Scientist Spotlight: Amy Edgington
30 June 2021
Hello, I’m Amy. I’m the co-chair for the Women in Earth Sciences group here at UCL and the Outreach Leader for the GeoBus outreach project.
I imagine the first question to answer is, what does an Outreach Leader do? My job is incredibly diverse, it can be anything from writing risk assessments, to building a seismometer out of Lego, but essentially, I develop and deliver Earth Science themed workshops to school students across the UK. GeoBus is a free educational outreach project for schools and aims to provide research-led teaching packages supporting teachers and highlighting the many exciting topics, avenues and careers that can stem from Earth Sciences. The project was originally created by a team at St Andrews University, Scotland, and as a result of its astounding success (they have now reached over 75,000 students), GeoBus UCL was launched in 2016.
Since joining the GeoBus UCL team in 2019 we have reached close to 20,000 students across the UK despite having to stop running face-to-face workshops in March 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. With in-person workshops impossible, we started creating online content including lesson packs, videos, and short experiments that students could follow from home.
As the 2020/2021 academic year rolled closer, it was clear that face-to-face workshops were still not feasible and so we pivoted to virtual delivery. The next challenge was how do we create a virtual workshop that was also hands-on and interactive? The first ingredient was to make it live. The demonstrator is live on screen and can interact with the students, answering their questions, adapting the pace to suit the classes as well as adapt the workshop to suit the audience. Then, the second ingredient was activity kits. Activity kits for each individual student are sent to the school ahead of time and contain 3D glasses, 3D images and cut-out models for the students to use and interact with, creating a more tactile and engaging workshop. The virtual workshops have been running since September 2020 and whilst they have paused during the lockdowns, they are proving to not only provide a method of outreach during this uncertain time but also enabling the GeoBus to reach more schools and students than ever before. GeoBus demonstrators can be beamed into multiple classrooms with entire year groups able to take part simultaneously, providing maximum flexibility to suit a busy school timetable. Plus, we no longer have any limit on location - schools once too far away (as we are limited by travel time) have now been able to take part.
My career leading up to the GeoBus has taken many different turns. For a long time and throughout my undergraduate degree I have always been fascinated by the planets, be it our own or the worlds contained within our Solar System. This wonder led me to UCL Earth Sciences for a PhD in the structure, composition and evolution of Mercury, the enigmatic endmember of the Solar System. It was during this time that I had the opportunity to get in involved in the outreach activities of the department including Soapbox Science and running workshops in local schools and it was then that I realised that I not only loved Earth science, but I loved teaching it.
Following on from my PhD and a short post-Doctoral position here at UCL I trained to become a Physics teacher (GCSE and A-Level). Teaching truly is among the most rewarding and inspiring jobs you can have and the skills I built during my time as a teacher are those that carried me forward to become the Outreach Leader for the GeoBus. I now combine my passion for teaching with the cutting-edge research here at UCL. I get to be creative every day and adapt the incredible work of researchers into lesson-sized and curriculum-embedded workshops in the hope of inspiring the next generation of science leaders! It’s safe to say, I love my job.