Mad Scientist Tea Parties

Filling minds with science and mouths with tea, the lab coats were off for this series of scientific talks.

The Context

The Mad Scientist Tea Party was an excuse for us to get suave about science. Starting as part of our Bioscience period in the first half of 2012, this talk series was established as an intimate seminar with each event featuring a keynote presentation, as well as shorter contributions from local scientists and enthusiasts alike.

Aiming to engage with the community and make scientific concepts and theories more accessible, the Mad Scientist Tea Party targeted a wide range of demographics, ranging in age from 16-64 years old, and included both practising professionals and enthusiasts.

The Nuts and Bolts

Leading up to each event The Edge held a series of workshops called Spoken Science. Hosted by Brisbane-based writer and poet, Scott Sneddon, these workshops aimed to help local scientists better articulate their often complex ideas and make them more accessible for audiences. Participants were also provided with an opportunity to display their new found communication skills in a 3-5 minute presentation at the event.

SLURP brought the tea to the party, with as much mad flavours such as Pina Colada and Banana Split to Russian Caravan and Old Man’s Eyebrows. SLURP’s flavour innovations were a perfect match for the events.

With an exceptional reception from the public the Mad Scientist Tea Party was extended into the Cosmology period where we explored the science of the universe.

Presenters

Svenja Kratz – a contemporary Australian-based artist interested in interdisciplinary practice with a focus on cell and tissue cultures. Svenja has worked at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at QUT where she also completed a PhD in bio-media art.

Keith Armstrong – a part-time Research Fellow at QUT and freelance new media artist, with research focusing on how scientific and philosophical ecologies can both influence and direct the design and conception of networked, interactive media artworks. Keith’s artworks have been shown across the globe.

Drew Titmarsh – a Post-Doctorate Fellow and PhD candidate in Bioengineering at UQ, focusing his work on the commercialisation of the microbioreactor technology he has developed in his PhD thesis. This technology is important for regenerative medicine such as next-generation therapies using stem cells.

Brendan Griffen – an aspiring astrophysicist who graduated from UQ with degrees in physics and mathematics. Brendan has moved to Boston to fulfil a post-doctoral research position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Collaborating with Harvard and Berkley, his research will contribute to establishing our galaxy’s origins.

Dr Tamara Davis – an award-winning astrophysicist with over 45 publications and in the top 1% of the most highly cited astrophysicists worldwide. She has spent time designing a telescope with NASA and is an expert in supernova cosmology. She is currently mapping the movement of supernovae to understand dark energy.

Dr David Parkinson – a cosmologist and astrophysics lecturer at UQ. He is a member of the WiggleZ team (alongside Tamara Davis) whose work focuses and determining the nature of dark energy. He is also testing theories of creation as well as investigating alternatives to Einstein’s long-standing theory of gravity.

The Learnings

  • Close to 400 people attend the series of six events, proving that people aren’t scared of science
  • Of the attendees surveyed about the event, 70% said this was the first event at The Edge they had come along to, showing that this program worked to attract new audiences
  • Getting outdoors on summer nights is definitely a winning move

The Legacy

The support shown for Mad Scientist Tea Parties got us all excited, so we used this event as a format for our next two talk series, Converplaytions during the gaming period, and Clever Convention, which commenced in late 2013.

The Tea Parties also introduced us to many talented folk, including Svenja who went on to become our Fringes Catalyst and Matt Hynd (of SLURP fame) who went on to become our Hack Resident.

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