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In addition to  Emma Bunting’s PhD in Neuroscience, for which she researches Huntington’s Disease, she’s been an active volunteer throughout her time at UCL. Recently, she took part in the inaugural UCL Charity Consultancy Challenge; we caught up with Emma to find out more.

Tell us a little about your volunteering

My volunteering throughout my PhD has mainly focused on scientific outreach, including speaking at public engagement events (including Dementia Demystified and Medical Research Council fairs) and writing various scientific news pieces targeted at non-specialist audiences (including for BioNews and HD Buzz). 

 It was really exciting to push myself out of my comfort zone by doing something completely different during the Consultancy Challenge.

How did you find out about these roles?

I find out about most volunteering opportunities by email. 

What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?

Our team worked for a week during the Consultancy Challenge with Empathy Action to develop a social media strategy aimed at growing their online reach. This should help a very worthwhile charity grow their mission of inspiring others to take action. 

I also hope my scientific outreach volunteering has made a difference. Communicating scientific progress to the public can help to highlight the issues our society face, which is vital in order to solve those problems. 

What impact has volunteering had on you?

Volunteering has provided me with skillsets and contacts I wouldn’t have if I’d just spent the last 3 years glued to my lab bench. It’s so easy for scientists to get tunnel vision on their research topic and caught up in the need to churn out publications, forgetting about the many other important causes that exist and other pathways to develop your career. Volunteering allows you to meet people from all walks of life, expanding your network beyond your immediate field and giving you insight into some refreshingly different perspectives.  

What’s the best thing about volunteering?

Knowing that you might potentially help someone, even if it’s only in a small way. Small acts of kindness can go a long way. 

And the most challenging? How did you overcome the challenges?

At times it can be hard to juggle extra-curricular activities alongside working in a high-pressure research environment. Efficient time management became essential and was something I had to learn quickly. 

Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst volunteering

The opportunity to interact with people living with dementia as well as their families and carers during the Dementia Demystified event. It was a really special evening, giving us the opportunity to communicate our work to some of the people for whom it may matter the most.  It was a very welcome reminder of why we do what we do and something I’ll never forget. 

Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why?

Yes, definitely! UCL offers such an amazingly wide range of volunteering opportunities, which not only allow you to help others but also to develop yourself as a person. Take advantage of it while you can!