Category Archives: Winner Reports

What Helen Johnson did with her prize money…

Helen won the Space Zone in November 2014.  We asked her to update us on what she’s been able to do with her £500 prize money and here is what she said…


I had an absolute blast taking part in I’m a Scientist! It was such a thrill to connect with students from all over the country and be able to share my research. I was amazed by their curiosity, their insightful questions, and it was brilliant to see such enthusiasm for astronomy and space exploration.

Those two weeks were like a wonderful scicomm bootcamp – I learnt so much and it was one of the most rewarding outreach experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve since been using my IAS mug with pride and telling anyone who will listen that they have to give it a go themselves. Although up against some tough competition (Hugh, Julian, Jane and Heather) I was lucky enough to win in my zone, picking up the £500 prize money.

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The super cool thumbs up suggests these may not be real aliens.

Within the Physics department at Durham we have a brilliant outreach team and there are always plenty of fantastic opportunities. At the time I had already been involved with a number of different projects (science festivals, planetarium shows, events to encourage girls into Physics) and so figuring out how best to spend my winnings was a tough decision. After much deliberation I decided to invite 50 local students to the department for a full-day of Space themed demos, talks and hands-on activities.

Little did I know what I was getting myself in for! I’d never organised such a huge event before. Thankfully I had my outreach partner-in-crime Steph Bartle and many enthusiastic PhD students/postdocs/staff on hand to help “Space Day 2016” become a reality. There were months of planning, endless emails, weird shopping lists, moments of insanity and so many risk assessment forms that we risked paper cuts, but we finally did it.

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The invisible meteorite demonstration is always a big hit.

The day was packed full of space themed activities, introducing the students to many different aspects of astronomy and space exploration. In our “Exploring the Solar System” session the groups took inspiration from Matt Damon, designing their own Martian base and figuring out how they would adapt to survive on the Red Planet. This was followed by a Mars landers competition, where the mission was to protect their cargo (um, egg) from a 3 storey test impact!

In our “Extragalactic” session teams journeyed through the electromagnetic spectrum, learning how astronomers observe galaxies at different wavelengths. They then took part in the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo, using real data to classify morphological types. The session concluded using an Occulus Rift virtual reality headset to take a spin through the cosmos, exploring results of the cosmological simulation EAGLE. Lunch was also busy, with an opportunity to learn about gravitational lensing and study meteorite samples.

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Designing a Mars base inspired by The Martian. ‘Remember, Matt Damon will need somewhere to grow apples so that he can ask college students if they like them or not’

One of the highlights of our day was chatting to Juno project scientist Steve Levin live from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mission Juno is currently en-route to Jupiter and will arrive this July, exploring our solar system’s largest planet in unprecedented detail. Students were able to put their questions to Steve via Skype, and he gave us fantastic insight into the mission and what his team hope to discover. After a quick break we rounded off the day with shows in our inflatable planetarium and a visit to the department’s rooftop telescopes.

Although one school couldn’t make it due to poor weather conditions, the rest of the day ran smoothly and was amazing fun. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, with ~ 95% of students rating the statements “I enjoyed today’s event” and “I am keen to attend future events like this” with a 4 or 5 out of 5. One student even said they would prefer fewer break times! I am very grateful to I’m a Scientist for helping to make this all happen, and I hope we can use equipment bought with the prize money to engage with many more students in the future.


See what the Durham Physics outreach team are up to

Investigate the EAGLE computer model of the universe

If you’re up for the I’m a Scientist challenge, apply now the next event by Monday 2nd of May

Posted on April 27, 2016 modantony in IOPWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jo Sadler did with her prize money…

Jo was voted the winner of the Green Chemistry Zone in March 2015.  We asked her to tell us what she’s been up to over the last year with her £500 and here is what she said…


Answering questions from the students in I’m a Scientist was not only great fun – but it also got me to think about what I do in a different light. Despite stiff competition from the other scientists, I was delighted to find out I’d survived until the end and now had the opportunity to do something new with the prize money. So here’s what I did…

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Click for the scheme’s website

I’m passionate about sharing my enthusiasm for science with others and especially keen to pass this on to the younger generations. I wanted to start something that would reach as many young people as possible and get them to think about science in a new light. With this in mind, I set up a new outreach scheme called ‘Leaders in Science’. The idea behind this was to have a scheme whereby A-Level and BTEC students design and deliver their own science workshops in local primary schools.

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These workshop leaders have got their hands full developing activities.

I teamed up with the Da Vinci School in Stevenage and we advertised the scheme to A-Level and BTEC students, eventually ending up with a group of 8 students to pilot the scheme with. I led a series of workshops on science topics outside of their curriculum (‘How to Invent a Medicine’ and ‘Everyday Chemistry’, for example), as well as sessions on leadership, communication and presentation skills. Working in groups of 4, the students then set about designing their own workshops for 10-11 year olds based on this material.

After much discussion, planning and practicing, it was time for the first primary school visit. Both teams decided to do workshops on the pH scale, looking at pH properties of everyday household items. I’m delighted to say both teams smashed it – the primary school students loved it and learnt something new, and the Leaders in Science students did brilliantly to make it fun and engaging.

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A workshop leader taking pH to primary schools

After the success of this pilot year, everyone is keen for Leaders in Science to continue. As I move into the next stage of my career next year, I’m passing the scheme over to six young GSK scientists and PhD students. Together, we are we are hoping to expand into more secondary schools and get the scheme accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The prize money from I’m a Scientist has certainly made all of this possible, funding a website to advertise and share resources of the scheme and all the resources needed for workshops for the next few years. Thank you!


Visit the Leaders in Science website for free resources and to contact the team about getting involved in the scheme.

