By Guest Author 26/02/2018

Guest post by Ceridwyn Roberts

My dad is a scientist – a nuclear chemist – the sort of guy you’d expect to find at the beginning of a superhero story. Short, glasses-wearing, geeky. He had a radiation monitoring badge that he sometimes forgot to take off when he left the lab and I’d examine it, hoping to see his powers developing. I once asked if the gamma rays were why he was bald, but that was apparently another branch of science called genetics.

I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to throw chemical experiments off the roof of my university building and time how long they took to explode (health and safety was apparently not robust in the 1960s). I wanted to find a cure for cancer and I wanted to spend days counting cells in agar inside petri dishes with my purple pen and number clicker. I wasn’t so sure about using bits of dead mice in my experiments, so the argument about vivisection raged long and hard around our dinner table.

Then I discovered science fiction, and I started understanding fact differently. It probably didn’t help that I was theatre-mad and science seemed too staid and methodical for the desperate attention fiend I was as a teen. Dad never became a superhero, the story didn’t work out the way I was expecting. I repudiated ‘real’ science for thirty years, and turned to the arts side.

Buried underneath though, I always knew that science explained the world and that stories gave me a way to understand the explanations. Every scientist I’ve ever known has passion and drive to explore the world through their chosen discipline. I want to be gathered up in the excitement and joy of science stories, so I can understand the world differently.

That’s why I’m working with the Story Collider, to bring scientists’ stories and science stories to life. This live performance is held in a bar and involves five brave souls telling their stories for ten minutes each: no notes, no props, and no powerpoint presentation.

Building on the success of the first New Zealand show last year, we’ll be growing and expanding in 2018, using local producers and local storytellers.  Our next event will be in Wellington on 22 May at Meow, and we’re looking for story ideas.

New Zealand’s first Story Collider show, Sept 2017. Credit: Sciencelens.

We want teachers, physicists, comedians, neuroscientists, social scientists, writers, doctors, mathematicians, and more telling their stories. Some will be heart-breaking; some hilarious. We’re looking for people who want to tell others about the times things went wrong, and occasionally right, in their research. They just need to be true, and, in one way or another, about science.

If you’re interested in telling your tale, there are some hints here. The story must be about YOU and it must have an arc. This means that you, the storyteller, experience change from the beginning to the end of the story. This change can be big or small — as momentous as becoming a father or as small as learning to ask for help — but it has to be there in order to bring your audience along.

There is a small time commitment involved. Every storyteller works one on one with a Story Collider producer to brainstorm and shape their story. We will work with you to create something you’ll be proud to present. For examples of stories that our producers have loved, check out the Story Collider podcast page.

You don’t need to be an experienced performer, you just need that passion and drive, and a story to tell. Whether you wear a lab coat or haven’t seen a test tube since high school, science is shaping your life and mine. And that means we all have science stories to tell. What’s yours?

If you would like to tell a story at one of our shows, we would love to hear from you! Just send a two-paragraph summary of your story idea to Please mention “NZ” in the subject line.

This post was written by Ceridwyn Roberts, a Communications Director at Motu and Science Communicator. Ceridwyn is interested in energy, economic policy, tertiary education, the performing arts, social services, and vehicle manufacturing. She writes and reads young adult and children’s novels, and is slowly converting her son to a love of geeky boardgames. 

The Story Collider’s inaugural show was made possible with the support of SCANZ, the Science Media Centre, Victoria University of Wellington and aCoRE.

Featured image: Keoni Mahelona on stage, Sept 2017 Story Collider show in Wellington. Credit: Sciencelens.