My Experience as an Outreach Ambassador: Michael Gillin

Posted on: 27 January 2023 by Samantha Riella in Student experiences

Michael, a second-year Chemistry MChem student actively engaged in outreach, tells us about a recent event in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Introduce yourself! 

Hi, my name is Michael Gillin, and I am a Chemistry undergraduate student at the University of Liverpool. I am currently in my second year of my Integrated Master’s course and am currently exploring my options post-graduation in July 2025. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to engage with various outreach events over the last two years, and that has encouraged me to pursue science communication and outreach alongside my studies. 

Where was your experience, and what did you do? 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the outreach programmes within the University of Liverpool have become few and far between, although, over the last three months, there have been an increasing number of events which students have had the opportunity to help out with. As a student from the Department of Chemistry, my participation in outreach has been with the School of Physical Sciences and the Faculty of Science and Engineering. However, there are many events and programmes being run by the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. 

Most recently, the Faculty of Science and Engineering welcomed fourteen secondary schools to the Central Teaching Laboratories and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics building, where Year 9 students engaged in a series of STEM-related activities. This allowed them to see how STEM subjects are taught at the University of Liverpool and ask undergraduate students about their degrees. 

How are you finding the experience, and what have you learned so far? 

The whole experience so far has been eye-opening. I have been exposed to many different schools and groups from various backgrounds and teaching and learning styles, which will enable me to apply a selection of techniques in future events. This will enable me to treat each situation in a way that is unique to a student’s needs. 

What are some of the top skills you have picked up during your role? 

So far, I have developed many skills! As a lot of my outreach has been chemistry-focused, my understanding of some of the relevant topics has been enhanced as I can explain the concept to younger students. However, I think the two top skills I have developed are my teamwork and communication skills. 

Outreach events take a long time to plan! To help run these events, a large and dedicated team is often required. I am fortunate in the Department of Chemistry as everyone pretty much knows each other, so I already have built a relationship with the staff and some of my coursemates. However, I have also worked with many people I have met for the first time, and I have had to work with them to ensure we achieve the best possible results and use each other’s strengths. 

Clear and succinct communication is also essential. Good communication skills are paramount, whether it is the words you use, how you use them, how you engage with your group, and being able to read the room. All the schools we have worked with have bright and eager students, so communicating the best instructions and details regarding safety and the experimental procedure is a skill that has significantly improved throughout the last few events. 

How did you find the support available while you secured your position? 

The Departmental, School, and Faculty outreach leads are all teaching academics, so they completely understand what it is like to be a student taking on other responsibilities. As such, they are highly flexible and understanding when it comes to being able to only being able to do a certain number of events or only being able to work for a certain number of hours. They are happy to clear up any misconceptions or issues if you have any questions or doubts! 

What is next for you? 

These events are only the start! As I am also a course representative for the Department of Chemistry, I have to engage in an enhancement project. To complement my passion for outreach, I am currently participating in an enhancement project to develop my department’s outreach programme and offer support to the rest of the School of Physical Sciences and the Faculty of Science and Engineering. One particular event I am looking forward to is having the opportunity to go into a local primary school in March to deliver talks on careers in STEM to coincide with British Science Week! 

Did your work experience affect your future plans at all? 

Before becoming an outreach assistant, I had only briefly thought about pursuing science communication or outreach. Now, I am determined to participate in as many outreach opportunities as possible. Although my end goal in chemistry is constantly changing, I am confident that whatever I do will have links with outreach. 

What has been your favourite thing about university? 

The people, without question, have been my favourite thing about university. Liverpool is home to so many lovely people, and the University of Liverpool shows that with the number of hardworking and friendly students. As well as that, almost all of the lecturers and professional services staff I have met have been nothing short of a pleasure to be with. Their passion for their roles is highly admirable and motivates students to pursue their subjects to achieve their end goal. 

What is your top tip for students currently looking for work experience? 

Ask, ask, ask! Most of the opportunities I have been able to take part in have come out of simply reaching out and asking a question. Whether you ask your Department, the Careers and Employability Studio, or an external company, I can guarantee that there will be something that you can do! And who knows? That work experience could end up leading to a job and change your aspirations! 


Keywords: Case Studies, Outreach, STEM.