Storytelling and science journalism: in conversation with Dr Kit Chapman
07 April 2022
Dr Kit Chapman shares how his award-winning science journalism practice and zeal for storytelling are inspiring students on Falmouth’s online BA(Hons) Creative Writing course.
Holding a master's degree in pharmacy and a PhD in the history and philosophy of science, journalism may seem like a surprising career for Dr Kit Chapman. However, a natural love of storytelling combined with a strong belief in the importance of trust sheds some light on why he chose to pursue such a different path.
“One of the things I was taught when I was first starting out in journalism is this: imagine you rush into the pub, and you tell your friends about some breaking news - that’s how you turn your story into its first line. Well, I always want to be the one rushing into the pub. I love that feeling of being able to tell people something they don’t know. So, journalism is the perfect career for me to do that.”
Formerly an editor for Chemistry World, and published in Nature, New Scientist, The Daily Telegraph, Chemist+Druggist and BBC Science Focus among others, Kit has joined the department as module leader for BA(Hons) Creative Writing (Online) and is excited about building on Falmouth’s legacy for creative storytelling.
Kit’s writing career has taken him to over seventy countries and has seen him report on numerous high-profile stories, including going behind the scenes when University College London and Mercedes’ Formula 1 team helped to fight Covid by building 10,000 breathing machines in just a few days. In addition to this rich journalistic experience, Kit’s knowledge of science and knack for storytelling have coalesced into two published books. His most recent title, Racing Green, tells the story of how motorsport science has become more environmentally friendly and how such changes can have a wider impact.
“If we are going to beat climate change, we need to think about things holistically. I have always loved motorsports, and the many spinoff technologies that have come out of them have changed our world in ways that we don’t think about. For instance, we use aerodynamics from Formula 1 in supermarket freezers to reduce carbon footprints. I wanted to show people that our world is so interconnected.”
Racing Green was named RAC Motorsport Book of the Year for 2022, as well as topping the Amazon Bestseller list in several categories. Last summer, Kit took to the stage at Chris Evans’s charity festival CarFest South to share it with thousands of people. “I was doing my talk at 1pm, and McFly were on after that, so I literally opened for McFly!”
Kit is no stranger to sharing his work with large audiences, regularly appearing on radio, TV and podcasts, talking to thousands of people around the world on science, writing and history. “The biggest talk I’ve ever given was being invited to lecture at the Royal Institution in London, which is huge for a science communicator and journalist. It’s the place where Carl Sagan has lectured, and it started out with Humphry Davy, so to be able to give the birthday lecture for its 223rd birthday was the highlight of my career so far.”
So, what is Kit most looking forward to in his role as module leader? “I’m always most excited about engaging with the students. When you see a student understand something, and the lightbulb turns on, that’s one of the greatest moments you can have as an educator. But it is also seeing what people produce. The work our students are creating is incredibly exciting. So, to see students taking what we have taught them and applying that in ways that are world-beating is fantastic.”