“How dirty is our studio?” – IICD PhD Student works with Hallam FM on ‘germ’ feature

Hallam FM StudioIn October, an email popped up in my inbox, asking for an ‘expert’ from the University of Sheffield to help the Big John@Breakfast team with a feature about germs.

My immediate reaction: who would be mad enough to do that?
My reaction five minutes later: This actually sounds like good fun, maybe I am!

The Big John@Breakfast team wanted to see how dirty their studio was – and more importantly, if any of the team members were dirtier than the others! It didn’t sound too complex and I had done some simple ‘germ tests’ with school children before, during the KrebsFest Schools Project, which was really useful and put me at ease. I truly recommend getting involved with the Public Engagement festivals run by the University; it helps researchers think about their work in new ways, and challenges them to think carefully about the language they use or ways they explain the importance of their work. For the public, it’s a great chance to find out about current research happening right on their doorstep, and is often a great day out for families and all ages.

My work on the Hallam FM radio feature was pretty simple - and luckily it didn’t have to be live, so I didn’t have to be alert and ready too early in the morning! The two main asks were a couple of phone calls and one short trip to the studio, to swab it down and run our tests. Through doing the feature, I hoped to explain that not all bacteria are bad, with many living symbiotically in or on our bodies without causing us disease. I also wanted to mention the idea that overuse of antibacterial products could be damaging to our microbiota – that is the mix of microorganisms that share our body space - and that much like antibiotics, we need to be careful how much we use them.

To listen to the Big John@Breakfast broadcast, please see link on the right.

Working with the media was not something I had done before and the idea of being on the radio was pretty daunting, but I decided to take the challenge and put my skills (and nerves) to the test. I want to show how simple this interaction was and to encourage researchers – particularly students – to grab opportunities like these and enjoy them! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and feel I have gained new ideas for communicating our work – as not all media work needs to be from behind a camera and not all science or research needs to be delivered from the lecture theatre!

Emily Fisk, PhD Student - Department of Infection, Immuity & Cardiovascular Disease
Twitter: @EFisk1