Planet Under Pressure

The British Science Association, Research Councils UK, the Royal Society and Sciencewise-ERC worked together earlier this year to prepare 12 young people to attend the prestigious Planet Under Pressure conference where over 2,500 researchers from across the world were in attendance.

The conference focused on environmental change and the global sustainability challenge, covering topics from food, energy and water security to international development & urban environments.

The 12 young people were all asked to prepare a short speech to present to the delegates as part of the conference’s opening ceremony. The conference then reported to Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, in June 2012. We hope that involving young people in the Planet Under Pressure conference changed the way they think about these issues – and will change the way we all think about them too.

Check out what Rebecca thought of her experience below.

Which post-16 qualifications have you chosen to study?

I am currently in my GCSE year, and next year in the sixth form I plan on taking A-levels in Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology and English Literature.

How did your education help you in this project?

It helped me with basic understanding although most of my knowledge at the moment comes from independent research.

What motivated you to take part in Planet Under Pressure?

I am passionate about environmental issues. Planet Under Pressure was the perfect opportunity to voice my views and get involved.

What was the best and worst thing about this project?

I enjoyed Planet Under Pressure so much, it is difficult to name the best thing about it all. I would say that obviously the actual presenting of our speech was fantastic, but I also was thrilled at meeting so many members of the scientific community (I now have so many business cards from the conference delegates, it’s fantastic!)

I would not say there was a ‘worst’ thing about the project. I guess that nervousness at going on stage could be the ‘worst’ thing, although I think that to be nervous before talking in front of so many people is absolutely normal, and in fact I prefer it as it makes the experience more exhilarating.

What will you take away from this experience?

I will never be nervous speaking in front of crowds ever again. Well, perhaps that is a lie, I will be nervous, but I won’t show it. In the past if I ever spoke in front of crowds, sometimes my voice would become a bit shaky and I would be unable to control it. This has completely gone and I am ecstatic about this fact.

After the success of Planet Under Pressure, I will also try to be involved in any scientific projects I can, as they are brilliant opportunities, especially as my future career involves science.

Did your experiences of Planet Under Pressure change your career ambitions?

Well, they’ve made me more likely to go into environmental sciences, but it is still early days and my career ambitions could change quite quickly. What my experiences at Planet Under Pressure have done are make me absolutely certain that I would like to pursue a career in science. That little insight and feeling of involvement and what it is like to be part of the scientific community has convinced me that I definitely want to be part of it too.

What are your future plans?

I would like to study Medicine and then specialise by doing a Master’s and Doctorate and become a stem cell scientist as I am fascinated by all the possibilities that developments in this field could lead to. The implications are endless. There are two places I am currently most interested in working at in the future; Shinya Yamanaka Labs in Kyoto, Japan, and Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Massachusetts. Whatever I do, I am always going to stay interested in environmental sciences and actively contribute and be involved in any events and conferences, as even though I may not pursue environmental sciences as a full-blown career, I am still very passionate about environmental issues and scientific solutions.

What skills will you take from Planet Under Pressure into your future learning or career?

Confidence (especially when speaking in front of a big audience), organisational skills, and the experience of meeting and being able to talk to so many new people.

What did you dream of doing when you were growing up and how has that changed?

When I was growing up I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to be in the future. When I was very young I wanted to be a palaeontologist, a doctor, a tennis player and many more things. In the last five years I have wanted to be a film director and a marine biologist. For around two years I wanted to be a doctor, but something wasn’t quite right. I then realised that I did not want to be a hospital doctor, but I wanted to do something in the medical field; more precisely stem cell research, as I found it fascinating and always researched it in my spare time to see new developments. I had a realisation and then it seemed obvious that this is what I should do. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed before.

If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?

Passionate, creative, and determined.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not working or studying?

I like meeting up with friends, reading, painting, researching stem cells, and going to the cinema.

Looking back over the choices you have made and the opportunities that have been available to you so far regarding your education, would you have done anything differently?

Regarding education, there is nothing I regret. With opportunities, there was a NASA competition last year which was to design (with some friends) an experiment to be carried out in space on the International Space Station. The experiment had guidelines on size etc. and the experiment could be either to do with biology, chemistry or physics. You had to make a video on your experiment design. We didn’t do it in the end because we had exams coming up but I wish we had tried anyway, and set some time aside for it because it sounded amazing. And the world wide prizes were things like cosmonaut training in Russia, a zero-G flight, and watching a rocket blast off in Japan.

For more information on Planet Under Pressure have a look at the British Science Association’s website as well as the main homepage for the international conference.