I decided to use my scholar stipend while studying abroad to explore two different science museums to observe how science is presented to the public in other countries. Two weekends ago, I traveled to Edinburgh to visit the Dynamic Earth Museum. The museum explores the natural landscape of its earth and tells the Earth’s story, beginning all the way back at the Big Bang. As soon as I walked in, there was a small Women in Science in Scotland exhibition. This was a great start to the day and it was so inspiring to read about women who are just as passionate about science as I am. I was especially interested in two panels, the first being about Mandy MacLean. She is now a professor at the University of Strathclyde, but spent a brief period in the US. Her research is on pulmonary arterial hypertension and initially drew me in because of its relationship to pharmacology and biomedical sciences. The second panel I was interested by was about Eva Hevia, who described exactly how I feel about research. Her panel stated her belief that, ‘Every day at work is different. Sometimes we have amazing moments; for example, when we make a breakthrough in a project or when some of our work is accepted for publication. Sometimes we also have to face frustrating challenging times, but being part of a team often helps to find solution for these challenges’. There were at least 15 panels, each focused on a different woman in science but this was just the first stop during my time at the Dynamic Earth museum.

The museum is aimed towards children, which I realized as soon as I started my ‘guided tour’ through the museum. Nevertheless, there were also older individuals and adults touring the museum as well. The museum is set up so it is very interactive and engaging which would naturally appeal to children. The tour is truly dynamic and starts with a Time Machine travel experience that eventually took us through many different climates and biomes. The museum’s focus is on the creation and history of the Earth and the world around us. In my opinion, this museum made science more accessible to learn about and related to the issue of climate change that we are now tackling. There was a specific quote that I saw that especially brought the issue of climate change to light: ‘Humans make the mistake of believing that it is their right to survive. Species die out on this planet all the time without anyone noticing. The planet will still be there, and we must lose this attitude of divine right, that something will save us…’ (STING, b.1951).

Overall, from visiting the Dynamic Earth museum, I learned more about earth science.  This museum reminded me of the basic science that I learned about as a kid but I appreciated the emphasis on earth science. In the past year, as climate change has become an important topic, I have become more aware and passionate about sustainability. While studying at the University of St. Andrews, I have joined the Transition organization on campus which aims to make St. Andrews a more climate resilient and sustainable place to live. In addition, one of their goals is to support people in their journey to low-carbon living. They have many different events like Reuse Give Aways and Skillshares, which I have really been into lately. Skillshares are events where individuals in the St. Andrew’s community can come together to learn valuable skills (ex. sewing, plant-based cooking, blacksmithing, etc.) to help individuals be better prepared for a more sustainable future. I hope to continue to be involved in an effort to increase sustainability when I return to University of Richmond and join the UR Sustainability group! In addition to the Transition group, there is an emphasis on recycling, no food waste, thrifting, biking and less use of plastic in the town. Food delivery services (similar to UberEats) instead deliver food by bike! It is clear from being abroad in Scotland that there is a greater awareness and promotion for a sustainable lifestyle than there is sometimes seen in the States.

Joann Chongsaritsinsuk

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