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Fiction Lab 10th Anniversary - Science and Literature Special!

Jennifer Rohn of hosts a free panel discussion about the relationship between science and literature.

Blake's picture of Newton highlights the tension between science and the arts
William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Event description

To celebrate 10 years since the start of Fiction Lab, the Ri’s monthly science book group, Jennifer Rohn of will host a free event to discuss the relationship between science and literature.

Joining her on the panel will be award-winning author Philip Ball, novelist and astrophysicist Pippa Goldschmidt and novelist and astronomer Stuart Clark, all of whom have been featured guests of honour at Fiction Lab over the years. We are also delighted to welcome special guest, actor Stephen McGann

This event is free to attend, although spaces are limited, and you can reserve your place via the Eventbrite link above.

About the speakers

Jennifer Rohn is a practising scientist, leading a cell biology research lab at University College London which studies how bacteria subvert human cells during infection. In her spare time, she moonlights as a science writer, journalist, broadcaster and pundit. She blogs about the scientific life at Mind The Gap and on The Guardian, and has written for a number of outlets including The Times, The Guardian, Nature, The Telegraph, and BBC News.

'Lab lit,' a term she coined, is a tiny but growing genre of mainstream fiction about scientists and science as a profession (as opposed to science fiction). She is the author of two published lab lit novels: Experimental Heart (shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize) and The Honest Look, and has also published short fiction. She created and continues to run the science culture online magazine, which has been highlighted in the New York Times, US National Public Radio, The Guardian and The Boston Globe.’s mission is to help promote the use of science and scientist characters in mainstream fiction and to illuminate the world of scientists and laboratory culture.

Her latest lab lit novel, Cat Zero, is out in June from Bitingduck Press.


Philip Ball is a freelance science writer. He worked previously at Nature for over 20 years, first as an editor for physical sciences (for which his brief extended from biochemistry to quantum physics and materials science) and then as a Consultant Editor. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.

Philip is the author of many popular books on science, including works on the nature of water, pattern formation in the natural world, colour in art, the science of social and political philosophy, the cognition of music, and physics in Nazi Germany. He has written widely on the interactions between art and science, and has delivered lectures to scientific and general audiences at venues ranging from the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) to the NASA Ames Research Center, London's National Theatre and the London School of Economics. He is also the author of a lab lit novel entitled The Sun and Moon Corrupted, which was featured at Fiction Lab’s very first gathering in June 2008

Pippa Goldschmidt is a writer based in Edinburgh. She is currently in residence at the University of Edinburgh’s Science, Technology and Innovation Studies unit. She has received a Suffrage Science award– an award that honours women in science.

Her collection of short stories The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2015 and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2016 and is available from Freight Books. Her lab lit novel The Falling Sky was runner-up for the Dundee International Book Prize 2012 and is also available from Freight Books.

Her short stories, poetry and non-fiction have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including GutterLablitNew Writing Scotland and the New York Times, and has also been broadcast on Radio 4.


Stuart Clark is a widely read astronomy journalist. His career is devoted to presenting the complex world of astronomy to the general public. Stuart holds a first class honours degree and a PhD in astrophysics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a former Vice Chair of the Association of British Science Writers. On 9 August 2000, UK daily newspaper The Independent placed him alongside Stephen Hawking and the Astronomer Royal, Prof Sir Martin Rees, as one of the ‘stars’ of British astrophysics teaching. 

Currently, he divides his time between writing books and, in his capacity of cosmology consultant, writing articles for New Scientist. He is a consultant and writes for the European Space Agency where he was Senior Editor for Space Science for some time. Over the years Stuart has written for amongst others: BBC Sky at Night, BBC Focus, The Times, The Guardian, The Economist, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Daily Express, Astronomy Now, Sky and Telescope and Astronomy. He has written text for an issue of stamps for the Royal Mail. He writes an online blog for the Guardian called Across the Universe, read all around the world. He is also the author of a trilogy of historical lab lit novels, The Sky's Dark Labyrinth Trilogy from Polygon.

Stephen McGann is an actor, author and science communicator. He’s starred in a number of West End productions and a large number of television dramas; he currently plays Dr Turner in the BBC hit Call The Midwife. He also has a master’s in Science Communication from Imperial College and enjoys speaking to audiences about science. His books include Dr Turner’s Casebook, and Flesh and Blood: A History of My Family in Seven Maladies – a personal history of his family told through the diseases they suffered.