Summer Mollyday: Friedrichshafen

Hello! I’ve just spent ten glorious days on the sunny shores of Friedrichshafen, Germany and they really were glorious! Remember how I mentioned back in February how dark and dreary the southern German city was during the winter? Well now the summer’s here and as promised, the explosion of green everywhere. Not a grey cloud in sight!

mollyday (2) mollyday (1)Lake Constance – can you see Switzerland in the back?

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5 Things I Learned When I Went Clubbing By Myself


I mentioned before how difficult it was to make friends here when I moved to the Netherlands. Although Leiden’s nightlife includes a decent range of bars and a newly refurbished venue that regularly hosts music nights, there are few social activities that aren’t family oriented or reserved for students. After countless Saturday nights sitting at home with pizza and a DVD, I decided to bite the bullet: I went out dancing by myself. Here’s 5 things I learned after my night out flying solo.

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Leiden on bike


Cycling through Zijlpoort, one of Leiden’s old city gates from 1667. A bit of history for you there, enjoy the view!

science for kids: communicating to a younger audience

science for kids

Introducing science to children from a young age is an important step in encouraging the next generation to pursue it as a career later on in life. One notable example is the European Space Agency’s dedicated website, ESA Kids. Originally an adapted version of ESA’s news section, the ESA Kids site has since then expanded to include an education angle, with a focus on scientific background information. Translated into six different languages, ESA Kids is one of the most widely viewed sites on the ESA portal. With that in mind, I’ve written five tips for communicating science to a younger audience.


Credit: European Space Agency

1. Go back to basics
While ESA Kids is primarily aimed at a 6-12 year age group, the site is open to parents, teachers and anyone interested in a straightforward explanation of complex science missions. Don’t assume that your audience already knows what these concepts are; going back to the basics will help you lay that much needed foundation and build upon it.

2. Content matters
When speaking to a younger audience, attractive colours, friendly fonts and short and simple sentences are ideal. We all learn in different ways so using various types of media is a great way to communicate science. Visual aids such as videos and animations can go a long way. ESA Kids includes puzzles and quizzes based on current science news.

3. Speak their language
If you want to reach younger kids, it has to be in their words. Now I’m not talking about street slang and I certainly don’t want you to ‘get down with da kidz‘. You should actually speak their language. ESA Kids shares science in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch as well as English.

4. Connect
Social media has proved to be a great way to connect with people and create a community with a common interest. But how do you reach out to a younger audience who aren’t on a social network? ESA Kids uses a mascot called Paxi; a friendly alien who explains the ins and outs of science as it happens. Competitions are another great way to connect with an audience. ESA Kids holds a monthly competition where children are able to enter stories, pictures and projects. While individual entries are always welcome, it’s also fun when large groups from schools also get involved.

5. Let’s take this offline
Not all interaction has to be done online or through a screen. It’s a great idea to use offline resources to teach STEM subjects to kids. The ESA Kids website includes a downloadable Paxi activity book with science-themed puzzles, mazes, colouring in pages and more. For more information on specific STEM tools and resources for schools, see the ESA Education website.

– Molly –

• This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on EJR-Quartz’s website.

total eclipse of the heart…er…sun


Spring is here – and what could be better than a solar eclipse to mark the arrival of the season?

A solar eclipse happens when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth. When this happens, the Moon gradually blocks out the light from the Sun. If the Sun and Moon line up perfectly in the sky, this is a total solar eclipse.

Those living in the Faroe Islands and Norway’s Svalbard islands were lucky enough to witness this rare celestial event. In Europe, we were treated to a partial eclipse. Although it was too cloudy for friends back in the Netherlands to witness, Dr Marco Langbroek captured this timelapse of Leiden getting darker during the peak of the eclipse.

I was in Friedrichshafen, Germany during the eclipse and the sun was out for us to see – except we couldn’t quite figure out how best to see it. A safe and simple way to view an eclipse is by making a pinhole projector using pieces of card or a cardboard box. But with no paper or cardboard box, (I know, right?) we were pretty much back at square one. Then we realised we could use a Mylar space blanket, one of those heat-resistant first aid blankets that every German driver is required to carry in their car. Perfect! We cut up the blanket into pieces, triple-folded them over and sat back to enjoy the show. Check out our makeshift glasses (and probably don’t try this at home)!



Wrapping the space blanket around my camera, I tried to take a photo of the partial eclipse. You need to protect your camera or phone otherwise you’ll fry your lens. It took a few tries to get it right but after playing around with my ISO settings and shutter speed, I was able to get a shot. It’s exactly what we saw through the space blankets – in broad daylight too!

2015 solar eclipse

Did you manage to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse where you were? Tell me all about it :)

– Molly –

so you’ve moved to a new country… what now?

Moving to a new country is exciting and scary at the same time. It’s a complete change from everything you’ve ever known. You’d think having lived in five countries, I’d find the process easy by now but emigrating to the Netherlands has been my most difficult move so far. It was the first time moving to a country where I wasn’t going to be a student or an intern. I moved to Leiden not knowing a single person and it made my first summer here a really lonely one. Luckily, things have started to pick up and I’m looking forward to seeing what my second summer in the Netherlands will bring. Here are five tips from me to anyone who’s having a little trouble settling in.

