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Source: Massey University


Biochemistry PHD student, Sophie Burling created the series as a way of making academics research more accessible.

A new series of conversations has come to Palmerston North enabling Massey University academics and student researchers to share their research and their inspirations while discussing current affairs within our society today.

The brainchild ‘Something to Chew On’ started during the COVID-19 lockdown when Biochemistry PHD student, Sophie Burling, thought about ways that the university could make people’s research more accessible to the wider community.

Over the past six months, 10 talks have been held with a range of panelists ranging from cancer biologists, psychologists to PHD students and undergraduate students who have talked on a range of topics to an audience which has stretched beyond the university community.

Miss Burling said they had a lot of people tune into the talks who were not in any form of study.  

Due to level four restrictions the talks were unable to be a public event, so she decided to live stream the event over Zoom and share it through Facebook. However, as Palmerston North is not at alert Level 1, Miss Burling was able to host the first public event on 25 September.

With support from the Graduate Research School and Steve Stannard, the event was held at the intimate space at Stannard’s Cyclista Espresso Bar & Roastery. There, Massey’s Associate Professor in History Geoffrey Watson, Dr Elizabeth Ward and tutor in History and Politics and Professor in Politics, Richard Shaw met an assembled audience of 15; they were joined on Zoom with lecturer in Māori history, Dr Peter Meihana.

The theme for conversation was called ‘Love in the age of COVID: Making sense of politics in Aotearoa, New Zealand’ and each researcher gave their interpretation of what this meant to them and delved into the topic of the 2020 election giving insight into different attributes of politicians and parties.

Miss Burling said the talks were about bringing people from different areas of expertise together and giving people the opportunity to listen to people that they would not usually hear from.

“It’s about making it more open and about bringing those conversations about what we do in the sciences and different areas and instead of it being a structured talk or on specific research, it’s about making it more personable and sharing experiences.”

She said whenever she picks the panelists, she tells them not to plan material and to speak in a more causal conversational tone.

“They’re able to portray their experience to people. It is more about their story rather than just focusing on their research and although that’s important it’s more about what their journey was about that brought them to where they are today. If they’re a PHD student, then it’s about what drove them to their research or what inspired them.”

The next talk scheduled is still a work in progress Miss Burling says but is hoping to put together another soon.