Episode 7 - Dr. Natalie Whitehead, Co-Founder Exeter Science Centre

By beyondyourresearchdegree

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Natalie Whitehead, co-founder of the Exeter Science Centre. Here are some links to the different organisations and schemes we discussed in the podcast:  Dr. Natalie Whitehead Linkedin  Exeter Science Centre  Student Start Ups  SETsquared   Exeter City Futures  Exeter Science Park  Kaleider  The Ocean Clean-Up  The Impact Lab  National Marine Aquarium   CDT Metamaterials    Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses   Podcast transcript   1 00:00:10,940 --> 00:00:23,510 Hello and welcome to the Beyond your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter Doctoral College 2 00:00:23,510 --> 00:00:27,590 Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of Beyond Your Research Degree. 3 00:00:27,590 --> 00:00:34,550 I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and I'm delighted for this episode to be joined by one of our recent graduates, Dr Natalie Whitehead. 4 00:00:34,550 --> 00:00:39,770 Natalie, are you happy to introduce yourself? OK, great. 5 00:00:39,770 --> 00:00:46,640 So I'm Natalie Whitehead. I recently finished my PhD in physics. 6 00:00:46,640 --> 00:00:54,050 I was looking at spin waves through magnets, which are just a special type of wave that travels through magnets. 7 00:00:54,050 --> 00:00:58,310 That was my PhD and that finished in September. 8 00:00:58,310 --> 00:01:07,910 And I'm now the founder and director alongside my colleague, Dr Alice Mills for the Exeter Science Centre. 9 00:01:07,910 --> 00:01:12,920 Talk to me about the Exeter Science Centre. How how did this come about? 10 00:01:12,920 --> 00:01:20,180 So this is something that I've been thinking about for, oh, I don't know, probably just a bit over a year now. 11 00:01:20,180 --> 00:01:26,390 But a year and a half. And basically, I I was trying to work out what to do after my PhD 12 00:01:26,390 --> 00:01:32,810 So this who was in physics and during my PhD and undergraduate degree, 13 00:01:32,810 --> 00:01:38,180 I was really involved in doing public engagement with research and a lot of science outreach. 14 00:01:38,180 --> 00:01:45,260 I absolutely love talking about science and and speaking to the public about it and showing them demos and getting their 15 00:01:45,260 --> 00:01:53,660 views and trying to answer questions and things and basically just trying to inspire them about how amazing science is. 16 00:01:53,660 --> 00:01:59,540 So I was trying to work out what to do after the PhD, which would, you know, 17 00:01:59,540 --> 00:02:04,970 be good for me, but also for something that I can really contribute towards. 18 00:02:04,970 --> 00:02:08,770 So, you know, the climate crisis is a really big thing at the moment. 19 00:02:08,770 --> 00:02:14,370 Of course, it should be and should have been for the. I don't know how many decades. 20 00:02:14,370 --> 00:02:23,930 And I really feel like I have some kind of responsibility to do something with my physics training, which is useful. 21 00:02:23,930 --> 00:02:27,350 So I was trying to work out what to do and whether, you know, 22 00:02:27,350 --> 00:02:32,030 whether I should go and work for one of these amazing Start-Up companies doing cool things. 23 00:02:32,030 --> 00:02:34,280 You know, I was looking at the the ocean clean up. 24 00:02:34,280 --> 00:02:41,780 I think what they're doing is amazing, using science and tech to solve the problem and a global issue and lots of other companies like that. 25 00:02:41,780 --> 00:02:50,990 It's nice thinking. Well, you know, I could go and work for someone like that. Will I be the best scientist or engineer to do that? 26 00:02:50,990 --> 00:02:56,240 I don't know. But I thought really what my what my skills are. 27 00:02:56,240 --> 00:03:01,610 One of the things I'm really passionate about, as I mentioned, is science communication. 28 00:03:01,610 --> 00:03:11,330 And this idea really just came to me one afternoon having lunch and thinking like, why don't I just make a science centre in Exeter? 29 00:03:11,330 --> 00:03:16,070 It's just something that I've always kind of thought, wow, we should really have one of those here 30 00:03:16,070 --> 00:03:20,540 I've been to a few around the UK and across the world. 31 00:03:20,540 --> 00:03:28,610 And I just I love going there. And I see adults and people of all ages just absolutely loving, 32 00:03:28,610 --> 00:03:37,480 understanding different things about science and playing with scientific equipment and just really engaging with science. 33 00:03:37,480 --> 00:03:43,530 And I just figured, why don't we have one here? And why don't I just make it? 34 00:03:43,530 --> 00:03:49,580 So I approached my colleague Alice, and she's a very passionate science communicator as well. 35 00:03:49,580 --> 00:03:53,150 And she loved the idea here. And we've just been talking about it since then. 36 00:03:53,150 --> 00:03:57,050 So, yeah, we're just super dedicated to making it happen. 37 00:03:57,050 --> 00:04:02,120 So what stage are you at with your plans for the science centre? 38 00:04:02,120 --> 00:04:08,120 We're still in the very early stages. So, as I mentioned, I finished the PhD in September. 39 00:04:08,120 --> 00:04:12,030 And of course, when you, you know, hand in a PhDthesis, 40 00:04:12,030 --> 00:04:16,440 you still got a lot of work to do afterwards to kind of, you know, do the viva and make corrections. 