Published 17 March 2022 by Lučka Bibič

Participants of #LINO22 – Virtual Lab Simulations

Insight into a virtual lab. Photo/Credit: Labster, Aps

Lučka Bibič participated in #LINO70 and is exited to experience the Lindau Meeting onsite this summer. She is a science communicator located in the Netherlands. Learn how Lučka discovered her talent for science in her post from 2021. Since last summer, a lot has happened in her life, as she made a career move from the digital health space to the game-based science education company Labster. To get to know her better, don’t miss her TEDx talk on How Gamers are Solving Science’s Biggest Problems.

Since the main part of my PhD was about testing spider venom as a chronic pain reliever, I didn’t have the most employable technical skills when I completed my doctorate. Turns out milking crawly tarantulas and transferring small amounts of liquid from one tube to another are not hot skills in the job market. But, another major part of my studies was creating and communicating my research via a virtual reality game, which we aptly called Bug Off Pain. This experience helped me transition and understand what our virtual Labster simulations do, how they do it, who is using them, and most importantly – why they are being used.

Gamification for the Next Generation of Scientists

Lučka has experienced several projects in science communication and gamification. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Lučka Bibic

Now, I’m enjoying being a product manager with Labster. I liaise between our business stakeholders and our squads on the first fronts, a.k.a our developers, designers, artists, quality assurance folks, and scientists. The training during my PhD, coupled with my experience in start-ups, helped me become familiar with the processes of those experts and how they communicate. I am using my experience as an ex academic, scientist and communicator to improve flow and coherence of virtual lab simulations that help students build the skills and confidence they need for science, technology, engineering and mathemetics (STEM). We are excited to support more than 2,000 universities using our science education products. For example, in February 2022, nearly 300,000 students worldwide used Labster simulations. I love how the gamification of the scientific experience is supporting the development of both hard and soft skills in the next generation of scientists!

Opportunities and Challenges of Science Gamification

There are a few challenges currently facing science gamification and the EdTech field as a whole. For one, the pandemic has driven the need for remote learning technologies, yet, the benefits do not reach everyone. The biggest challenge is reaching and supporting marginalised learners, during COVID-19 and after.

The second challenge is reimagining education by testing new approaches, but this is also an exciting opportunity. The pandemic has driven experimentation in education. If carefully deployed, EdTech innovation can help close the gaps that the pandemic has exacerbated by using core digital principles and involving users in design to support iteration. This will boost progress towards achieving the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. In particular, EdTech can empower Goal 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Holistic Approach

VR Game Bug off Pain
The VR game Bug Off Pain explains the use of spider venom toxins as painkillers. Photo/Credit: Bug Off Pain

Last but not least, EdTech has a history of failed ‘one-size-fits-all’ learning and teaching interventions that largely focus on hardware provision. One solution I see is to find a more holistic and context-specific approach that would enable technologies at the system, teacher and student levels to align with each other. However, some of my other (more personal) challenges at my work now has been to say no. That may sound a bit blunt, but coming from academia, it was sometimes hard for me to say no. The supervisors, collaborators, editors, and peer-reviewers, had control over my fate – or at least it felt like that at the time. My job now involves saying no – sometimes to good ideas because they don’t serve our customer needs, are not technically feasible, or don’t have a good return on effort.

A Pint of Science

#LINO70 was an exciting, open, interactive and incredible experience! There were many insightful panel sessions but if I have to pick one, I really enjoyed a discussion on Why trust science? As a science writer, the talk captured the challenges surrounding science communication and public views of STEM. I was left even more motivated to help aspiring scientists realise how cool science is! The best part of #LINO70 was the chance to meet other scientists! I love staying in touch with my peers via LinkedIn or Twitter. I met two science communication fellows from the Netherlands and Belgium at the event. We connected so well that we met for a drink, or as we called it – a pint of science. Now, I can’t wait for our next catch-up this summer in Lindau!

Lučka Bibič

Dr. Lučka Bibič is a product manager at Labster. After studying pharmaceutical sciences in Slovenia and Denmark, she received her master’s degree at the University of Copenhagen and later moved to Australia before she started her PhD project on how spider venom toxins work against chronic pain. She worked with the BBC’s Naked Scientists at the University of Cambridge, is a founder of Bug Off Pain, co-founder of CryoThaw, and a science writer for the American Chemical Society. Lučka aims to show that science is a lot of fun and is happy to participate in #LINO22.