Hello! I am Vedang Puranik, a Master’s student at IISER Mohali. I am majoring in Chemistry and working on the design and synthesis of functional organic materials. I worked as an Online Event Moderator with India Science Festival in January 2021. Keep reading to know a little about me and my experience working at ISF!
While in school, I would attend summer workshops at IUCAA, Pune. We would get to work on a week-long project, which we then had to present to an audience of eminent scientists. With encouraging words and pats on our backs, they would highlight the importance of making science more accessible to a general audience. These experiences turned out to be some of my fondest memories, and I owe my interest in science communication to them. It also led me to join the India Science Festival (ISF) team for India Science Month Online (ISMO) 2021.
I was a part of ISMO 2021 as an Online Event Moderator. My work involved moderating the post-webinar breakout room discussions and supporting the logistics team during the events. Most of my backend work was providing timely information to the audience and updates to the hosts.
Having always been either a spectator or an active participant in science outreach events, this opportunity was a way to round off an all-encompassing experience, where I got to witness the backstage dynamics too. Coordinating an event of this magnitude was as exciting as it was challenging, only made successful by the ISF team’s extensive planning and briefing sessions.
Learning to react to a situation quickly and backing myself to find a solution was a particularly helpful takeaway. Our smaller team size meant that we had to often engage in multitasking and parallel duties. It was here that the systematic planning came in handy because every member of the team was also briefed about the tasks of the other members. We could thus slot into each other’s roles rather effortlessly and ensure a seamless transition between sessions.
While most speakers and participants echoed a sense of melancholy at having missed out on attending the events in person, the virtual medium opened up newer avenues. ISMO achieved great success in connecting the participants to numerous eminent personalities from around the world. We all witnessed a series of quality talks, insightful panel discussions, and fascinating workshops. Among all the themes, my favorite was space. I have always thought that the visual medium is hugely immersive, and its effectiveness radiated through several stunning visuals to which we were treated through various talks and discussions. The fascination with anything extraterrestrial is driven by novelty and curiosity of the unknown. Its near-mythical status is often a result of science-fiction devices. However, these talks and interviews of real-life professionals working in the field conveyed a sense of reality and tangibility, which appealed to me the most. It was refreshing to see an approach that highlighted many behind-the-scenes challenges and hardships that are frequently overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of the profession. From discussions on space exploration to habitability, meeting people who went to space, and the people who put them into space, the theme was very well-explored. The heartening story of the first African nanosatellite, courtesy of Dr. Robert Van Zyl, and the work of Prof. Anita Sengupta on the Curiosity rover were some of the highlights. The interview of Prof. Anthony England, an ex-NASA astronaut, was a fitting conclusion to ISMO 2021.
Working with the ISF team was an enriching experience. If there was ever a 101 in team management, it was here! Enthusiasts of science communication or otherwise, I encourage individuals to volunteer for future ISF events. The experience will add a multitude of managerial skills to your repertoire. And, getting to interact closely with some exceptional minds from around the world is an added incentive. The ISF provides an excellent platform for anyone looking to be an active participant in public engagement activities. ISF has my heartfelt gratitude for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to working with them again.