41 00:04:16,440 --> 00:04:22,570 So that's been kind of continued and maybe into about January or so. 42 00:04:22,570 --> 00:04:29,580 And then I really properly submitted it put in online and then then could properly focus on this that I've been working on. 43 00:04:29,580 --> 00:04:35,930 It's pretty much full time on and off, you know, around the thesis since September. 44 00:04:35,930 --> 00:04:44,420 So what we're what we're doing at the moment is trying to get trying to get the public to be aware of our plans and try 45 00:04:44,420 --> 00:04:54,650 to get their input and really just try to establish ourselves as a science discovery centre for Exeter and for the region. 46 00:04:54,650 --> 00:04:59,150 And just trying to raise awareness, try to raise money as well. 47 00:04:59,150 --> 00:05:03,920 That's a big part of it. And just trying to make it happen. 48 00:05:03,920 --> 00:05:15,740 We've got a a team of advisers who are amazing and super inspiring from different areas of science education and business as well. 49 00:05:15,740 --> 00:05:21,020 And they're kind of our advisory boards. They'll be moving over to be our trustees. 50 00:05:21,020 --> 00:05:27,650 Once we establish ourselves as a charity soon. But there's there's loads of things to do about it. 51 00:05:27,650 --> 00:05:33,350 When you take on such a big project, you realise that, you know, you're running a business. 52 00:05:33,350 --> 00:05:38,170 You're also trying to create a charity here, charitable business. 53 00:05:38,170 --> 00:05:46,240 Engage with the public. And that is just a kind of multidisciplinary project ready, which is really exciting or very overwhelming. 54 00:05:46,240 --> 00:05:50,380 But at the same time, it's some I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. 55 00:05:50,380 --> 00:05:55,870 I was going to say it's it's a huge project and and it is there must be an awful 56 00:05:55,870 --> 00:06:02,440 lot of business based skills and business based work that needs to be done. 57 00:06:02,440 --> 00:06:05,890 How how has that been? How has it been. Yeah. 58 00:06:05,890 --> 00:06:10,650 You know, going from an academic environment to doing much more business related work. 59 00:06:10,650 --> 00:06:12,610 Have you found that transition easy? 60 00:06:12,610 --> 00:06:19,690 Have there been kind of skills and experiences you've been able to take across or has it been a complete learning curve? 61 00:06:19,690 --> 00:06:29,020 It's been a very steep learning curve. So am I. I don't have any experience of running a company myself, and nor does my colleague Alice. 62 00:06:29,020 --> 00:06:34,930 So we're learning. However, I feel like when you you do a PhD and you study. 63 00:06:34,930 --> 00:06:38,470 I mean, you know, from my experience of studying science and physics, 64 00:06:38,470 --> 00:06:45,470 you you have to take in a lot of information and and process things and think logically. 65 00:06:45,470 --> 00:06:49,480 And, you know, you you can learn things very quickly. 66 00:06:49,480 --> 00:06:58,420 And although the business and accounting and finance and all that kind of stuff is it's not my first language at all 67 00:06:58,420 --> 00:07:02,900 I feel like there's there's a lot of information out there that just needs synthesising, understanding. 68 00:07:02,900 --> 00:07:06,310 And really, that is the way we're approaching this. 69 00:07:06,310 --> 00:07:10,420 Of course, we understand it. We we shouldn't be expected to be absolute experts. 70 00:07:10,420 --> 00:07:12,630 Everything we're doing and this projects, rather, 71 00:07:12,630 --> 00:07:20,530 it's it's understanding when we need help and need assistance and guidance from people who really have experience in this. 72 00:07:20,530 --> 00:07:27,190 So we've been very lucky, actually, to have a lot of assistance from the university in. 73 00:07:27,190 --> 00:07:35,920 In this kind of Start-Up venture, if you would call with the start-ups team, setsquared programme. 74 00:07:35,920 --> 00:07:40,420 They've been absolutely wonderful and giving us the kind of business advice. 75 00:07:40,420 --> 00:07:50,590 So we've been assigned a business adviser, David Solomides, who is just super inspiring and really, really, really helpful. 76 00:07:50,590 --> 00:07:58,210 And he's become one of our kind of formal advisors and hopefully one four trustees will move to a charity as well. 77 00:07:58,210 --> 00:08:00,040 So so the help is out there. 78 00:08:00,040 --> 00:08:09,580 I suppose if I was to give advice to someone perhaps who is thinking about doing something unusual like this, who doesn't have the experience. 79 00:08:09,580 --> 00:08:17,950 I guess it's just you just have to go for it and be prepared to ask and and reach out to people and organisations who can help you, 80 00:08:17,950 --> 00:08:23,290 such as the university and and others. It's just been wonderful. 81 00:08:23,290 --> 00:08:32,890 Actually, the amount of support and help that we've received from from various kind of organisations across Exeter and mostly really the university. 82 00:08:32,890 --> 00:08:38,250 But, yeah, I feel like we've we've been assisted the whole time with them. 83 00:08:38,250 --> 00:08:43,830 With things like this, especially business, which is kind of scary and unusual for the physicist, 84 00:08:43,830 --> 00:08:50,420 for scientists, but I but I think it's it's totally doable and it's always going to be a learning curve. 85 00:08:50,420 --> 00:08:56,400 But if you're determined enough, you'll you'll make out. Yeah. And I think there's a couple of things I'd like to pick up on there. 