My Geology Note-blog

A chronicle of my PhD journey and other geology writings

Category: Sci-comm

I’m bad at self-promotion, yo

It took me 9 drafts to write my UCAS personal statement. Nine. And I don’t mean 9 edits, 9 completely different, total start-over rewrites. Basically, I find it difficult to talk about myself.

Ask me to talk about Star Wars? I’ll give you plot summaries for a dozen different expanded universe novels and a full critical analysis of the films.
Mention Robot Wars? I’ll give you my top 10 robots and all the series winners.
Doctor Who? I can do a one woman re-enactment of the episode “Eleventh Hour”.
Geology? I hope you’re sitting comfortably because I’m about to give you a ten part lecture series with particular focus on volcanology, petrology and the applications of X-ray tomography.
Science fiction? Let me tell you about the last 5 novels I’ve read and what else the authors of said works have also written.
Ask me to sell my skills and/or talents in a 60 second elevator pitch? I’ll clam up faster than a bivalve out of water.

Applying for things have always required a certain level of selling one’s self. It makes sense, who else is going to explain why someone should hire you except you? Except when you can’t do it well at all. And that’s particularly worrying for the perpetually self-deprecating. This type of self-promotion is needed as much for taking part in events and activities as applying for jobs. The outcomes are different but the methods are similar.

More generally, my issue is trying to walk the fine line between “hay, I’m taking part in a thing” and “hay, check out how brilliant I am for doing this thing” and fearing I come off more like the latter than the former. One solution seems to be removing the “I” and “me” from the equation, i.e. “Hay, this thing is something really exciting and interesting, hope you can come along!” Shifting the focus from the self onto the action or topic, if you will.

The other solution is the aforementioned self-deprecating route, i.e. “Hay guys, come along and laugh at me doing a very public thing”. Which certainly works as a way of hiding real insecurities under a facade of exaggerated, artificial insecurities.

Another is to speak plainly and not second guess what people may or (as likely) may not be thinking vis.: “Hay, I’m taking part in an event called Soapbox Science on Saturday 10th September with a group of other female scientists in Swansea City Centre and I’d really like to have some friendly faces in the crowd.”

There, I finally said it.


Some great Sci-Comm videos

Recently I made a piece of science communication by filming myself colouring New Scientist’s #ColourMeLHC picture. The results of which can be found here:

But rather than self-promote I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to highlight some of my favourite Sci-Comm videos out there that I often re-watch just for the heck of it, cos they’re so damn good.


First off, chemical gardens by Periodic Videos: It has it all, photogenic chemistry, enthusiasm and quotes from literature! Need I say more?

Also from Periodic Videos: Iodine Clock in Slow Motion, Losing fingers to chemistry, the world’s smallest periodic table, how much caffeine is in coffee?


Next up, Veritasium’s world’s roundest object. From a seemingly random task of creating the roundest sphere of pure crystalline silicon known to man to redefining Avogadro’s constant this is a great video.

Other good videos include topics on the most radioactive places on Earth, his attempt at supercooling water and why empty space isn’t empty.


Numberphile has some fantastic videos, one of my favourites is the discussion of Chicken Nugget Numbers.

Other great videos include topics on the Nepal flag, mobius strips and tori, game of life, calculating pi with pies and an infuriating fake proof that all triangles are equilateral that I still can’t figure out.


ViHart creates maths videos and all of them are worth a watch, even some of her more avant-garde works such as her riff on ‘i’ called Reel. One of my favourites though is Doodling in Maths Class: Connecting the dots.

Here series of videos going from dragon curves to logarithms is her best series of videos found here, here, here and here.


NurdRage is an enigmatic youtube chemist who does fun chemistry that would be very dangerous outside of his professional lab environment. My favourite of his is “Grow silver metal crystals with electrochemistry” as well as his videos on how to make “hot ice” at home.

For those who like natural science, especially biology the Brain Scoop has you covered. My favourite video is a very early one called “The spirit collection”. The presenter, Emily, now works at The Chicago Field Museum.



Vsauce is an interesting one, often his videos are two parts science, to one part philosophical musings. My favourite video of his is on the topic of the world’s shortest poem but as far as science videos go his Banach-Tarski Paradox is fantastic if you don’t mind long form video.


Finally, the mind behind PhD comics brings us his Piled higher and deeper youtube channel with some great videos that combine his cartoon style with science. The Higgs Boson Explained video is particularly fantastic, as is his video on Extra Dimensions.


Other science channels that I sometimes frequent include: Thunderf00t (ignore the other, non-science, videos if you don’t like discussion of social issues), Sixty Symbols and everything else by Brady Haran, SciShow and the other Youtube EDU output by the Vlogbrothers, Quirkology and singing banana.

Well, that should keep you entertained for an hour or so…

P.S. I made myself some New Year “challenges” this year, one of which is to produce one piece of Sci-Comm/outreach every week. Let’s see how we do!