Humans of SparkLab – Chelsea

Chelsea – SparkLab Learning Officer at Queensland Museum

Chelsea is a passionate science communicator with a Bachelor of Science (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Clinical Sciences) from Griffith University. Chelsea loves working in SparkLab because she discovers something new and exciting every day through the perspectives of visitors as they lead their own investigations.

Chelsea setting up the Science Bar in SparkLab.

What first sparked your interest in science?

I have always adored learning, but it wasn’t until high school that I first thought that I could have a career in science. This was sparked because I had the opportunity to go to The Santos Science Experience; a science camp for students to take part in fascinating lectures and workshops on subjects like black holes and neuroscience, and allows them to do experiments such as extracting DNA from strawberries! I later went on to staff this experience myself for eight years.

At Griffith University, I discovered a fascination for learning about how the human body works, and a passion for science inspired by my outstanding lecturers. It was here that I was given the opportunity to begin my journey in science communication running chemistry experiments with high school students.   

What’s the most interesting science education program you’ve been involved in?

For World Science Festival Brisbane in 2017, I co-developed an interactive forensic investigation activity in a busy shopping centre. The participants were informed that a neighbouring school might have stolen the school mascot from their biggest school sporting rival and visitors had to look for scientific evidence to solve the crime.

Participants dusted for fingerprints and compared footprints left at the scene to those taken from the main suspects. Participants even ran chromatography tests on different brands of pens to identify the pen used in the ransom letter left at the school. There was a lot of positive feedback from children who participated in this activity.

What is your favourite space/exhibit in SparkLab and why?

My favourite exhibit in SparkLab is Rotation station – an exhibit which explores how changing your rotational inertia changes the speed at which you spin. As a competitive cheerleader, I find it incredibly interesting to see visitors using this exhibit to purposefully play with their vestibulocochlear system – the sense of balance and orientation.

In SparkLab, I’ve observed that visitors over the age of 18, while spinning, experience nausea from the sensation of dizziness. In contrast after spending my life flipping and spinning, I do not experience this. Children in the space also love seeing adults getting in on the fun of Rotation station as well.  

I’m currently doing reading into the research to figure out why this ubiquitous sensation occurs from dizziness as we age.

Rotation station at SparkLab.

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

Every day in SparkLab our visitors inspire interesting discoveries. Be it at the Science Bar or Science on a sphere, their questions often lead us down avenues we’ve not thought to explore before.

In the development of my Science Bar Good Vibrations, it was endlessly fascinating to continually discover how the properties of different liquids and solids can change the sounds you make and ultimately the sounds you perceive.. The sound produced was very rarely what I predicted it would be and it led me down rabbit holes of research into engineering, physics, and chemistry.

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

I would love to have dinner with Elizabeth Blackburn. She was the first Australian female Nobel Laureate in Physiology.  She is also well known for her defence of scientific integrity in the face of political influence:

There is a growing sense that scientific research – which after all, is defined by the quest for truth – is being manipulated for political ends.” – Elizabeth Blackburn

As someone that is deeply passionate about scientific literacy and policy, this would make for fascinating dinner conversation.  

Find out more about SparkLab here.

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