86 00:08:56,400 --> 00:09:01,740 The first of which is to just acknowledge that that the support is out there in it. 87 00:09:01,740 --> 00:09:12,170 And it's not about knowing everything yourself and having all of the skills yourself, but knowing how to access your networks, I guess. 88 00:09:12,170 --> 00:09:17,070 And and and in this case, for you, it is the university and the start-ups team. 89 00:09:17,070 --> 00:09:23,970 Definitely, definitely. That's really important, too, because you you can't possibly know everything, 90 00:09:23,970 --> 00:09:30,090 really recognising that is really important because otherwise you just try and do everything yourself. 91 00:09:30,090 --> 00:09:33,510 It get stressful. It gets overwhelming. 92 00:09:33,510 --> 00:09:41,820 It's kind of it's almost like knowing when to delegate and knowing when to knowing that you can't possibly know everything 93 00:09:41,820 --> 00:09:47,010 and that there is a big support network there if you're part of the university or have been part of the university. 94 00:09:47,010 --> 00:09:58,600 They are just wonderful in in encouraging and helping and facilitating anything to do with Enterprise or Start-Up Ideas. 95 00:09:58,600 --> 00:10:05,010 That is just been even the kind of encouragement that you get of, you know, wow, this is a great idea. 96 00:10:05,010 --> 00:10:10,870 You should speak to this person or have a look at this. It's it's just been really, really helpful. 97 00:10:10,870 --> 00:10:16,820 And I think people don't expect that to be a department of the university that has this kind of business expertise. 98 00:10:16,820 --> 00:10:20,160 And they really do. Yeah, that's it. 99 00:10:20,160 --> 00:10:32,110 And I seriously encourage anyone to to go visit the the Innovation Centre as the start-ups team are over in the deck over there. 100 00:10:32,110 --> 00:10:40,420 And they're just they're just great. You just pop in and speak to them and they can they have lots of kind of seminars, workshops and advice for you. 101 00:10:40,420 --> 00:10:50,820 So just go and speak to them. They're really great. So the experience you have of writing papers, your thesis reports, funding applications, 102 00:10:50,820 --> 00:10:56,880 all those sorts of things clearly and stood you in good stead for what you're doing now. 103 00:10:56,880 --> 00:11:09,660 Are there any other skills or experiences you had during your PhD day that have been really, really crucial to starting this venture? 104 00:11:09,660 --> 00:11:19,110 That's a good question, because I think, to be honest, the whole thing really the the way that I was approaching this, 105 00:11:19,110 --> 00:11:22,820 they're calling it a project, is there's more than a project. 106 00:11:22,820 --> 00:11:32,400 So that is an ambition. But, you know, you have to break it down into small, achievable steps because, of course, 107 00:11:32,400 --> 00:11:39,540 you know, Mount Improbable really in this case is building a multi-million pound science centre. 108 00:11:39,540 --> 00:11:43,680 But they're kind of finite steps you can break this down into. 109 00:11:43,680 --> 00:11:48,690 Okay. We need to talk to people. We need to make a plan. 110 00:11:48,690 --> 00:11:51,090 And then those have some steps as well. 111 00:11:51,090 --> 00:12:01,800 So the important thing is when you're doing a Ph.D., you cannot say, right, I'm going to just just solve this big problem I have for, you know, 112 00:12:01,800 --> 00:12:10,440 it's going to take four years and a PhD in this case, it might take about I dunno about seven years if we're if we're lucky to get the funding. 113 00:12:10,440 --> 00:12:17,970 But at the same time, it's a seemingly insurmountable task, but it can be broken down into small, achievable chunks, 114 00:12:17,970 --> 00:12:21,660 some of which you're doing all at the same time, which just makes it a little bit more challenging. 115 00:12:21,660 --> 00:12:31,080 But, um, but yeah, I think that the whole time management and understanding that things can be done, 116 00:12:31,080 --> 00:12:36,030 they just need to be done in small chunks is very helpful from a PhD 117 00:12:36,030 --> 00:12:44,670 So what else. Things like presentation skills. That's been hugely important to them during the a PhD 118 00:12:44,670 --> 00:12:49,890 We've had a lot of opportunities to to do presentations, you know, preparing PowerPoint, 119 00:12:49,890 --> 00:12:57,270 doing either conference presentations or presentations to our colleagues about the way that we're doing. 120 00:12:57,270 --> 00:13:06,120 Again, you have to be clear. You have to be kind of clear enough to a to a broad audience who don't necessarily have your expertise. 121 00:13:06,120 --> 00:13:14,390 And you have to express complicated ideas in a very short space of time, sometimes five, 10 minutes or so that you've got. 122 00:13:14,390 --> 00:13:22,500 And I found actually that that I've had that experience here as well. So we've had a number of number of opportunities where we will be doing business 123 00:13:22,500 --> 00:13:28,980 pitches to various audiences and they might be five minutes long or so. 124 00:13:28,980 --> 00:13:34,230 So I've had the same problem I have to express to people this kind of amazing 125 00:13:34,230 --> 00:13:39,750 vision that I that I and my colleagues have about the Exeter science centre. 126 00:13:39,750 --> 00:13:46,080 And I have to explain it in five minutes and everything that could possibly encompass and that's challenging. 