Nathalie Jonsson

Science Writer 

Preaching To The Choir Or Converting The Unbelievers

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I have never had a science teacher that made me fascinated by science. I do not come from a family of scientists. I actually spent the first 18 years of my life trying to avoid science.

When I was 16, I chose to study languages. I mainly did it because English was ‘easy’. I knew I’d get away with a good grade. I thought that, unlike science, languages are really simple. They are all about rules. Just learn the rules of how to conjugate verbs in French, learn the exceptions by heart and fluency will be within reach. An added bonus was that at beginner’s level just showing effort would lead to a good grade.

Then at some point, I had to do some basic science classes. I was extremely unexcited at the prospect and probably skimmed through a French glossary in class. Then we got a handout on which we had to answer questions about the bases that make up DNA. My friend and I flicked through the biology book in search of complex answers.

We were surprised to find that there are only four bases in DNA and they bind to each other in pairs and are most commonly known by their one-letter names: AT and CG. We had to ask our teacher if there were any exceptions that we could learn by heart. There were none. That was it. Our teacher prompted us to move on to the next question. We had never been so productive. No dictionaries, discussion of what was the most appropriate verb and not even Babel fish.

A few years later, while studying biology at university, I was on the floor of my student accommodation drawing a visual representation of how DNA is duplicated. I was studying for my next exam, but most importantly I was having fun. In all honesty, it wasn’t that difficult. I wondered why I had been so reluctant all my life, why I had thought science was so hard.

I vowed that I would do all in my power to make other people find science as interesting as I did. And I today I believe that the best way to do this is to approach the topic in new ways and make it easy to understand.

There are others that also try to make scientific concepts easy to understand. In specific, a group of scientists based at the Blizard Institute in Whitechapel researching Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at Queen Mary University of London. They have developed an innovative take on how to explain MS to children who might have a parent suffering from the condition.

To me, the mission of converting the science unbelievers is an important one. Hopefully, by attempting it, at least one youngster out there will dare to get excited about science and not run a mile whenever it is mentioned.

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