The I-Lab-U challenge: meet ordinary people

Climate hoax, anti-vaxxers, nitrogen crisis – mistrust between science and the articulate public is growing. I-Lab-U is an invitation to bridge the abyss by speed-dating.

Photo from first trial at Erasmus MC (Photo: Helene Vidaki)

Photo from first trial at Erasmus MC (Photo: I-Lab-U)

Next month in Delft

The second round is next month in Delft with the theme ‘Getting closer’ on 28 February from 18:00. I-Lab-U is a fun way to improve your communication skills. Vidaki and her team are looking for TU Delft researchers to meet the public. After all, they say, everybody is looking for someone to lab. Are you?

Who said that earning a PhD is a lonely journey? Not anymore. PhD candidates and postdocs wanting to practice explaining their work to ‘ordinary people’ are invited to enlist for the first-ever scientific speed-dating event on campus called ‘I-Lab-U’ on February 28. Before that event, a first round will take place at 18:00 at Rotterdam Library on 24 January under the theme ‘The spark between us’.

I-Lab-U was the winner of last year’s competition on science communication by the Bataafsch Genootschap on the occasion of its 250th anniversary. The question was: how can the connection between scientists and the public be improved in an experimental way?

Dr Athina Vidaki, a postdoc in the field of epigenetics at Erasmus MC, proposed a speed-date between researchers and members of the audience. She drew her inspiration from her experience as a forensic science ambassador to talk about her research.

After a small trial at Erasmus MC, she received a lot of enthusiastic feedback, both from researchers and the audience. Here’s a selection.

  • “Talking in simple terms is still challenging for me, but definitely something that can be improved with experience over time. I loved the interaction and the curiosity of the public about my research!”

    Anthropologist, scientist
  • “I was intrigued by some of the questions from the public, not what I was expecting! Interacting directly with the public helped me see my research from a different perspective!”

    Virology researcher, scientist
  • “Finding common ground when talking to a non-expert public is important. Sometimes scientists start talking ’science’, but all they really do is talk to the public in another language! Sharing experiences with other scientists at the I-Lab-U event was useful!”

    Evolutionary geneticist, scientist
  •  “The I-Lab-U experience was a lot of fun, and I got the chance to ask some questions I had after watching CSI to a real forensic scientist!”

    Photographer, public
  • “I wish I had had more than five minutes with the scientists! But I got to have a drink with them afterwards and continue the chat. Would totally recommend it.”

    Social worker, public

According to Vidaki, I-Lab-U is a fun way to improve your communication skills. She and her team are looking for TU Delft researchers to meet the public.

  • I-lab-U, ‘The spark between us’, for discussions in topics like electrical engineering, neurobiology, robotics, behavioral and computer sciences. 24 January from 18:00, Rotterdam Library
  • I-lab-U, ‘Getting closer’, for discussions in topics like virology, microbiology, transport, astronomy, nanotechnology and psychology. 28 February from 18:00, TU Delft Library

Science editor Jos Wassink

Do you have a question or comment about this article?

Comments are closed.