1. Get sorted

where am i going

So you’ve finally moved. Congratulations! Now’s a good time to get all that initial admin stuff figured out. Get yourself registered at the local council and buy a prepaid SIM card for your phone. Perhaps you’ll even need a new bank account. These are the things you only need to do once and you’ll be set up for good.

2. Make yourself at home

So now it’s time to take a look around your new surroundings. Find out where your nearest supermarkets and grocery stores are. Go out, turn left down that road, where does it lead to? If you’re not a wanderer, that’s OK, be a total tourist and see what your new city has to offer. Visit museums and cultural centers and other places of interest. Soon enough, you’ll find that cosy café that’ll feel just like home.

3. Get local with the lingo

It’s impossible to be immediately fluent in your new country’s language, unless of course, you already knew how to speak it before you set foot on land. While you’re not expected to know every word in the dictionary, it’s a good idea to pick up some key words and basic phrases. I find that knowing how to say ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can take you quite a long way. Over time you’ll recognise particular sentences and know how to respond to them. I still don’t exactly know how to say ‘Would you like your receipt?’ in Dutch, but I know to respond ja, alstublieft. My friend Nikita has written some great tips on learning a new language. Check them out.

4. Try new things

I recently visited Portugal with a couple of friends and one of them insisted on being served an English breakfast [not on the menu] in one of Lisbon’s most popular eateries. It drove me absolutely crazy. Now I don’t expect you to embrace the snails in your soup, but do consider trying out a local delicacy. It doesn’t have to be extreme, it could even be a simple staple food, like ‘vla‘ in the Netherlands or ‘spätzle’ in southern Germany. This also helps with your grocery shopping as you’ll find alternatives to the favourite foods you left back home.

5. Make friends

5 (2)

Having moved around a lot, I’m quite used to being ‘the new girl’. But it took a lot longer than I expected to find a social circle when I moved to the Netherlands. This was mainly because I really didn’t know how to meet people outside of university or an internship. First I turned to social media. I checked Facebook for ‘New to the Netherlands’ pages in the area, came across Leiden Expats and attended a couple of expat meet-ups. From the Facebook group I found a weekly pub quiz, invited others to join me and eventually created a regular group to fail pub quizzes with. The next thing I did [and the bravest!] was sign up for a dance class. Not just any dance class, but a dancehall choreography class. I was terrified of tripping over myself to music I never listened to, but the class was free and I needed the exercise so what did I have to lose? It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. I still can’t dance to Sean Paul but I’ve found myself a new circle of friends – even a few with two left feet like me!

It’s now been 10 months since I upped sticks to live with the Dutch and I’m only just starting to settle in. Hopefully this advice will be as helpful to you as it has been to me. Perhaps you’ve got a tip or two – feel free to share!

How to be a straight talking science communicator

Over the last decade, there’s been a shift in perception of the public communication of science. This stems from the ever growing need to increase public awareness, provide education and raise public support for ongoing science issues. It’s also due to the evolving changes in media and technology. Thanks to social media, people are now enthusiastic about science in a way not seen since man landed on the Moon in 1969. This shift presents opportunities for public engagement and with it, the rise of the role of the ‘science communicator’.


What exactly is a science communicator? This could be a scientist, content curator, journalist, researcher, blogger, media officer – you name it – anyone involved in the public communication of science and technology. The role of science communicator has become essential in the sharing of science and has gradually become a popular profession. So you’re probably wondering, how do I get involved? Well, here’s a little social strategy I put together to help you get started.

First of all, you need to answer these three basic questions.

WHO do you want to speak to? What do you want to know about them? This is all about knowing your audience. It’s important to understand who you want to communicate with so you can figure out how best you can tailor what you write or publish in a way that will be most effective. Tip: Listen to your audience. Research what people are saying about your topic by asking direct questions as well as taking a look at conversations on social media.

WHAT do you want to talk about? What content do you have to offer? Where can you add value? A good science communicator not only needs to know what topics they’d like to share but also be able to engage in discussions. Tip: People don’t want more content, they want better content. Find out who isn’t providing some needed information because that’s where you’re really going to prove valuable.

HOW do you want to say it? Contrary to popular belief, this is actually the last thing you need to determine, not the first. There are quite a few social media platforms out there, so finding the right social network can be quite difficult. Should you be on Snapchat? I can’t answer that for you. Ask yourself: Which media platforms are the most relevant for the audience I want to reach and the content I want to post? Bear in mind, what works on one platform might not necessarily work on another. Tip: Find your balance – go for a platform you are comfortable with but one that allows you to communicate your science and provides an opportunity to build a relationship with your audience.

So there you have it – the three basics of setting up a social media-based science communication strategy. Once you get started, you’ll find there’s a lot more to learn, such as implementation, monitoring and analytics – look out for these in a future blog post. Until then, live long and communicate science!