Bugs On the Air

Sorry about not posting for a bit now; I was suddenly thrown into a flurry of activity when a surprising offer to give a spot of academic lecturing and tutoring at Macquarie University came at short notice. I’ve never done any academic lecturing (the occasional lab seminar notwithstanding) and there was a lot of preparation involved, as well as going back and forth to Sydney and – to tell the truth – much nervousness. It turned out okay, I guess (at least I think so. Uni undergraduates as a rule are not big on giving feedback. You measure success by how many of them are still awake at the end of the lecture.)

Inbetween all this I managed to do a radio interview or two. Quite good fun, really; I thought the interviewers might be a bit “ho-hum” but they really knew their stuff, asking good questions and coming up with angles on things I’d written.I didn’t really know when the interviews would be on – they pre-record and edit, I never knew radio was so complicated. I thought they just had people coming into the studio, talking and walking out. Instead I found myself sitting in a booth in Melbourne talking with a guy in Adelaide, or being interviewed on Friday over the phone and listening to myself the following morning.

This last interview can be listened to here.

I’ve got a few others coming up in a bit – this time I’ll be better about notifying here beforehand – and having gone through these past ones already, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to get better at this quick. I’m coming across all serious-scientist-person and stuff. I guess a bit of it is that I’m new to all this, and also the questions – all the interviewers were primarily interested in diseases and antibiotics, which I find the least fun part of the field  – but good interviewees know how to say what they want even if the question isn’t going quite there.

Or maybe it’s really all that people are interested in – health and disease. Very understandable, of course, but I sort of thought that there are so many “how germs will kill us all” books out there that I’d try to show the other sides of science, and even – good heavens – make it funny here and there. Perhaps I should stop trying to say “it’s fun! it’s interesting!” and go to the tried and tested method of saying “it’s important! It’s frightening!” that the market responds to better. Perhaps amusing scientists just aren’t a very popular concept in the public, and you can understand why (I can see the headline: “Practical joke at nuclear power plant goes horribly wrong. Evacuation of Canada underway”).

Or perhaps I should just work on my diction, be thankful anyone wants to have me on their show and stop whinging. That’s an idea too, yes.


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