INTERVIEW: Science Engagement Research Partner Tina Blackmore
A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.* Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.
This interview is with Tina Blackmore, who works as a Science Engagement Research Partner for MARS.
Q: Hello, Tina! First of all, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to answer some questions for our readers!
My first question has to do with how you got to where you are today – the basics. I was told that you wanted to be a veterinarian as a teenager! What sparked your love for animals and inspired you to try to get into veterinary work?
A: Although I only had pet hamsters as a small child, I used to have horse riding lessons, and with that also came frequent contact with all the dogs and cats that were residents at the riding school.
I have always loved solving problems and think that is why, in part, I enjoy science so much. Veterinary science seemed the obvious way to link the two by providing an ill animal treatment after diagnosing them. However, whilst my original desire was to pursue a career in veterinary science, I decided to re-think my career following a couple of weeks of work experience at different vet practices. So, I continued to follow my love of science through academia, which led me to research. When I was younger, it was never suggested that I could combine animals and science through research, yet it is due to this that I am in my current role.
Q: Now you work as a Science Engagement Research Partner. What sparked the change in interests?
A: My PhD was about a common disease for ponies, which meant I met a lot of horse owners who were keen to find out more about the research project. This allowed me to explore the ways in which I could explain the ideas, aims and results of my work to non-specialist audiences, whilst maintaining scientific accuracy. As a result, I developed an interest in science communication and a passion for making science accessible to anyone who wants to know more. This then led to my current role as the Science Engagement Research Partner for WALTHAM, part of Mars Petcare.
Q: What basic message do you hope that your particular brand of science communication gets across? What strategies do you use to get your point across?
A: All of the science communication at Mars Petcare ladders up to demonstrate how we can deliver our vision: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS™. There are a number of ways in which we do this, but our activities and campaigns are underpinned by scientific studies. WALTHAM, as a Mars Petcare research centre, is the primary publisher of original peer-reviewed papers and therefore a significant contributor to science communications by Mars Petcare. The key findings of these studies are then amplified by the Global Science Communication team across numerous media outlets.
Q: Other than science communication, what does your job at MARS as a “Science Engagement Research Partner” for Pet Nutrition entail?
A: Mars Petcare now has over 70,000 Associates (employees). Ensuring that everyone understands how the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and its science contributes to the ecosystem is essential. We do this by sharing the work we do with visitors to the pet centre on a guided tour, in addition to internal communications. This is supported by the Communications teams at WALTHAM.
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Q: What would you say is your favorite part of your job? What is the most rewarding portion?
A: It’s really rewarding to be able to share the great science we do at the pet centre and how this extends to support all the areas under the Mars Petcare banner. I love being able to aid peoples understanding in an area that excites them. Comments like ‘wow, I never knew that’ epitomise that feeling.
Q: Do you have any advice for those getting into science communication?
A: Speak to as many people as possible about an area of science that really excites you. Your passion will shine through, and being able to explain a topic that you know so well to those with limited knowledge in the area provides valuable learning experiences.
This article was not sponsored.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM. Find her on Twitter.