This week we meet Helen Craig, Public Engagement Manager for Life and Medical Sciences. Here, she chats to us about her latest project around public engagement at UCL, New Year’s resolutions and the film she named her cat after.
What is your role and what does it involve?I’m the Public Engagement Manager for Life and Medical Sciences, within UCL Engagement. It’s a really varied role - I balance our core work, including running funding schemes, training and networking, and then also support academics and staff from my faculties in their own Public Engagement projects. I find myself supporting funding bids, facilitating delivery of projects, running bespoke training and fellowship programs and more. I love that I get an overview of the whole university, especially ’my’ faculties of Life, Medical, Brain and Population Health Sciences. And I’ve recently returned from a nine month secondment with UCLPartners, the Academic Health Science Centre, where I was able to really get stuck in with Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement work too.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?I’ve been at UCL for about three and a half years. My previous role was as the Public Engagement with Research Officer at the Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) working at the interface between engagement, outreach and widening participation. Before that I worked as a freelance researcher, scriptwriter and fact-checker for various online and TV projects, most of them science-related. I was most proud of writing regularly for The Toast, a wonderful feminist website that has sadly now closed. On TV, I worked on shows for the Discovery Channel, BBC Worldwide and many others - including memorable filming trips involving working with animals!
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?Within UCL I am so proud of the SLMS Community of Engagers - a peer network for staff and students working with Public Engagement and Patient and Public Involvement (PPI/E), providing a space to develop and share their skills, experiences, resources and knowledge. During the COVID crisis this has moved from a group focused on in-person meetings to a supportive Teams group and monthly newsletter where members can ask questions and learn from each other. (Do get in touch if you’d like to join!)
I’m also really proud when I look at the current ICR public engagement work. I was the first person who worked in a public engagement role with them, and they have really gone from strength to strength in their outreach work.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?At the moment I am focused on Public Engagement Skills and Practice, our flagship staff training programme for public engagement.
There’s a great variety of workshops, and they’re open to all at UCL who self-identify as a researcher and/or want to embed public engagement into their work (professional services, academic staff and postgraduate research students are all welcome!) We have workshops running until May and you can sign up to as many as you want - I especially recommend the introduction (Tuesday next week!) and then this month’s Fundraising for Public Engagement masterclass on 25 January, and the Teaching with External Communities workshop on 9 February, which explains how can you use your teaching practice to progress your career towards the Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. Visit the Public Engagement Skills and Practice