In this Academic Spotlight we asked Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Associate Professor for Engineering in Society a few questions about the research she is involved with at UWE Bristol.
Tell us about your background and how you became interested in your area of research
I originally did a Biomedical Sciences degree, and then trained as a science journalist under the BBC News Sponsorship Scheme. I worked at BBC TV Centre, then as a radio and TV journalist and presenter. I then moved into making TV programmes with BBC Countryfile. After that I travelled around Asia and worked on environmental projects in rainforests. This led me to New Zealand, where I changed careers to work as the Communications and Liaison Manager for the Centre for Brain Research, a neuroscience research and engagement centre at The University of Auckland in New Zealand. While working there I set up the CeleBRation Choir, a choir which provides music therapy for people with communication difficulties through neurological disease. This led me to do a MSc in Psychology with a thesis exploring participation in the choir, which led to my first published papers. From there, I moved to the UK to work at UWE Bristol as a Research Fellow in the Science Communication Unit. I brought my choir research back with me, and this led to the development of the UWE Bristol ReVoice Choir for people with aphasia.
Tell us more about your research and research interests. Are there any particular projects you want to highlight?
I have been promoted twice while at UWE and I’m now an Associate Professor for Engineering in Society, where I teach about the Sustainable Development Goals to student engineers and scientists. While at UWE I did my DPhil in Social Psychology, compiling 9 journal papers about representation and communication at live science events.
I now have extensive experience leading communications work packages as part of the UWE SCU. I as the Communications Lead for the H2020 ClairCity project (Ref No: 689289) from the Air Quality Resource Management Centre, which reached over 8000 citizens to raise awareness of air quality and carbon emissions. The project evaluated the factors that influenced their day-to-day behaviours / practices / activities and how they contribute to the generation of air pollution and carbon emissions while also enabling citizens to voice the enabling factors that can influence policy and define their preferred future city. I also played a leading role in the H2020 WeCount, (Ref No: 872743) which worked with citizen scientists to use low cost sensors to quantify road transport in their communities and then co-design communication /policy actions to implement.
I have also led international evaluations of science festivals, including Science Live (Wellcome Trust), UK Science Festival Network (British Science Association), the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and the Unkindest Cut (Arts Council/Wellcome Trust).
I now manage the School of Engineering SCU team leading regional science outreach for primary schools by running the Curiosity Connections network, and is the Inspire Skills lead for the initiative or Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation in the West of England.
The Inspire Sustainability programme has established an extended network of engineering and primary STEM outreach in the West of England and is at the heart of several regional collaborative projects. The programme is operated by UWE Bristol on behalf of the initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI), in partnership with the West of England STEM Ambassadors Hub. We have developed the Digital Trailblazers (secondary schools) and Curiosity Connections (primary schools) networks.
The team has directly engaged 6832 children and 221 teachers from 73 schools and community groups in the West of England, with an estimated 96,303 children reached altogether through wider dissemination efforts. Using curriculum-linked engineering outreach and careers support, we connect children with real-life, diverse engineering role models to widen participation and aspirations for STEM careers.
The programme has pioneered outreach activities designed to be more appealing to the needs, values, and issues of relevance for under-represented groups in the physical sciences (9). The outreach builds on research about recruiting and retaining women in engineering (10,11), by showing how STEM industries can contribute to societal goals, helping people and planet. Representation and diversity of presenters is critical (12), and the programme has built a network of Diversity Demonstrators, including women, people from Black and Asian backgrounds, neurodiversity, and non-traditional education routes.
42% of total direct engagements (2,515 children) came through in-person sessions, all five developed and launched by DETI Inspire in 2021: The West in Minecraft, We Make Our Future, Engineering Curiosity, WeCount Schools, and the Sustainability Solutions Summit. 42% of all the schools engaged in these BoxED sessions came from areas within the most deprived 20% of the country, and a further 17% came from the most deprived 30%.
Please give us a brief description of how your academic expertise could be practically applied for a business partner or for external collaborations.
Inspire brings together outreach and education for STEM inspiration to broaden the diversity of entrants to the engineering profession. I lead a team of 6 staff members, who are developing a suite of digital engineering education outreach activities for young people from Key Stage 1-5. The primary school activities are disseminated through Curiosity Connections, a network I designed and developed from 2015 onwards, to inspire and influence primary STEM outreach in the West of England. I run the Advisory Board for this network, which brings together stakeholders from Future Quest, Bristol City Council, WECA Careers, University of Bristol, Engineering UK, Primary Engineer, Bristol Museum, Aerospace Bristol, NCC, Airbus, Renishaw, MOD, and GKN.
Our recent successes included developing the Engineering Curiosity diversity resource, which reached 3500 children online during the Big Beam In which we ran in British Science Week 2021. We are currently coordinating activities for South West STEM Fest with STEM Ambassadors (Graphic Science) for June, where we are the regional champions for National Robotics Week, the Great Science Share, IET Lego League, and the Leaders Award. These are all national programmes of outreach which I have developed relationships with and secured UWE Bristol as the regional host.
You can connect with Laura via her LinkedIn profile.