust and effective models to underpin scientific research.

“A particularly exciting aspect of our project is that it draws on both computer science and cognitive science to address a long-held assumption that using diagrams makes modelling and reasoning accessible. To do this, we will produce a formal and accessible diagrammatic reasoning system. In doing so, we aim to bring the full communicative benefits of diagrams to the field of knowledge management.

“This will enable non-specialist users to access and understand data, a process which is vital to scientific advances in the 21st century.”

The grant, which will fund two post-doctoral researchers, one at Brighton and one at Cambridge, for three years, has come from the Leverhulme Trust which makes awards for the support of research and education. It was started by Victorian businessman William Lever who founded Lever Brothers.

The lead researcher at Cambridge is Dr Mateja Jamnik, Senior Lecturer in the Computer Laboratory. For more information on Dr Stapleton, go to: https://sites.google.com/site/stapletongem/home and for more information about the research project, go to: https://www.brighton.ac.uk/research/our-research/life-health-and-physical-sciences/research-groups/computing/accessible-reasoning-with-diagrams.aspx

or https://www.brighton.ac.uk/research/our-research/life-health-and-physical-sciences/research-groups/computing/accessible-reasoning-with-diagrams.aspx