127 00:13:46,080 --> 00:13:49,470 It's something I'm still kind of learning about because, of course, 128 00:13:49,470 --> 00:13:53,910 they people think of it from a business sense to not only have you got to express the vision, 129 00:13:53,910 --> 00:14:01,040 you have to express, you know, how you're going to get funding and all of this kind of extra detail to in five minutes. 130 00:14:01,040 --> 00:14:06,440 So that's been challenging. So, yeah, there's some really cool things are coming across. 131 00:14:06,440 --> 00:14:14,010 That's the the writing, as we've already talked about, but also the kind of product and time management presentation skills. 132 00:14:14,010 --> 00:14:22,430 So I think the thing that's. That's really interesting to reflect on is that it's not necessarily obviously what you're doing is science related, 133 00:14:22,430 --> 00:14:32,030 but it's not necessarily the the science specific skills that you're using certainly at this moment in time. 134 00:14:32,030 --> 00:14:37,490 It's it's the broader kind of skill set that you develop through the process of doing the research degree. 135 00:14:37,490 --> 00:14:45,900 Definitely, definitely. I think it's not necessarily you know, you don't have to have done a science PhD to to be able to do this stuff. 136 00:14:45,900 --> 00:14:54,620 But certainly, from my perspective, it has helped a lot because I feel I said and I hope I'm sure it's the same in other disciplines. 137 00:14:54,620 --> 00:15:01,940 Of course, I have no experience of it, but I just feel like doing a you know, doing a PhD in general, 138 00:15:01,940 --> 00:15:13,490 I think gives you this this ability to take on and face a lot of information and and that kind of stuff, that that's really incomprehensible. 139 00:15:13,490 --> 00:15:21,650 Synthesise it down and make logical steps when you understand what what needs to be done. 140 00:15:21,650 --> 00:15:28,670 So it's definitely helped. I guess that the difficult question but the one that I know that people will be 141 00:15:28,670 --> 00:15:35,000 wondering is obviously this isn't making you any money at the moment to be to be blunt. 142 00:15:35,000 --> 00:15:50,060 So are you working alongside it? So that the way that I'm doing it at the moment is we don't have any specific income, which is, you know, 143 00:15:50,060 --> 00:15:56,870 obviously would be difficult for a lot of people, to be honest, being pretty thrifty throughout the PhD 144 00:15:56,870 --> 00:15:59,810 I know a lot of PhD students often, you know, 145 00:15:59,810 --> 00:16:09,680 work an extra year sometimes to write up results and and maybe their funding ends and they have to continue writing the thesis. 146 00:16:09,680 --> 00:16:16,190 Luckily, with the way that I did the PhD in the centre for doctoral training in metamaterials, they were wonderful. 147 00:16:16,190 --> 00:16:20,010 And they would they would, you know, pay you for the full amount of time. 148 00:16:20,010 --> 00:16:23,570 So you had a good four years to write up. 149 00:16:23,570 --> 00:16:35,630 But what we're trying to do is, well, we've got some it's called co creation funding from one of our advisors who's amazing, Dr. Janet Anders. 150 00:16:35,630 --> 00:16:43,310 She's provided us with some funding to basically pay a very small stipend that will start soon. 151 00:16:43,310 --> 00:16:49,880 Yeah, it is a bit of a problem because when you when you do start something like this way, 152 00:16:49,880 --> 00:16:56,750 maybe you don't have an immediate income source or or reading something current kind of charitable. 153 00:16:56,750 --> 00:16:58,890 You do need to have a bit of a business head on you. 154 00:16:58,890 --> 00:17:04,400 You need to think about how how you're going to make money from it, mainly because it has to be sustainable. 155 00:17:04,400 --> 00:17:08,480 We don't want to make a big salary for ourselves. We're not interested in that. 156 00:17:08,480 --> 00:17:15,620 We want to do something good. To be honest, it would just be great if, you know, we could we could all just live for free and do nice things. 157 00:17:15,620 --> 00:17:21,220 But of course, that, of course, you have to you have to think sustainably long term. 158 00:17:21,220 --> 00:17:25,640 So this has been something we've been thinking about for a while. How on earth do we do this? 159 00:17:25,640 --> 00:17:33,500 Because, of course, you know, I initially were like, we need to make this amazing building, amazing centre, because that will have the most impact. 160 00:17:33,500 --> 00:17:38,630 And, of course, we need a lot of money for. How are we going to get to that stage? 161 00:17:38,630 --> 00:17:48,050 Well, we think that since our expertise, mine and Alice's when Alice joins us properly in September, 162 00:17:48,050 --> 00:17:50,650 our expertise really is public engagement with science. 163 00:17:50,650 --> 00:17:56,960 And of course, we we've had a lot of experience working with academics and working in academia. 164 00:17:56,960 --> 00:18:04,160 And we think that's a really important way for us to bring money in initially just to 165 00:18:04,160 --> 00:18:09,590 kind of pay ourselves a small salary and enable us to work on this properly for for 166 00:18:09,590 --> 00:18:16,820 a longer term is to work with academics to kind of basically do public engagement on 167 00:18:16,820 --> 00:18:21,680 their behalf or with them and take the hassle out of that whole process for them, 168 00:18:21,680 --> 00:18:32,120 including the reporting back and making sure that everything's clear for the for the the ref, the research excellence framework. 