This past month, I've had the pleasure of talking to Parin Shaik of Science and Us, which is an organization dedicated to promoting science communication. Within our interview, Parin discusses her journey into being involved with Science ad Us, current projects, and their goals for the future.
Daysia - Interviewer
Parin - Interviewee
Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me! Your organization is truly inspiring. When I first heard of the makeathons that Science and Us held, and the large community that you built around science communication, I would have never imagined that it was all youth-led.
Can you tell us a bit more about your organization in your own words, including its mission and values, and why you started it?
Thank you so much for the kind words! I actually didn't start Science and Us; in fact, I was once a regular attendee! My friend Kat actually started Science and Us early 2018 and hosted our first event at Boston University, which I attended. Simply put, Science and Us strives to bridge science and the public, with an emphasis on high school and middle school students. Many of today's pressing issues (such as Climate Change, COVID-19, etc.) require us to understand the science behind them to actually take a step towards solving them, which can be attributed to proper science communication between scientists and the public. We're getting students to familiarize themselves with the idea of communicating complex ideas in creative and engaging ways through our Makeathons and networking with invited experts in various disciplines.
Thanks for the clarification! It's actually awesome to see someone so moved by an organization's mission, they want to help lead it. In this case, can you give us more insight on how it was to join the organization so early, and to see it grow into what it is today? Did you imagine yourself in a lead position, or the organization coming so far when you first walked in?
Joining Science and Us as a rising freshman, in all honestly, molded me to become the person I am today. I was surrounded by a group of individuals from all over the state and backgrounds but were all united by their passion for science communication and spreading the word about it. Since we had newly formed, we didn't have access to the resources we have now, but we made the best with what we had!
I'm so proud to see how much Science and Us has grown; with 4 events and impacting around 100+ students, I definitely think we have more opportunities to explore and a plethora of initiatives to try out and spread the word about science communication!
I would have NEVER imagined becoming the current director of Science and Us, quite frankly. I like to think of myself as an introvert; I usually keep to myself and at first, was extremely intimidated by the mere thought of having to host calls with invited experts. However, I ventured outside my comfort zone and mustered up the courage to take on meetings and during the process, I realized that these "intimidating" science communicators were all regular people passionate about the same thing I was!
I'm truly so grateful to have such an amazing team supporting each other's ideas and making scicomm more accessible for our peers.
It's amazing that Science and Us has gone through so much growth! This may be particularly difficult now, during the pandemic. How is Science and Us managing to carry their mission virtually? What can high school students do currently to get involved?
The current pandemic has forced us to resort to virtual options, which prompted us to try our hand at hosting a virtual Makeathon last month. In our first session, we divided students into groups of 3-4 to create a project that communicated a biology topic of their choice using a given medium. Throughout the process, we learned one very important lesson: the best incentive to motivate curious students is free food.
Although it was difficult to motivate students during the process since it was all done online, we managed to get 5 AMAZING project submissions, which we're grateful for! We as a team learned a lot and will be improving on the initiative, which we hope to bring back later this year or early next year! We could not have made this possible without our invited experts, participants, and amazing team members.
We're currently in the works of finalizing our next big idea and, spoiler alert: we're revamping a past project of ours! We started working on it last year but didn't get the chance to publish it, so we're excited to be showcasing what we've been thinking about for so long!
That's amazing! I really hope there's a way for everyone to see the projects they've created. And I'll definitely be promoting your next project idea (with your permission, of course). Speaking of future projects, what are your ultimate goals for Science and Us? This can range from introducing new topics, to hosting global events. Where do you want your organization to be? There are no implausible answers.
All the projects will be available for public viewing on our website's community page in the next few weeks! And, by all means, your team is welcome to spread the word once we start gearing up to officially launch!
I'm really excited to see how far Science and Us will go in the near future! I would love it if one day, we could host events catered toward various audiences instead of solely high school students! Science communication affects everyone in different ways so I'd love it if we could have an event open to the public where families could create scicomm projects themselves! It'd also be amazing if we had the flexibility to host events in places other than the east coast, such as the west coast, or possibly abroad!
There are tons of science communication conferences and events tailored for professionals farther in their career but as far as I know, none for high school students. I think it would be amazing to replicate that experience and host a global "Science and Us Summit" of some sorts; basically an event for high school students interested or involved in science communication to come together and make something impactful in our community! Of course, it will include free food and merch.
Those aspirations are amazing! We have one final question: What advice would you give to other youth who want to start organizations centered around their interests? Do you have words of wisdom for those who are just starting, or are nervous to begin?
I'd say just go for it! I'm a firm believer in the saying "effort never betrays effort", and make sure I apply this belief to my everyday tasks, whether they pertain to Science and Us or not. It doesn't matter whether your organization has or hasn't gained a 501c3 status, or if your team's comprised of anywhere between 3 and 200 members -- although it'll be tough to gain momentum in the beginning, a passion for something should never falter in the face of "failure", whatever failure means to you.
If you work hard for something, I think the universe conspires to give you a result that's just as rewarding.
Connect with Science and Us!
Science and Us has recently released a new project: Humans of Scicomm!
As stated by Parin, "We're talking to diverse science communicators about their struggles entering the field due to their identity. We’re currently seeking storytellers!"
This is their advertisement poster: