South East Business reveals the magic of science at Discovery Park

Posted on 20/06/16

This is an excerpt from a feature by South East Business on Discovery Park and the work of the site and its tenants to support education and the wider community.

They read like titles from a children’s bookcase – “The Diabolical Case of Penelope Treadloaf”, “What’s Wrong with Tom?”, “Ferro Fantastic” and “Dancing Ooze”. For young visitors to the 2016 Science Jamboree at Discovery Park, Sandwich, they will open their minds to a wonderful new world.

Kimberley, corporate relations manager at Discovery Park and Don, a scientist with 25 years’ on-site experience with Pfizer, have helped create an enviable reputation for the park among primary and secondary schools in Thanet and Dover.

“We’re passionate about what goes on here,” says Kimberley, her face lighting up as she shares details of the response from pupils who visit the East Kent Science jamboree, organised by Kent Festival of Science that is taking place that day.

“Just watch their faces as the experiments are set up before them. They’ll always remember what they learned here.”

And that’s precisely what Don wants to happen. The completion of a “Community Lab” at Discovery Park this summer is the culmination of months of preparation. Visiting students will be able to use state-of-the-art equipment and learn from working scientists about what’s new in their world. It will be available to pupils from September.

Don also delights in his role as mentor to aspiring young scientists across the country, encouraging them over which subjects to pursue for their chosen careers and where to look for opportunities in science. He’s passionate about the work of the Social Mobility Foundation, set up to help students who have difficulties finding suitable role models.

“Some come from low-income homes, perhaps from a culture where the education of girls is not encouraged. Yet they have great natural ability and potential – they just need help focusing on the right path.”

As well as her role linking education on and off the park, Kimberley builds networks between these on-site companies, helping them to share expertise. Her training in business development has stood her in good stead over the four years she’s been in Sandwich, where she was transferred by her employers in the north-east whose shareholders also owned the southern site.

Kimberley also coordinates charity fundraising among the park’s many companies. This year the focus is on the Porchlight organisation which supports homeless people.

Discovery Park has an active “stem ambassador” scheme, run by Hellen Ward, a senior lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Don explained: “It’s an interface between industry and academia, which allows us to talk direct to students, outlining the benefits of a life working in science.” The role of ambassadors is voluntary, but Pfizer is so supportive of the work that it allows employees time out from their daily schedule for five days a year.

Enthusiasm for the voluntary education concept is clearly illustrated by the number of white-coated scientists interacting with the young visitors to the jamboree.

“They love it,” says Kimberley, stopping to watch a noisy experiment being demonstrated to a group of animated 10 and 11-year-olds. “It gives them the chance to get out of the lab and show just how exciting science can be!”

Never was this so well demonstrated than the live link-up between a group of South Kent pupils and British astronaut Tim Peake which was supported by Discovery Park earlier this year.

“I was there!” Kimberley beams. “It was amazing and he was just so good in answering the children’s questions – all except the pupil who asked which Shakespeare play he felt best illustrated life in space. He had to admit he was stumped by that one…”

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