169 00:18:32,120 --> 00:18:40,190 So what we're what we're doing is starting now to work with academics to make public engagement programmes of their research, 170 00:18:40,190 --> 00:18:43,460 which involve, you know, working schools, the public. 171 00:18:43,460 --> 00:18:52,460 And we've got, of course, a big growing audience across the Southwest to reach and do public talks for them, help them make exhibits. 172 00:18:52,460 --> 00:18:57,700 And eventually we hope that this will transition into working with them properly for, 173 00:18:57,700 --> 00:19:03,180 you know, putting putting their amazing exhibitions in the science centre itself. 174 00:19:03,180 --> 00:19:09,160 But the way we've kind of reframed thinking about this project is that, you know, it's not just working towards a building. 175 00:19:09,160 --> 00:19:13,970 You know, that isn't the end goal, really. It would be wonderful. We really, really want it to happen. 176 00:19:13,970 --> 00:19:19,130 But the really important thing that we can be doing right now is having an impact with the public. 177 00:19:19,130 --> 00:19:28,790 You know, even though we don't have a centre, we can still be a kind of a kind of abstract idea of a centre, which is just, 178 00:19:28,790 --> 00:19:36,110 you know, we're doing something great where we're communicating science to the public in a scientific research. 179 00:19:36,110 --> 00:19:43,520 And by the way, I have to clarify, like I'm using science, but really, that's an umbrella term for STEM or science, 180 00:19:43,520 --> 00:19:51,200 technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, which we're using but I tend to just use science because its shorter 181 00:19:51,200 --> 00:19:55,320 So we want to communicate science, the public. We want to have an impact now. 182 00:19:55,320 --> 00:20:00,020 And and we don't need a building to do that. Of course, when we have a building, 183 00:20:00,020 --> 00:20:08,330 we'll be able to have so much more influence and impact and have a space that people can actually visit and engage with. 184 00:20:08,330 --> 00:20:14,840 But for now, we're going to be working with academics that should bring some money in to enable us to do this. 185 00:20:14,840 --> 00:20:21,440 And at the same time, we're going to be working to get grants from from various funding bodies and of course, 186 00:20:21,440 --> 00:20:31,220 working towards getting what we hoped might be some philanthropic or some capital grant funding to make the building itself where we're optimistic. 187 00:20:31,220 --> 00:20:38,810 That's brilliant. And just sounds like a really, really considered a weay to. 188 00:20:38,810 --> 00:20:43,550 Support yourselves, but also develop and support the. 189 00:20:43,550 --> 00:20:55,340 The business slash charity. And develop those connections and that interest and engagement with the future centre. 190 00:20:55,340 --> 00:21:01,430 Definitely. Yeah. I mean, we're really I guess the thing is we're not trying to do something on the side, 191 00:21:01,430 --> 00:21:07,380 which is I don't know for example, selling scientific toys 192 00:21:07,380 --> 00:21:11,280 Maybe that would make some money. It's kind of relevant, but not really. 193 00:21:11,280 --> 00:21:14,240 But that's more of a kind of profit making enterprise, which is just trying to, 194 00:21:14,240 --> 00:21:18,550 you know, and whether that profit goes towards the stuff that we're doing. 195 00:21:18,550 --> 00:21:27,350 We we thought we might as well try to get some some income through doing the activities we really ought to be doing anyway. 196 00:21:27,350 --> 00:21:34,070 It's just kind of lucky, really, that some that there is a market for, if you want to call it that. 197 00:21:34,070 --> 00:21:37,760 We know that a lot of academics are really busy and they don't necessarily have 198 00:21:37,760 --> 00:21:44,050 the skills or the the time to do proper public engagement rather than just, 199 00:21:44,050 --> 00:21:49,730 you know, going to a school once throughout the whole course of of of a grant. 200 00:21:49,730 --> 00:21:55,700 Instead, what we can do is say, look, you know, you don't need to bother about sending all those emails and organising things and 201 00:21:55,700 --> 00:22:00,740 reporting back and and trying to reach a broad audience will do all that stuff for you. 202 00:22:00,740 --> 00:22:02,390 And at the same time, we're doing something good, 203 00:22:02,390 --> 00:22:08,870 because it's we're getting to talk to the public about science and about exciting research that's going on locally. 204 00:22:08,870 --> 00:22:14,150 So it just ticks loads of boxes, really. We really hope that's gonna be a viable income source for us. 205 00:22:14,150 --> 00:22:17,560 But we're working on it. Yeah. Yeah. 206 00:22:17,560 --> 00:22:21,290 As I said, it sounds incredibly exciting. And the. 207 00:22:21,290 --> 00:22:29,030 The idea of of the centre, and I mean certainly as a kind of I grew up locally and I remember taking school trips, 208 00:22:29,030 --> 00:22:39,340 we always had to go to Bristol, you know, to the science centre. And so the idea of having having that in Exeter seems. 209 00:22:39,340 --> 00:22:43,690 It almost makes me sort of when I when I saw saw the work you were doing, 210 00:22:43,690 --> 00:22:49,600 it made me think what actually given this exeter science park, we've got the Met office here, the university. 