Extroverted scientist and social engagement practitioner of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) Dannie Kenny adeptly communicates complicated research topics with a broad audience. But she is also an avid foodie, sharing her experiences of her adopted Mother City and the restaurants she visits with her online community on social media.
As we kicked off May commemorating Workers' Day, we dedicate this series of articles to our staff and their important contribution to Stellenbosch University (SU). In the interview below, Kenny tells us more about her work.
What does your role at SU entail?
My role as a science engagement practitioner is to ensure that all the incredible research being conducted by our world-class researchers within the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics (MBHG) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Centre for TB Research is being shared with key stakeholder groups. This is achieved by way of science communication activities, community engagement projects, social media platforms, policy reports, media interviews and public awareness events.
I serve on several committees, including the FMHS Social Impact Committee, the FMHS Visual Redress Task Team, the MBHG Student Mentorship Committee, and the Division of MBHG Reporting Task Team. I'm also the Chairperson of the Division of MBHG Societal Impact Task Team.
What does a typical day at work look like?
Like most people, my day starts with reading through emails and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Meetings, where new or ongoing projects are discussed, form a large part of my schedule. Here, project feedback is shared, grant applications with project design, budgets and outcomes are developed, and relationships with key partners are established, maintained, and strengthened – all in the pursuit of meaningful engagement that promotes transparent, inclusive, and responsive science for society.
How did your education or past experiences prepare you for this role?
I believe that my background in science, which is ongoing as I am busy with a part-time PhD in molecular biology, has helped me understand the research efforts of our Division so that the information can be shared with a large audience base in a clear and concise manner.
This experience also helps me recognise and promote the value of science engagement in research by acting as the middleman or bridge connecting science and society. These mutually beneficial interactions allow researchers and stakeholders to gain perspective, understanding and passion for impactful research.
What do you enjoy most about your role and working at SU?
I am an extrovert and enjoy meeting and engaging with people in meaningful ways. I am keen to learn and discover new ideas, approaches, perspectives, and cultures – the trait of a scientist, I guess. I also enjoy sharing people's lived experiences and creative thoughts in the work that I do.
Tell us something exciting or interesting about yourself that few people would expect?
When I'm not working, I enjoy spending my time exploring the beautiful Mother City as a tourist as I'm originally from the Eastern Cape. I love food and think of myself as an amateur social media foodie who shares my experiences with my online community – which is mostly just my friends and family. I have a note on my phone with lists for 40 tourist attractions and more than 100 restaurants and bars to visit, so I'm never short of things to do.