Meet Cynthia Gibbs, founder of Science Pub RVA. Much like the tech industry, science is dominated by men. Cynthia is paving the way for women leaders in science by bringing together real live scientists, the science-interested, and brews!
What brought you to Richmond? What do you love about RVA?
I came to Richmond on a corporate move in 1998 with the acceptance of a job at the company we now know as Genworth. A big part of what I love about Virginia is that we have four seasons (I missed those when I was living in Seattle and Tucson). Part of what makes Richmond great is it’s ease – it’s size, navigability, diversity, and affordability. I love the energy of Richmond. That people are constantly creating and moving the city forward on so many fronts. I love that people are interested in engaging with ideas and are embarking on challenging conversations. Like every RVAer, I love the city’s two greatest gems; the VMFA and the James River Park System. I also love stomping down alleys and stepping on the places where cobblestones and pavement meet.
What is SciencePub RVA and why did you start it?
I love it when other people describe Science Pub RVA as a good time. At its core, it is yet another way to have fun!
Science Pub is a wave of informal science education and engagement. It attracts a multigenerational crowd (Gen Ys to Boomers+), including folks who describe themselves as “Not really into science.”
People connect with friends, table-mates, and ideas. Designed for non-scientists, programs are intentionally informal and short, with the emphasis being on what the public is most keen to discuss. Thus, talks are typically 15 to 20 minutes and the open Q&A period is 30+ minutes. Best part is that you have fun AND you hear from highly qualified experts offering knowledge and perspective on a specific aspect of their fascinating work.
I started Science Pub RVA out of desire and disappointment. When traveling, I read an article about similar events and immediately thought they sounded like my kind of fun! Back in Richmond, I was disappointed to learn we didn’t have one. At the time (2011), I was also disappointed in the rhetoric I heard on too many airwaves. People with microphones were disparaging experts and sidelining scientific knowledge. Part of starting Science Pub was a small personal counteraction to that reality; a way I could contribute to the Richmond community, elevate dialogue, give local scientists a platform, and provides opportunities for adults to explore scientific ideas and hear from #RealLiveScientists.
What’s your favorite part or your job? Least favorite part?
I most enjoy working with speakers to develop their program. It is serious fun to learn about someone’s research and use my knowledge and expertise to help shape a program that delivers key messages identified by the scientist, and creates a fun and rewarding night for everyone in the room.
I’m very much looking forward to the January 7th program which features two early-career researchers (both women) in the fields of chemistry and psychology. They are passionate about science communication and both recently won competitions at their universities (UVA & VCU). The January Science Pub will be their first times giving talks to and connecting with the non-science public.
Technical glitches and failures are my least favorite things. So, I definitely do what I can to reduce their potential occurrence.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for other women trying to be leaders in their community?
Face reality. In other words, make time for reflection! If you’ve decided you want to be a leader, you’re on your way. Desire and persistence will shape your future. Reflection will be an important part of your path. Read up on it, and do it regularly. Also, talk to yourself like you would a good friend. (Oooh, I so need this advice myself!)
Thanks for telling us your story, Cynthia!
More on Science Pub RVA
Programs are typically announced just two weeks prior to each program. Folks can sign up for email notifications on the Science Pub’s website.
More on the January 7th Event: Psychology & Chemistry on Tap
Two early-career researchers (both women) will be talking about their work in the fields of chemistry and psychology. They are both passionate about science communication and recently won competitions at their universities (UVA & VCU). The January Science Pub will be their first times giving talks to and connecting with the non-science public. We’ll learn about how twin studies are used to explore mental health matters and about the chemistry involved in studying street drugs called bath salts. Then the February, March and April programs will be mash-ups of science and history. Two of the topics will be exploring the relationship between bees and humans the cultural history of donating bodies to science.