Stand-up scientist uses comedy to popularise physics

Heard the one about the stand-up scientist? Or the physicist who uses comedy to bring nanoscience to the masses?

Dr Jessamyn Fairfield is not only seriously smart but seriously funny — an innovator who has literally gone to the ends of the earth to help fellow academics use comedy to promote their work.

As a result, the NUI Galway nanoscience physicist has been awarded the Mary Somerville Medal by the Institute of Physics for what it deemed her “stellar work as a public speaker and writer on physics for a popular audience, and for having organised and hosted many innovative events bringing physics to the Irish public”.

Since February 2015, Dr Fairfield has been director of the Bright Club in Ireland, encouraging academics to discuss their work through stand-up comedy.

She has run 23 Bright Club events, teaching academics how to use comedy to discuss their work. Dr Fairfield recently held a Bright Club training event, ‘78 Degrees North’ while attending a science/art expedition to the Arctic.

She also talked about physics in her own solo stand-up comedy shows in Galway and Dublin, and trains the Bright Club participants thanks to funding supporting the project from Science Foundation Ireland.

Dr Fairfield recently returned from a two-week Arctic Circle residency programme on board a ship bringing together scientists and artists to explore how the Arctic and its exploration intersect with art, science, architecture, education, and activism.

She said: “The raw and beautiful environment of the Arctic Circle is the perfect place to bring together scientists, artists, and innovators. I was delighted to be selected for the Summer Solstice 2017 expedition, where I worked on a Cerenkov detector made from Arctic ice to detect cosmic rays.

“I also ran a Bright Club training on how everyone, including artists and creators, can use humour to talk about the work they are passionate about.

“I am excited about the projects which are coming together as a result of this residency, and absolutely loved sharing the ship Antigua with so many amazing individuals during the midnight sun.”

Dr Fairfield is a regular science news contributor to Newstalk show Futureproof, and will be creating written and radio pieces about her Arctic expedition. She has written and narrated a short film about nanoscience, called Small World.

She has spoken at Pint of Science; Festival of Curiosity; Maker Faire Dublin; the Science Gallery; Inspirefest; Women in Physics Belfast and has given public lectures for the Institute of Physics in London. She writes a blog, ‘Let’s Talk About Science’.


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