CESTEMER Speaker Spotlight: Alex Lancaster

What makes the CESTEMER community unique are all of the outstanding participants who boldly cross disciplinary lines in their work, while creating and sharing all of the fun that can be along the way. Here we highlight many of these individuals with the CESTEMER Speaker Spotlights Series, where we’ve asked presenters from CESTEMER 17 and CESTEMER 19 to answer a few questions about what excites them about our community and the intersection with their passions.

What drew you to become part of the CESTEMER community?

Alex Lancaster

I had seen Raquell Holmes perform the Living Improv Experiment at the Cambridge Science Festival, and as an occasional improv performer myself – I was immediately hooked on connecting improv and science – and that lead me to learn about CESTEMER.  One of the biggest challenges to moving science forward today are not a lack of tools, techniques, or data, but the lack of support for making science a truly inclusive, co-operative, playful and human enterprise. In short – how do we create environments for all individuals to contribute to science in whatever way works for them in the context of their entire lives, and move away from narrow narratives of professional success? CESTEMER is a fantastic place to figure that out. What other conferences to do you get to play with your fellow participants?

Words like collaboration and open-science are all the rage these days – and although they may lead to better science in the abstract – they will not automatically lead to better working conditions and opportunities for joyful flourishing of the individuals doing the science unless they are coupled with deep economic and cultural changes in our institutions. By bringing science, arts and humanities together, CESTEMER gets us all out of our specialist silos to see where we can collectively make systemic change.

If you can narrow down the experience of CESTEMER 2017 to one big takeaway, what would it be? What was most gratifying?

CESTEMER really gets you “out of your head”. To realize that sometimes the best idea in the room does not reside in just one person, but it’s the property of the whole – this helps us get away from the narrow zero-sum conception of success that sometimes bogs us down.

What is a piece of advice you would give to someone attending CESTEMER for the first time?

Get ready to have fun! People are really ready and open to new ideas – it’s all about generating new possibilities and relationships – not about defending a thesis to a skeptical audience. Don’t worry about “getting it right” – there is no right. The conference itself becomes a kind of performance of it’s own – let yourself be drawn in.

What are you most excited about experiencing with CESTEMER 2019?

Meeting all the new people in the community. Seeing the breadth of new presentations and performances. Being on Broadway!

What are some ways people can get connected to you and your work? (i.e. website, social media, etc.)

Twitter: @LancasterSci

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