Trumpington Meadows

By Dr Sabine Jaccaud, Director of Communications, AstraZeneca Cambridge 

I have spent a lot of time in education and research but would definitely not call myself a scientist, in the way someone working in a lab would do. As one of AstraZeneca’s Energy Challenge mentors, this point of view has allowed me to experience this volunteering role through the lens I have built in over two decades working in communications, with very diverse teams.

Doing a challenge like this one, and as a primary school pupil, involves forming quickly as a team, getting organised, understanding the assignment, agreeing a shared method and goal , and behaving with each other in the best possible way to achieve an outcome, all within a competitive environment. What I particularly enjoy as a mentor is the mirror this holds up to us, as seasoned professionals, and the fresh insights we gain into interpersonal dynamics.

It’s easy to focus on the product, the outcome: an experiment result, a poster, a presentation. I think it’s how we get there that has most of the learning.
The class teachers and science teachers who have welcomed us into their schools are amazing and have given us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a learning experience that is mutual. We bring an activity to the classroom, in the form of the Energy Challenge, and we bring our time as mentors. What we get is the joy of seeing young people engage with something new, find their voice and individual ways of contributing, and also an opportunity to confirm that the process is as important as the product.

The ability to present results to people you don’t know, underpinned by rigour, curiosity and respect, are key to completing a scientific challenge like this one successfully. They are also life skills for us all, whether we are scientists or not.

I now know that so many of us can contribute usefully to STEM activities, if we are clear on what we bring and always look sideways to the hidden learning in a task.