A definite member of the “A type personality club” Michelle uses her skills and drive as a positive role model to the young. Public speaker, motivator, science communicator and charitable engager describes Nanogirl best!
Good People Run are stoked to introduce GPR ambassador Dr. Michelle Dickinson who is all about inspiring people, and giving back in so many ways.
“Michelle is a firm believer that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, some people call that liking a challenge but to her it is a way of life. Whether it’s her favourite sports of kitesurfing, rock climbing, running and mountain biking, or working towards finding a solution for a science-related question, Michelle is always looking for ways to challenge herself.
Winner of the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize and the New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award for 2014, Michelle strongly believes that science should be open, transparent and a topic of conversation over the dinner table, not just the lab bench.” – http://www.medickinson.com
GPR and Michelle have some great events lined up to engage young people and educate them on the benefits of running and being active, but meanwhile let us introduce you.
Why are you involved with us at Good People Run?
The positive effects of good physical health on good mental health is so strong. Combining this with good people doing good things to create positive communities, is why I’m an ambassador for Good People Run.
How would you describe yourself?
A breaker of things – whether than be through my specialisation of engineering fracture mechanics or my desire to break stereotypes that surround women in technology and sports.
Kitesurfing, cycling, running, paddle boarding, or inside practicing martial arts. Any more sports you want to explore?
It’s funny as I think of the word “sport” as something very specific and targeted, whereas I just like using my body to discover new things, whether that be the scenery through a run, a shoal of ocean fish under my paddle board or a new joint lock in jiu jitsu. I don’t see myself as a sportsperson, I just like to be active and curious.
You message clearly teaches kids that Science isn’t intimidating. What’s your approach for encouraging them to explore running and the great outdoors?
Oh my, where do I start! Any trail runner has experienced the beauty and power of nature on a run, the amazing biology of plants that can grow in the darkest regions and the vibration of sound echoing through bird song. The gravitational power of a waterfall or the depth of colour of the different greens that surround us in New Zealand.
Internally too, I’m aware of my body, my heart rate, when to push myself and how that feels. The subconscious sense of needing more oxyen, the expanding feeling of expanding my diaphragm to further inflate my lungs. All of these involve science, but the public perception of science is that is something that is learned in a formal way in school. My challenge is to show people that you can appreciate and learn about science wherever you are, at any time, even when out on a run.
You are part founder of the OMGTech charity. Can you tell us a little about OMGTech, and how you share your love for running as a positive way to give back to the students?
Kids live in a world now where technology is everywhere, and it is poised to enable us to make all those crazy dreams of hover boards, spray on shoes, robots and wearable technology all come true, finally!
However, the really really big ideas that will shape the future are in the heads of our kids and the technology that will enable them to make these dreams reality is still inaccessible to most. At OMG Tech! are all about enabling all kids to get access to that future technology today. It is vitally important that there are no barriers for any kid in accessing any future technology.
I use running as an example in one of my workshops to promote keeping active, and how our heart and body work under stress. It’s a perfect tool to demonstrate how our bodies work.
(GPR photographed Michelle in action at OMG Tech! During a class over Here.)
Current occupation/what do you do?
I am a senior lecturer in Engineering at the University of Auckland and co-founder of a charity called OMGTech which teaches children core skills in technology.
Give us a small insight into your daily routine.
I wake up around 5am and head for a run with my dog around my local dog park- this is where I clear my thoughts and figure out my plan for the day, as well as get quality time with my dog who is a total goofball and cracks me up on our runs by trying to drag a stick that is way too big for him.
I then get stuck into the important e-mails as much as I can, sadly I receive way more e-mails that I can reply to, so I try to filter through as many as possible then jump on my road bike and cycle the 18km to my office at the University. I run a lab and am a full time academic so my day is filled with teaching, meeting students and writing papers, usually broken up with a trip to the gym on my lunch break where I’ll casually swim or watch a few TED talks while on the treadmill.
My cycle home is one of my favourite times, as I ponder on the science that happened that day and physically separate myself from my office, then I get home to a waggy tail and the dog and I head out for another walk or run. I have an event most evenings so after grabbing some food, I’ll attend either a formal event, a public lecture or a meeting for my charity, then head back home to bed.
How long have you been a runner?
I was a late bloomer, as I swam competitively through school and so didn’t take up running until my mid-20’s when a shoulder injury started to affect my swimming. I didn’t really like running for the first few years, but that was partly because I didn’t understand it enough. Through learning about the science of body posture, efficiency, nutrition and the fact that you don’t have to run on the road, but you can trail run through the most beautiful scenery I finally developed a love for running.
My first race was actually a marathon, I figured if I was going to do a race, I should probably do a big one, so I completed the Auckland Marathon then two weeks later I completed my first ultra-marathon in the 60km race at Tarawera. I like long distances much better than shorter ones, and carried on with a 100km race for the Oxfam trailwalker, which taught me that running in a group of 4 is much harder than controlling your own pace as an individual.
After a catastrophic kitesurfing accident where I shattered my left leg, snapping my ACL and MCL, I don’t race as much as I used to, and now just head into the woods with my dog for a few hours.
Describe what your #runnershigh is like?
When I am running, nothing else matters, my thoughts are clear, my body feels cleansed, it’s hard to describe but I know that when I’ve finished a run, I’m so much more productive in my work and I sleep better too.
How is running important to you and your life and it’s direction?
Running is just part of my life, like eating and sleeping. Just like a good diet and good sleep make you feel better the next day, running and physical activity does the same for me, I am very sluggish if I don’t get at least a couple of hours of exercise in a day.
What’s your philosophy on giving back to people?
Just do it. The human race is so blessed to be filled with people who all have different skills, if we can learn to share these skills then we become much more powerful as a group that just as individuals.
Your top three tips to achieving happiness?
Surround yourself with good, positive people who have similar visions for how to help the world.
Don’t stress over things you can’t change or have no control over, it’s just wasted energy.
Be open to things that scare or push you as some of the best life stories are on the other side of that obstacle in your way.
Where can we find you?