211 00:22:49,600 --> 00:22:54,400 Why don't we have one? Yeah. Exactly. Really pleased you said that 212 00:22:54,400 --> 00:23:01,870 I guess this is a good opportunity to kind of explain, you know, a rationale for putting it here and also what we're trying to achieve. 213 00:23:01,870 --> 00:23:07,680 So if you. The clearest thing I tend to start with, of course, on a podcast, so I can't show you it. 214 00:23:07,680 --> 00:23:12,720 But if you look at the map of science centres across the U.K., these are. 215 00:23:12,720 --> 00:23:15,280 I have to kind of define science centre first. 216 00:23:15,280 --> 00:23:25,330 So a science centre or Science Discovery Centre is a kind of Hands-On science museum, which isn't about exhibits behind glass, 217 00:23:25,330 --> 00:23:31,390 which are kind of historical or, you know, and and have a more historical kind of background. 218 00:23:31,390 --> 00:23:42,400 It's more about Hands-On experiences which are trying to, you know, infuse and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds about science. 219 00:23:42,400 --> 00:23:44,710 So that's what a science centre is. 220 00:23:44,710 --> 00:23:55,360 And if you if you look at the map of science centres across the U.K., there is just a gap in this region which needs filling, quite frankly. 221 00:23:55,360 --> 00:24:03,150 So, as you mentioned, there's one in Bristol, which is really curious and that's amazing, really a really great centre. 222 00:24:03,150 --> 00:24:07,150 And they've got a wonderful planetarium. And it's just it's just really cool. 223 00:24:07,150 --> 00:24:12,820 It's actually one of the the earliest science centres in the UK in its original form. 224 00:24:12,820 --> 00:24:21,570 And also what else we got down in the Southwest where we've got these projects, of course, amazing and really iconic. 225 00:24:21,570 --> 00:24:25,930 And the Eden projects is still quite specialised in its aim 226 00:24:25,930 --> 00:24:32,630 So that, you know, it's more about kind of I kind of want to get it wrong, but more horticultural, you know, 227 00:24:32,630 --> 00:24:42,820 it's it's it has a certain theme associated with it isn't really general science, including like space and astronomy and biology and things like that. 228 00:24:42,820 --> 00:24:52,190 It's it's more specialised in what it does. And there's also the Plymouth the Aquarium in Plymouth. 229 00:24:52,190 --> 00:25:00,280 That, again, is very specialised. It's a it's an aquarium. And it says more about, you know, it very specialised theme. 230 00:25:00,280 --> 00:25:03,730 So what we're trying to create is a is a general science centre, 231 00:25:03,730 --> 00:25:08,500 which covers all aspects of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. 232 00:25:08,500 --> 00:25:18,160 And we are trying to to fill this gap of science engagement in the Southwest and why Exeter 233 00:25:18,160 --> 00:25:21,760 Why not Tiverton or Cullompton? 234 00:25:21,760 --> 00:25:23,020 Or something like that. 235 00:25:23,020 --> 00:25:33,730 Well, Exeter itself is is really trying to establish itself and is doing a wonderful job at being a real science and tech innovation hub. 236 00:25:33,730 --> 00:25:38,530 I mean, you're right. We have the Met office, we have the university, 237 00:25:38,530 --> 00:25:49,330 we have the exeter science park and this consists of a load of really exciting science and tech companies who are who are doing great things. 238 00:25:49,330 --> 00:25:58,240 So Exeter already is a hub of science and that does lots of great things going in the region are going on in the region around here. 239 00:25:58,240 --> 00:26:04,270 And it really just is the perfect place for it, not only because they know it has great connections, 240 00:26:04,270 --> 00:26:15,100 particularly for North Devon and the more rural areas across the southwest, you know that the roads all head towards Exeter. 241 00:26:15,100 --> 00:26:21,340 And, of course, the train service as well. So we're trying to take as many boxes as we can in terms of location. 242 00:26:21,340 --> 00:26:27,940 We want to really locate it in the centre of Exeter so that people don't have to drive to get to us. 243 00:26:27,940 --> 00:26:34,750 You know, they could use public transport or they could use a park ride service and and you know that. 244 00:26:34,750 --> 00:26:37,780 Or they could cycle in and whatever, depending on where they live with. 245 00:26:37,780 --> 00:26:43,950 You know, if we were located out in the countryside, pretty much everyone would have to drive to get to us or, 246 00:26:43,950 --> 00:26:47,860 you know, it would just make it more difficult for people to reach us. 247 00:26:47,860 --> 00:26:53,050 And also, we're just we're trying to become a real cultural centre. 248 00:26:53,050 --> 00:26:56,170 You know, we don't want to be a kind of tourist attraction on the outskirts. 249 00:26:56,170 --> 00:27:05,140 We want to serve the public and and host clubs where if we get this amazing building that we'd like to create, 250 00:27:05,140 --> 00:27:10,200 we'd love to have green walls of rooftop garden. 251 00:27:10,200 --> 00:27:14,140 You know, maybe we'd love to work with the RHS for example, 252 00:27:14,140 --> 00:27:24,190 and the Eden project to create a kind of rooftop Eden where people come and they they have mindful kind of gardening activities 253 00:27:24,190 --> 00:27:32,920 and clubs they might take part in from a kind of gardening for mental health kind of idea that we'll have public lectures. 