Meet the Committee #5 - Michael Norman

Hi everyone!

Time to get back to the Meet the Committee series of blog posts. This week we have Michael (Mike) Norman who is our second Publicity Officer. He can be found on Twitter @Mike12192 (for personal tweets) and @Teatimesci (for science tweets).

Q: What is your role in the committee and what does it involve?

I’m one of the publicity officers (along with Amy) for BSA Norwich. It’s usually me filling your Twitter feed with what the branch is up to and hopefully providing some interesting science for everyone to enjoy. I help maintain the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the branch as well as work to get everyone talking about our upcoming events. I also pitch in with the general organising and running of events. 

As part of BSA Norwich I’m really looking forward to putting on bigger science events than I’ve done in the past which can make use of different forms of publicity. Our recent Science Treasure Hunt (#NorwichSciHunt) got so much interest we even managed to have it advertised on BBC Radio Norfolk, which was great and definitely helped the public hear about the event. 

Q: What is your current occupation?

I’m currently a PhD student at the University of East Anglia. I moved to Norwich from a village in Cambridgeshire for my undergraduate degree and loved it here so decided to stay and get paid to do science! 

I’m now in the last year of my research project which focuses on the rock breathing bacteria called ShewanellaInstead of using oxygen to breath (like we do) this bacteria uses solid rocks and minerals because Shewanella lives in river / lake sediments and in the soil where there isn’t any oxygen to breathe on. 

An interesting feature of this is that you can swap the natural minerals for an electrode and the bacteria can’t tell the difference meaning it can breathe using the electrode. The result of this is an electrical current. So we can feed these bacteria with waste that they can break down and then get green energy back. It’s essentially a double win for us: reducing landfill waste and getting electricity without greenhouse gases being produced. In the last few years I’ve been researching the finer detail of how Shewanella manage to breathe on solid minerals with the hope that by understanding this process better we can develop systems that let us harness more electricity from the bacteria.

Q: What do you like doing in your spare time?

I have quite a lot of hobbies that keep me busy outside of work (got to pack a lot into life!). I like running and do 10k runs regularly with my 60 year old Dad - he’s still convinced he’ll beat me one day! Having never learnt to swim when I was younger I decided to take up swimming lessons last year and now go swimming every week. To round off the fitness side of things, I also do trampolining exercise classes which are great fun (and knackering!). 

I used to be in a band so when I have some spare time I still like to play guitar and occasionally tinker on the piano. I also really like going to the cinema regardless of what’s on and especially love horror movies (old and new!). If I get the chance, I always travel to new places and love exploring cities and everything a country has to offer. Even if it’s nearer home, I really like checking out places whilst visiting my friends. 

I come from quite a working class family who don’t really understand what I do for work. This inspired me to set up a science communication project called TeaTimeSci (@Teatimesci on Twitter and Instagram) a couple of years ago with Amy. We run it as a hobby doing talks at schools and other public outreach events as well as using social media to show the ‘human’ / ‘real’ side of science. We're hoping to raise awareness and understanding of what life as a scientist entails as well as highlighting emerging technologies that are going to impact on everyone’s lives in the near future. This was also my inspiration to become part of BSA Norwich.

Fun fact: I was born in Hong Kong as my Dad was posted there (he’s in the armed forces) and would love to go back one day to see what it’s like!

Thanks Mike! :) 

As always, if you have any thoughts or feedback regarding events, social media activity and blog posts from BSA Norwich then we'd love to hear from you! Also, please get in contact if you'd like to volunteer. :)