|Niamh Shaw is a freelance science communicator and performer. She combines her science expertise with improvisation and story-telling skills.
Niamh Shaw What do you do for a living?
I’m a communicator and a performer. I’m passionate about bringing all that is interesting in science, engineering and technology and telling these stories in new ways.
What’s a typical day like?
There is no typical day! I could be meeting with a science organisation to figure out how to focus on a new area for them, I could be joining a panel discussion or brainstorming on an upcoming event.
Did you always want to be a scientist?
I wanted to be everything when I was very young and I still do! I was always taking things apart and trying to figure out how they worked. There was a scientist and an engineer in there. I’m ridiculously enthusiastic about all sorts of research.
What’s your training and education?
I have a degree in bioengineering from University College Dublin (UCD). It provided me with a solid problem-solving skill-set and gave me a good foundation in lots of different kinds of engineering.
Then I did a research masters in engineering. After this I applied to the UCD food science department and was awarded a PhD position on edible films – biodegradable packaging. Following this I took a postdoctoral research position in the food science and technology department in University College Cork for almost three years.
It was then that I began to explore my artistic side. I took a sabbatical and pursued training in performance.
What’s the coolest thing about your job?
I get to meet fascinating people from all walks of life. It takes me everywhere from seeing cutting-edge industry research facilities to Blackrock Castle Observatory Cork, where I can look at the stars for a few hours. I’ll meet with theatre directors who ask me to research particular areas of science for their work. I’m also learning all the time.
What is the most challenging thing?
It’s freelance so a lot of the time you work on your own. Sometimes it’s extremely busy and at others work is very quiet. It’s not a fixed career path with a monthly wage, which can be challenging.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career like yours?
If you’re someone like me with two very strong interests where one never dominated the other, they both have to exist; the scientific, technical brain and the artistic, creative brain. That will never go away so pursue both if you can.