Humans of Sparklab – Kate

SparkLab Learning Officer
Queensland Museum

Kate is a science communicator with a Masters of Science Communication from Imperial College London. With a background in science and journalism, Kate loves working in SparkLab because she gets to have great conversations with visitors about science and learn about science all day.

SparkLab Learning Officer Kate, presenting at the Science Bar

What first sparked your interest in science?

My love of science started with a picture book. It was full of fun facts, beautiful pictures, and simple experiments for kids. I used to love picking out different experiments to try with my brothers. I was also lucky to have some great teachers who recognised science as something to enjoy. My grade 4 class created a whole weather station including wind socks, rain gauges, anemometers and thermometers. I remember taking all our contraptions to the oval to test them out. The joy and excitement of being able to measure the weather for ourselves – just like meteorologists do – showed us that science can be done by anyone.

What’s the most interesting science communication/educational project/program that you’ve been involved in?

A few years ago I worked in an exhibition about robots, which was amazing! The exhibit included very old automatons, as well as modern technology. The modern robots could fold paper aeroplanes, tell jokes, and play games. I was fascinated by the complexity of their skills, and by the way people responded to them. We also had interesting artefacts for people to play with – from vintage transformer toys to robotic prototypes. My favourite was a robot cat, designed as a companion pet for people with Alzheimer’s. It was so realistic, it even purred when you stroked it. I knew the cat was just a machine, but I still felt a little guilty locking it in the cupboard every night!

Ultra Violet (UV) light exhibit in SparkLab

What’s your favourite space/exhibit in SparkLab and why?

My favourite zone would have to be How do we perceive our world? Do we all perceive it the same way? Humans take in information from their senses to help them understand the world around them but the colours and sounds that we see and hear are really only a small part of the picture. This area of SparkLab allows us to explore other types of light beyond our visible range – for example ultra violet (UV) light or infrared light and also to consider how we hear the sounds that we do. What would it be like if we could sense different forms of light or hear things differently? It’s like discovering a whole new dimension to the world we experience every day.

Science on a Sphere in SparkLab

As you develop new programs and experiences in SparkLab, what is one of the most interesting concepts or discoveries/experiments you have come across?

Working in SparkLab gives me the opportunity to explore areas of science that I’ve never researched before. My science background is microbiology, but I’ve been working on a Science on a Sphere exploration about earthquakes. I’ve learned so much about the formation of our earth, and how it has changed over millions of years. When you look at a map of historical earthquakes, you can even identify the joins in the tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust. It’s as though we are living on a collection of giant, moving puzzle pieces! The more I understand about the way the Earth moves and changes, the more wondrous the world around me becomes.

Which scientist/engineer/ designer (living or deceased) would you most like to have dinner with and why?

The scientist I would most love to have dinner with is Rosalind Franklin. Franklin studied the structures of biological molecules like viruses. Her X-ray images of DNA molecules led to our understanding of its double-helix structure. Franklin’s work led to a number of Nobel Prizes for her fellow researchers, although she never received one herself. I admire Franklin’s dedication to her work, and we share a fascination of the microscopic. We also share a love of outdoor adventure, so perhaps instead of dinner we could go hiking, while I fill her in on 60 years of scientific advancements. I wonder what she would say if she could see how far our understanding of DNA has come today.

Find out more about SparkLab here.

The next time you are in SparkLab, come and say ‘Hi’ to Kate and ask her about experiments you can do with our See the heat exhibit.

SparkLab is proudly supported by Academic Partner The University of Queensland.