254 00:27:32,920 --> 00:27:38,110 So I just imagine it being this kind of space that people, you know, whether they're. 255 00:27:38,110 --> 00:27:47,560 Interested in science, whether they're interested in the arts, though, will come in and an experience this place in lots of different ways. 256 00:27:47,560 --> 00:27:52,100 The thing I haven't really emphasised too much. Mainly because it's it's something I'm really excited about. 257 00:27:52,100 --> 00:28:01,570 I don't necessarily have the expertise in is the fact that we want to tie in art with the science centre really strongly. 258 00:28:01,570 --> 00:28:10,340 And I'm still working out ways to do this. I met with residents at the amazing and inspiring Studio Kaleider 259 00:28:10,340 --> 00:28:17,620 And that's the kind of organisation which not only facilitates lots of artists who work together and and 260 00:28:17,620 --> 00:28:24,700 work on really inspiring things that they create these amazing kind of art experiences and installations. 261 00:28:24,700 --> 00:28:32,470 So I'm a resident there, which means that they very kindly let me use their office space and, you know, work amongst their colleagues. 262 00:28:32,470 --> 00:28:40,660 And I'm hoping that will, you know, help me get an insight into this. This amazing arts community we have in Exeter in the Southwest, 263 00:28:40,660 --> 00:28:49,210 and we're trying to we're trying to ensure that that isn't just a, you know, science centre for science nerds. 264 00:28:49,210 --> 00:28:56,110 You know, even that would be some nerdy components of the science centre. 265 00:28:56,110 --> 00:29:03,820 We wanted to ensure that it's appealing to a broad audience and we want to emphasise that science, isn't it? 266 00:29:03,820 --> 00:29:08,890 Well, okay. The subject isn't just you're a scientist or you're an artist. 267 00:29:08,890 --> 00:29:20,530 You know that you can be both. You can use the skills from both areas to to to basically understand the universe. 268 00:29:20,530 --> 00:29:26,950 We find ourselves in and that's what artists are trying to do, you know, interpret and understand the world. 269 00:29:26,950 --> 00:29:33,130 And that's what scientists are trying to do as well. I don't see them mutually exclusive, I think. 270 00:29:33,130 --> 00:29:38,740 I think we can learn a lot from each other. And I just think it would just make it so much more interesting. 271 00:29:38,740 --> 00:29:45,730 We have been to a few science centres, the one in particular that really resonates with me, 272 00:29:45,730 --> 00:29:52,510 and that is a great inspiration for the place we're trying to make is the Exploratorium in San Francisco. 273 00:29:52,510 --> 00:29:55,150 They have a an artist in residence. 274 00:29:55,150 --> 00:30:05,260 They have these amazing creative and kind of psychologically interesting art installations which have loads of science behind them. 275 00:30:05,260 --> 00:30:10,660 And they just I can't even express it. It's it's really inspiring stuff. 276 00:30:10,660 --> 00:30:15,910 And we'd really love to emulate that. And that's something I'm trying to work on at the moment. 277 00:30:15,910 --> 00:30:25,960 We're trying to understand how we can embed and and make a thread running through a whole centre of art as well as science. 278 00:30:25,960 --> 00:30:33,150 So there's a lot of information. It just sounds incredibly inspiring. 279 00:30:33,150 --> 00:30:39,960 And it's great to hear that you're working with Kaleider as well is that a connection that the university that through the start-ups, 280 00:30:39,960 --> 00:30:45,760 set up, or is that something that you sought out yourself? So I'm trying to think how that happened. 281 00:30:45,760 --> 00:30:58,720 I think I was doing a pitch. This was I handed my PhD thesis in on the Monday and on the Tuesday, I had a pitch at an Exeter Cits Futures event. 282 00:30:58,720 --> 00:31:07,900 Oh, wow. Yeah. And I hadn't written my presentation for it, so I had zero I had to hand, my thesis on the Monday morning. 283 00:31:07,900 --> 00:31:14,530 And then that afternoon prepared my presentation. And then I'm quite literally on that Tuesday. 284 00:31:14,530 --> 00:31:20,490 Everything starts kicking off. So I had of emails and really started working on the Science Centre the next day. 285 00:31:20,490 --> 00:31:24,360 So that was intense. But yeah. 286 00:31:24,360 --> 00:31:35,200 But I think from that meeting, the kind of networking meeting, I met Andy at Kaleider and he said, oh you need to come in to our open Fridays. 287 00:31:35,200 --> 00:31:39,700 So they have this wonderful thing where on a on a Friday anyone can go and use their 288 00:31:39,700 --> 00:31:44,410 office space and just kind of mingle and do some work there and talk to people. 289 00:31:44,410 --> 00:31:47,710 And. And I I did that a few times. 290 00:31:47,710 --> 00:31:54,070 I just thought, this is so cool. You know, everyone is so interesting and they're working on great things. 291 00:31:54,070 --> 00:32:01,000 And they were really welcoming. And I guess I just I just wanted to be part of it. 292 00:32:01,000 --> 00:32:06,190 So I applied to become a resident. And they very kindly let me in. And yeah. 293 00:32:06,190 --> 00:32:14,860 So it kind of happened through just one of the networking events that these wonderful events that Exeter City futures organisers. 294 00:32:14,860 --> 00:32:22,090 I heartily encourage anyone who is thinking of setting up or being part of or doing something locally. 295 00:32:22,090 --> 00:32:24,290 They should just go to these kind of events. 