Elizabeth Connor

Story by Isabel Herstell

Faculty of Science, 2017

Reconciling Science and the Arts

Wellington-based science communicator, Elizabeth Connor, believes that communication, collaboration, and creativity are key to innovative and successful science.

She completed her undergraduate and honours studies in Physics and Mathematics here at Victoria.

“I really fell in love with Physics. I got a sense of the magic of it,” she notes.

Having heard that the late Sir Paul Callaghan, a Professor at the MacDiarmid Institute based at Victoria’s Kelburn Campus, was looking for new talent, she mustered the courage to approach him.

Elizabeth got a call later that evening to let her know that he had a job waiting for her.

The MacDiarmid Institute and Callaghan's Legacy

Sir Paul saw Elizabeth’s potential and gave her something that she not only enjoyed but could do well. She would meet and interview scientists and write about their work within the MacDiarmid Institute.

Elizabeth’s time working with Sir Paul was “amazing”.

After her time at the MacDiarmid Institute, Sir Paul helped Elizabeth win a scholarship to study her Master’s in Science Communication at Imperial College, London – acting as her guide and referee.

The Master’s programme led Elizabeth into the world of science communication, where she became involved in projects such as a travelling maths circus and teaching children in the United Kingdom maths through song, dance, and games.

On her return back to New Zealand, Elizabeth found herself more inspired than ever to start her career as a science communicator.

With a vision in mind for her ‘renaissance’ of science and creativity, and with Sir Paul in support, Elizabeth became the recipient of the 2009 Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize.

Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize

Elizabeth’s prize-winning pitch was to use the winnings from the prize to help raise awareness of how important science is to culture and the economy in New Zealand.

This was the start of ‘The Kinship’, a business focused on “inspiring our next generation of scientists and engineers to be at the helm of innovation” through workshops in engagement, storytelling, and team training.

Tell Us A Story

True to the mission of The Kinship, Elizabeth has spent the years following her 2009 success embarking on a wide range of science communication projects.

In 2011, ‘Tell Us A Story’ took shape. The competition was targeted at postgraduate students, encouraging them to develop skills and confidence in communicating their science through storytelling.

The competition was hosted here at Victoria, with more than 50 people entering, and 30 attending the additional workshops.

Her hard work has since manifested in exciting projects such as ‘The Magnificent Science Variety Show’, an extravaganza of drama, song, and science. The 2014 production, commissioned by Te Papa, sought to educate audiences on the sex lives of sea creatures during Sea Week.

Elizabeth In Action

  • <p>Images from a selection of science variety shows staged at Te Papa and with Tell Us A Story here at Victoria. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Connor. </p>
  • <p>Images from a selection of science variety shows staged at Te Papa and with Tell Us A Story here at Victoria. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Connor. </p>
  • <p>Images from a selection of science variety shows staged at Te Papa and with Tell Us A Story here at Victoria. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Connor. </p>
  • <p>Images from a selection of science variety shows staged at Te Papa and with Tell Us A Story here at Victoria. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Connor. </p>
  • <p>Images from a selection of science variety shows staged at Te Papa and with Tell Us A Story here at Victoria. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Connor. </p>
  • <p>Images from a selection of science variety shows staged at Te Papa and with Tell Us A Story here at Victoria. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Connor. </p>
  • <p>Images from a selection of science variety shows staged at Te Papa and with Tell Us A Story here at Victoria. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Connor. </p>
  • <p>Images from a selection of science variety shows staged at Te Papa and with Tell Us A Story here at Victoria. Images courtesy of Elizabeth Connor. </p>

Looking to the Future

Alongside working part-time as a science communicator for the Dodd-Walls Centre, Elizabeth continues to bring an incredibly unique take on science and collaboration.

Whether she’s translating science into a language we can all understand or organising a storytelling workshop, Elizabeth’s unique ability to make science more accessible has had an immeasurable impact on Victoria’s creative legacies.

Watch Elizabeth's TED Talk

  • Exploring the boundaries of science | Elizabeth Connor | TEDxWellingtonWomen

Find the MacDiarmid Institute

Laby 410 , Gate 6 Kelburn Parade, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand