UCT coordinates the Soapbox Science event for the second time

06 December 2023 | Story Staff writer. Photos Supplied. Read time 2 min.
The Soapbox Science group of speakers, coordinators and volunteers that made the Soapbox Science event possible.
The Soapbox Science group of speakers, coordinators and volunteers that made the Soapbox Science event possible.

Picture this: Energised female scientists stepping out of their labs to thrill and excite the public as they share their research directly on the streets – welcome to the exhilarating world of Soapbox Science.

Inspired by the legendary Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park in the United Kingdom, this worldwide event brings science into the public spotlight, setting the stage for dynamic discussions on ground-breaking discoveries and stirring controversies. It’s science like you’ve never seen before – taking to the streets and sparking curiosity at every turn!

On 25 November, the Soapbox Science event transformed the Clock Tower at the V&A Waterfront into an open arena for learning and lively debates. Eight remarkable speakers from South Africa’s top institutions, including the University of Cape Town (UCT), have covered a spectrum of topics, ranging from nuclear physics to vaccine research. The speakers engaged with people from all walks of life and shared some of South Africa’s most ground-breaking scientific research.

Dr Shorok Sebaa from UCT engaging the public at the Soapbox Science 2023 event in Cape Town.

Led by the dynamic Dr Lucia Marchetti, a senior lecturer in UCT’s Department of Astronomy and a 2015 London Soapbox Science speaker, this event is organised by a group of enthusiastic women scientists: Dr Elisa Nemes and Dr Carly Young-Bailie from UCT, Dr Luna Pellegri from the University of the Witwatersrand and iThemba LABS, and Dr Rosalind Skelton from the South African Astronomical Observatory.

“Soapbox Science provides an exciting opportunity for the public to meet, engage, and be inspired by our great female scientists,” said Dr Marchetti.

“We have been amazed by the public’s reaction to our speakers, especially from the children who had the best questions! This tells us we are doing something important, bringing science closer to the people, outside the wall of our academic environment.”

The Soapbox Science project not only brings fantastic scientists to the people, but it provides training to the selected speakers in public speaking and storytelling, which are fundamental skills for enhancing the scientific dialogue with the general public. This year’s training has been provided in collaboration with the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking Afrika, based at UCT.

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