A Scientist, a Bicycle and cutting-edge Science
What if you combine a scientist and a bicycle together? Keep reading and you will discover Scicling, a project born from the dream of a young scientist
How you can bring Science to Secondary Schools and have fun on the way
Juan has taught Science in a Secondary School for 20 years.
This is his last year before retirement.
He looks back on his career and remembers when he started, when he was fulfilling his dream of teaching everything he knew about this exciting and changing world of Science.
Although, currently, he notices his students feel his classes do not bring them anything new. They do not realize that Science is present in their daily lives so, admittedly, he is also losing his own motivation. He feels he is not reaching his students.
On the other hand, the students think that this teacher, who will soon retire, is a laboratory rat trapped between test tubes and books, reading all day and doing nothing but studying or working.
But one day, suddenly, something unexpected happens at the School:
A guy cycles in wearing a hoodie and carrying a pair of pannier bags with his own gear: scientific articles, books, reagents, science and, mostly, lots and lots of enthusiasm.
Science includes running assays in labs sure, but it is also a mix of the will to help others, an ongoing learning process and, definitely, an activity that you can enjoy!
What do you think?
Should we Scicling?
What is Scicling?
If we just look at the word, we may not understand. But, if we bring Science and Cycling together, we might start guessing what this project is about:
“Scicling is a Public Engagement initiative conceived by Dr. Alejandro Marín-Menéndez (Alex), to bring cutting-edge Science to Secondary Schools, and the general public, around the world”
As you might have guessed rightly, he also aims to do so in a sustainable way:
with his Bike!
What does Scicling aim?
– To show that Science is in every aspect of our lives. Focusing on how DNA-based technologies are reshaping our understanding of infectious diseases.
– That it can be applied anywhere… and, in many cases, in a simple way.
– And, above all, that Science is fun.
How are we going to do that?
Through workshops and conferences Alex can bring Science closer to your community.
You will be able to share other roles in the day-to-day life of a scientist like:
Using simple products and seeing yourself the results in situ
Deciding whether or not to fund real projects in group activities
Life experiences, career paths…
“Icon made by Pixel perfect from www.flaticon.com”
Alex himself will talk from his own personal experience.
Describing, the difference between how you think your life is going to be and what it actually is. Because, like in Science, you never know what can happen and, many times, you learn by trial and error.
Always keeping in mind whatever path you choose, you attitude is going to be key. As important as your knowledge or your skills.
His personal journey might also be inspiring. He is a talented and passionate communicator and has enjoyed his professional (and personal) career in several countries in Europe, Africa and South America.
One cold morning in February 2018, he woke up from a dream in which he clearly saw that he was cycling through many countries visiting educational communities to talk about Science.
Before having this revelation, he wants you to know where he comes from, because where he goes, only science and his bike know.
The context of his life is as important as the project, since they both merge and cannot be understood separately.
He was born in Albacete on September 21st, being the youngest of three brothers in a home that, with his parents efforts, never lacked anything. He and his brothers were all given opportunities to develop themselves and were supported to pursue whatever path they chose.
Like almost every single kid in fifth grade, he wanted to be a footballer and even became good at it, playing for the young team of his hometown team, Albacete Balompie.
He played chess decently, and as a teenager he also improved his table tennis skills. He can tell you that he once beat Dong Hee, a young Korean champion (although he will never admit it).
He went to Madrid to study at the Complutense University. He studied (and completed) his degree in Veterinary Medicine where he started to spend a few hours in the laboratory of the Biochemistry Department of the Faculty.
This opened the way for him to pursue a scientific career: he obtained a degree in Biochemistry and worked, first, as a laboratory technician at the Karolinska Institute (Sweden). As an anecdote, his first ‘boss’, Prof. Tomas Hökfelt’s), a humble and hard-working person like the most, was one of the most published scientists in the XX century… he found out when he was gone, Tomas never told him.
He got his PhD in Microbiology at Trinity College in Dublin (Ireland) where he started researching about Malaria and discovered one of his true passions, apart from the bicycle.
He continued working on malaria at ISGlobal, this time with affected pregnant women, in the Brazilian Amazons, where he learned infinite patience, value the simplest things and, also, missed his family.
Then, he took a scientific break. He became the cleaner and receptionist of the best Hostel in Seville.
Later he worked in world-wide known sport shop, fixing bicycles and selling fishing rods, as happy and committed as in everything else.
Because he is fortunate to have his mother, an example of constancy and humility; his father, an example of vitality and honesty; and his two brothers, both an example of constant personal growth.
One of the best formulas that he has ever applied in his life is:
(K + S) x A
Do you know it?
After this point or period of reflection, he work for a spin-off company developing novel antibiotics and, after that, he spent three years at the Wellcome Sanger Institute (Cambridge, UK), one of the best genetic and genomic research centres in the world.
A few months ago he joined a friend’s research group, to work at MIVEGEC-IRD (Montpellier, France). Together, they both wrote a project, in which more Scicling actions were planned, and that has granted him one of the most prestigious scientific contracts in Europe: a Marie-Curie Individual Fellowship.
If you want to contact Alex, just fill out the form. He will respond as soon as he gets off the bike!
– He also obtained a Master of Education and his English Proficiency (C2) certificate.
-He has learned German, Portuguese, Italian, Swahili, and French and, except for the latter, which still persists, he has almost completely forgotten them all.
-He has done several triathlons, including an Ironman in Mallorca (3.8km swimming, 180km cycling and 42km running… He finished the 600-something in a few minutes passed 11 hours). Since then, he’s still slightly tired, but he keeps on pedaling.
-He completed the Kilimanjaro marathon under 4 hours in March 2018.
-He has volunteered as an assistant-football coach at Moving the Goalposts (Kilifi, Kenya).
Institutions in which he has been lucky enough to work and/or have sponsored his adventures:
Scicling actions 2019
The beginnings are hard and, as in Science the results are also uncertain, but after receiving supported from STEAM Canarias, the first opportunity to carry out the project was in two of the Canary Islands: Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.
Thanks to their inclusive and dynamic public education system and the excellent network of bicycle routes, these two islands offered an ideal place to carry out this first trial.
In the spring of 2019, and funded by the Enabling Fund of Connecting Science (Cambridge, UK), Alex brought Science on his bike to 8 centres engaging with over 500 students and dozens of teachers.
In Autumn 2019, after long conversations, he discovered a country committed not only to Science, but to culture, and its people welcomed him warmly from day one.
He cycled for 3 weeks across the south of the country, visiting more than 20 Secondary Schools and engaging, not only with more than 700 students, but also with the general public as he was interviewed extensively on radio, newspapers and television.
Click on the links to find out more:
Canal 10 (TV interview): La Mañana en casa
Radio Del Sol: The dream of spreading science by bicycle
He is living his dream!
After an uncertain 2020 and adapting to the exceptional circumstances, in August a new experience began where instead of bringing ‘Science to Schools’, he brought ‘Scientists to Homes’.
During this action, Alex shared more than 70 videos from scientists around the world. You can watch them @Scicling (Instagram and Twitter).
They don’t only provide you some interesting scientific facts, but also give you some insight into their daily lives.
He has also had time to get an article published in Nature with his friends and collaborators Silvia Njeri Kariuki & Viola Introini.
And also, Scicling got some media attention, check these two interviews out: La Tribuna de Albacete & the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine