Getting people talking about science - University of Kent

Isamu Amir, a first year doctoral student in the Department of Human System Science in the Graduate School of Decision Science and Technology at Tokyo Institute of Technology, talks about his time on the MSc taught course "Science, Communication and Society" at the University of Kent in Canterbury, U.K.

On campus- the library is on the right hand side
On campus- the library is on the right hand side
An international dinner. The author is the second person from the left in the back row.
An international dinner.
The author is the second person from the left in the back row.

At a module class
At a module class

While studying in Kent I have gained fundamental knowledge and skills in science communication - a subject that many readers may not even have heard of before. The basic concept is "to familiarise science to the public and society", however the subject is challenging and multidisciplinary in nature. During our studies we consider many different perspectives, in order to nurture the ideas and practical approaches that we can use in our science communication. For example, this semester we are carrying out a new project called "Science on the buses" - a poster campaign designed to encourage bus passengers in science topics. This involves a lot of discussion and preparation, and it seems very interesting to me that such dialogues are taking place.

One of the major differences between a Japanese and British postgraduate school is that there are many mature students, who work in jobs as well as attending the daytime classes once or twice a week. The modules, which earn 30 course credits each, are well-organised for such students. There are two mature students in my course: one is a science teacher in secondary schools and the other is a mother who has five children. It is interesting for us to hear their opinions as well as those of younger students.

Another obvious difference is that the lecturers always ask us our ideas and viewpoints during modules. There are many opportunities for students to articulate their opinions either by expressing them in short presentations by individuals or in the form of group activities. I think this is very important in helping us to understand the various topics, and we can find more profound meanings through the processes of reading, analysis and discussion. What's more, the discourse makes us aware of the viewpoints of others. I have rarely seen such activities in Japan.

I faced some culture shocks during my first month of living in England. Upon looking more closely and carefully, I have found that different cultural backgrounds underlie people's behaviour. The different traditions and personalities give me new perspectives, enriching my thoughts and broadening my horizons. It has certainly been worthwhile and I would thoroughly recommend to other students that they should grab the chance to study abroad - they won't regret it.

Tokyo Institute of Technology Bulletin No. 21 (March, 2011)