I was a Program Associate for India Science Month Online (2021) organised by the ISF. This position was an amazing opportunity for me as it melded multiple interests of mine into one exciting package. I am a graduate student in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University with a BS-MS in Physics from IISER Mohali. My love for all things science was complemented very well by my deep interest in science outreach and communication as well as the opportunities afforded to me by the festival.
As a program associate in a small and tight knit team, I was in the unique place to be able to dabble with all aspects of the festival. Not only did I get to learn the behind-the-scenes of social media management and content creation, I also learnt the full extent of the logistics that go into setting up such a festival online. An amazing team of interns and program managers made working out all the nitty-gritties and troubleshooting a fun experience. The most exciting aspect of my roles and responsibilities was the interactions with the scientists and experts in their fields. Pre-festival research into the panellists exposed me to a wide variety of disciplines, far removed from my usual fields of study. The unique activities like science storytelling, workshops and spirited panels and even lab tours were a fascinating peek into an aspect of science that is hidden from most people.
The opportunity to interview scientists one-on-one was a learning opportunity unlike any other. One of my favorite events was my Interview with ex-JPL scientist Dr. Anita Sengupta! I also loved interacting with our audience members; listening to their Sci-Fi stories and research as they competed in our various contests. The post session break-out rooms with select audience members were special too. Getting expert insights and learning what makes our panellists tick, in small groups, were loved by the audience as well!
Working at India Science Festival would be worth it only for the exposure it provides. But as a part of this festival, one walks away with so much more. There was constant feedback on public speaking skills from skilled practitioners; I could feel the improvement in my own skills over the short course of the month. The ability to think quickly on your feet, under pressure, was honed in multiple live sessions and will prove invaluable for me in the future. Quick and thorough fact checking, and an eye for design and detail were developed further during my tenure. Multitasking without loss in quality was learnt through necessity on the job, till it became a second nature. Creating and innovating in a digital space has become something of a necessity in these times and I will forever be grateful to the festival for letting me learn that from the ground-up.
India Science Month Online was also more than just the esteemed panellists and organisational skills. The true heart of the operation is the dedicated team behind the festival. It was an extremely welcoming, warm hearted environment with passionate individuals who strived to create the best experience they could. Learning from interactions with my peers was immense and forms cherished memories. I strongly believe there is a place here for everyone who wishes to join, whether they be a practicing scientist, professional science communicator or an amateur enthusiast. It truly is a voice of science and I cannot recommend the India Science Festival strongly enough!