Many universities have dedicated student-run science publications. Such publications are ideal places for young science writers to work with an editorial team, build up confidence and grow their portfolios. But they are also teasers of what is to come from the emerging generation of science writers.

Periodically, we’ll cover some of those student-run science publications here on The SA Incubator. Today, we look at Bristol University’s Synapse Science Magazine. Launched only last year, Synapse already has two print issues and a regularly-updated blog with cool science-y content. A third issue is on its way. Tom Stubbs and Felicity Russell, the co-founders, tell us more about the publication and how they even went on a radio show!

--

Synapse Science Magazine (website, Facebook, Twitter) is a popular science print publication and blog written, designed and edited by students from Bristol University, UK. We distribute our termly print publication freely around the University campus. Our members range from fresh-faced freshers to veteran third-year postgrads, studying a diverse range of subjects, from quantum mechanics to palaeontology. We now have an established team of specialist subject editors, bloggers and over 100 writers. Synapse is an affiliated society with Bristol University’s Student’s Union and was founded by four enthusiastic science students who identified a niche in Bristol University’s student media. We believed a university that excels in science and engineering deserved its very own science publication.

Synapse remains in an embryonic stage, having only recently been founded in 2011. Nevertheless, in our first year we produced two print publications. A third one is in the pipeline. These magazines are accompanied by a dynamic popular science blog which has received thousands of views. Even at this early stage our achievements have been recognised and we were nominated for best new society at the 2012 Bristol Union awards. Our team was also invited onto Bristol community radio’s ‘Love and Science’ show to discuss our project, the state of science outreach and various hot topics in popular science.

The Synapse team. From left to right: Louise Brown, Felicity Russell, Molly Hawes, Alicja Jedrzejewska, Gemma Hallam, Daniel Ward and Tom Stubbs.

Transforming Synapse from a concept to a reality represented a considerable challenge. It is important to remember that the students producing Synapse, and many other student-run science magazines, do so with no previous experience. Yet, our graduate members will leave Bristol with great publishing knowledge and new entrepreneurial skills. This provides one of the main catalysts for producing Synapse: giving students an experience their science courses do not.

As science writers we are presented with a near infinite supply of raw materials for our magazine and blog. Mixing this inexhaustible content with a bit of imagination and originality has led to our writers producing articles ranging from ‘cross dressing in the animal kingdom’, ‘microbes that feed the world’ and ‘transplanting memories through donor organs’. All this in just two issues! Intriguingly, we often see our writers branching out from their course subjects, with chemists writing about insects and zoologists writing about the Higgs Boson. Our blog remains largely separate from the magazine and benefits from daily updates, news and HD videos. Visit the blog to meet real life Pokémon, discover the controversy of immortal cells and find opinions on publishing potentially dangerous results.

The upcoming issues of Synapse will see a considerable expansion in the range of article types and sections, including ‘myths and marvels’, ‘did you knows’, profiles and opinions. With the discovery of the Higgs Boson and the Curiosity Rover’s activities on Mars it is no wonder that a physics and engineering theme is apparent in the next issue.

Like the cichlids of Lake Victoria, Synapse will continue to evolve at a rapid rate and benefit from fresh ideas brought by the new cohort of students in October 2012. In addition to increasing the quantity of magazines printed, we hope to run a number of science communication events and produce our own radio show. The future is bright.

Tom Stubbs and Felicity Russell

Synapse co-founders