296 00:32:24,290 --> 00:32:33,910 You know, there's lots of no on exeter city features have this amazing, you know, idea for the future of, exeter, that they're really proactive. 297 00:32:33,910 --> 00:32:37,880 It's just a great place to get things done. I can't really explain. I think it's it's. 298 00:32:37,880 --> 00:32:42,450 Exeter. It's the kind of people that are working here that are doing things here. 299 00:32:42,450 --> 00:32:50,020 There is a lot of encouragement and a lot of help and a lot of opportunities. So it's really the best place to be doing something great. 300 00:32:50,020 --> 00:33:00,680 That's that's brilliant. That's really, really brilliant. I think we probably draw to a close, but in doing so what? 301 00:33:00,680 --> 00:33:05,730 What advice would you give someone that's thinking about. 302 00:33:05,730 --> 00:33:11,940 I guess setting up their own business or venture or or project or, you know, we can use a variety different terms, 303 00:33:11,940 --> 00:33:17,970 but they're getting towards the end of the end of the research degree of the day, they're thinking about what's next. 304 00:33:17,970 --> 00:33:24,450 They want to set up on start up on their own. What advice would you give them? 305 00:33:24,450 --> 00:33:28,810 Okay. I would suggest that they have to. 306 00:33:28,810 --> 00:33:36,100 If they say they've got the project, they they understand what they want to do or even if they have a brief idea. 307 00:33:36,100 --> 00:33:46,650 First of all, if that part of university, I'd suggest talk to the kind of student entrepreneur team we have. 308 00:33:46,650 --> 00:33:53,400 We have one at Exeter. Of course, they're amazing. Go and talk to them and they will probably give you some amazing advice. 309 00:33:53,400 --> 00:34:01,020 Maybe you attend a seminar about, you know, how to put your put your business ideas into practise. 310 00:34:01,020 --> 00:34:09,180 They have lots of things about how to make a business plan, how to, you know, make you go to networking events and and make Connections. 311 00:34:09,180 --> 00:34:13,350 So I would really firstly suggest just talking to people about it, 312 00:34:13,350 --> 00:34:24,000 preferably people from the business entrepreneurship team, and also try and get a bit of a team behind you if you can. 313 00:34:24,000 --> 00:34:30,960 Trying to do something as a single person is really tough because, you know, 314 00:34:30,960 --> 00:34:39,510 not only is it really helpful to have a sounding board for other people to come say, well, should we do it this way or maybe we should try this. 315 00:34:39,510 --> 00:34:48,450 You know, I think this is why, for example, in in university lab work, you know, when you we have we have lab projects. 316 00:34:48,450 --> 00:34:49,560 You have to do it. 317 00:34:49,560 --> 00:34:58,050 They usually put you with a partner or there's a small team of you that really helps realise working in a series is hugely important to this. 318 00:34:58,050 --> 00:35:01,750 So maybe they'll be two of you, maybe three of you. 319 00:35:01,750 --> 00:35:08,970 And then, you know, eventually you'll start thinking about getting advisors on board maybe who have business experience, 320 00:35:08,970 --> 00:35:14,340 maybe you who are just super enthusiastic about your cause and have experience from other areas. 321 00:35:14,340 --> 00:35:23,490 But it's it's just I suppose don't be afraid of going and doing something unusual. 322 00:35:23,490 --> 00:35:32,020 You know, it might when you when you say to people, oh, I want to make a case, maybe 40 million pound science centre in Exeter, 323 00:35:32,020 --> 00:35:37,380 I think a lot of people would just like you're completely mad and you kind of say, 324 00:35:37,380 --> 00:35:44,220 well, you know, you have to be a bit crazy to do something like this. But, you know, it can be done in that it should be done and that it can happen. 325 00:35:44,220 --> 00:35:49,890 If you're motivated enough. You really I guess you have to have the enthusiasm for what you're doing. 326 00:35:49,890 --> 00:35:54,840 You have to be motivated and particularly resilient to setbacks, 327 00:35:54,840 --> 00:36:05,770 to the kind of overwhelming nature of what you're doing and just get people around you who can support you, who can guide you and who can help you. 328 00:36:05,770 --> 00:36:13,020 Yeah. Talk to First of all, the first thing to do is talk to the amazing people and the student start-ups team. 329 00:36:13,020 --> 00:36:15,500 That's my advice. Absolutely. 330 00:36:15,500 --> 00:36:24,300 And you've mentioned lots of different resources here, like the start-ups team at the Innovation Centre, set squared Exeter City Futures, Kaleider 331 00:36:24,300 --> 00:36:28,110 And I'm going to put links to all of these organisations and information in the show 332 00:36:28,110 --> 00:36:34,430 notes so that people can kind of follow up on on those brilliant recommendations. 333 00:36:34,430 --> 00:36:35,670 And that's it for this episode. 334 00:36:35,670 --> 00:36:44,250 Thank you so much to Natalie for taking the time to talk to me about what is an incredibly exciting project and the range of support. 335 00:36:44,250 --> 00:36:52,530 You can access it if you're interested in this kind of charitable, entrepreneurial venture after your research degree. 336 00:36:52,530 --> 00:37:08,273 And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.  

Listen to Episode 7 - Dr. Natalie Whitehead, Co-Founder Exeter Science Centre now.

Listen to Episode 7 - Dr. Natalie Whitehead, Co-Founder Exeter Science Centre in full in the Spotify app