Posted on March 30, 2016 modantony in RSCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What James Bell did with his prize money

James was voted the winner of the Animal Behaviour Zone in 2014. We asked him to update us on how he’d used his £500 prize money and here is what he said….


I did I’m a Scientist in June in 2014 in the Animal Behaviour zone. Between Shaylon, Anthony, Catherine and Natalie and me, we had a great couple weeks and answered loads of great questions. I was lucky enough to win, despite stiff competition from the other scientists and here’s what I did with my money.

Almost cute!

Meet my Open ROV. Almost cute, ain’t he!

I’m a marine ecologist, which means I spend my time studying where animals live in the oceans and why, particularly in the deep-sea. With that in mind, I decided to buy a remotely operated submersible (called OpenROV http://www.openrov.com). This is basically a camera, attached to some propellers and a long cable (called a tether), which you can drive around underwater using your laptop and an XBOX controller. It’s a great, very portable tool for studying the oceans, especially because there are so many areas of the sea we know very little about. OpenROV is a really fascinating, community-led project that encourages anyone, expert or not, to get involved in marine science and/ or robotics.

A ROV's eye view. Not in a lake at this point.

A ROV’s eye view. Not in a lake at this point.

It took a few days to build and I had to brush up on a lot of skills like soldering (hadn’t done that in years and years but you never know when these skills can come in handy).

What monsters are lurking in a lake in north Leeds? Genuinely worried for the ROV here

Testing the ROV in an exotic lake in north Leeds. What mysterious monsters/shopping trolleys are lurking in the gloom?

So far it’s had a few test runs, in a swimming pool, a lake near where I live but also in a Norwegian fjord. In the future I’m hoping to get out with some local SCUBA diving clubs in the summer to film the biodiversity on some local wrecks. There’s more investigations planned for the summer hopefully so watch this space.


For updates on his ROVing exploits, follow James on Twitter, @James_chesso.

Posted on March 2, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jess Wade did with her prize money…

Jess was voted the winner of Colour Zone in June 2015. Here she tells us how she immediately got to work using the prize money for her own outreach event: a day bringing girls into her department at Imperial College London…


Last year, I got involved with Greenlight for girls’ mission to inspire girls of all ages and backgrounds to pursue STEM subjects after helping out with their events in Brussels. We then started dreaming about their first UK adventure, and with help from the I’m a Scientist prize money, pretty quickly that became a reality.

Our g4g banner signed by every girl who attended!

Our g4g banner signed by every girl who attended!

On Saturday 26th September, Imperial’s Department of Physics went ‘swipe-free’ 09:00 – 10:00, and welcomed 200 girls into the Blackett Laboratory for the first g4g London. This was an epic organisational triumph: a cross-campus multi-department effort to encourage and inspire 12 – 16 year old girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths.

The day itself came after a week of sleepless nights and endless to-do lists. I printed so many lists of contact details and registers and conformation e-mails and room reservations I got myself logged out of my college print service because of unusual usage. I sent so many ‘BCC’ e-mails gmail thought I was spam. I changed my Tesco order so many times even they must have thought I was mad: madly adding croissants, gluten-free muffins, vegan breakfast bars and wipe-able tablecloths until close to the 23:45 cut off on the Friday before.

The girls settle into LT1, hopefully they'll be back here to study very soon.

The girls settle into LT1, a place I’m sure many will back very soon

On the day, the girls arrived at 09:00 on the dot. They’d come from over 30 different schools and most of them didn’t know each other. The girls streamed into LT1 and, for a few hours at least, men were in the minority in the Physics Department. I gave a little talk and bigged up the place and people that made me: South Hampstead and my mom, who was sitting in the seat I sat in for my whole undergraduate education, up at the back, in an aisle.

In the build up to g4g day London a lot of names were thrown around to do the opening talk: the go-to guide for impressive female speakers. Dr. Emily Mayhew popped up on almost every list, and she did not disappoint: wowing the girls with her knowledge of medical fractures, female discoveries and difficult spellings, before their first workshops of the day.

The girls take over the Black Laboratory

The girls take over the Blackett Laboratory between workshops

The rest of the day seems a bit of a blur, rushing around campus collecting swipe cards (I was cautious of the £20 penalty on failure to return), diligently collecting kit, melting cheese in microwaves, raiding the cleanroom stores for absorbent towel, popping balloons, chatting to girls I’ve spent weeks talking to in cyber space.  After final workshops the girls regrouped in LT1 to hear from Lucinda, the ICU president. Lucinda is GREAT- she’s a passionate public speaker with a brilliant plan to represent science in politics.

Some of the delicious, and accurate, Bakeoff entries. Thank you to Professor Sara Rankin for the idea!

Some of the delicious, and accurate, Bakeoff entries. Thank you to Professor Sara Rankin for the idea!

The day came to a close with the Blackett Laboratory’s first public Bake Off, with entries from  girls, workshop leaders, Imperial staff and senior academics. It was truly a masterclass in molecular gastronomy- with cakes representing volcanoes, hydrocarbons and brain surgery.

And we had done it. Two hundred girls had made friends, made discoveries and changed their plans for the future. Every single girl I handed a goodie bag too said she wanted to apply to Imperial. The youngest wanted to know what they’d have to get in their GCSEs to come here. The oldest students were already imagining their first days in halls, where they’d eat lunch and which union clubs they’d join. I cannot believe how much of a success it was- or how much all the volunteers and workshop leaders seemed to get out of it. The tweeting was immense, the spontaneous feedback has made me teary-eyed and the enthusiasm empowering.

These are girls who want to become civil engineers, design their own apps and run their own research groups. These are girls who will. Every single organisation represented at the event want the skills these girls had- the passion, the charm, the capacity to collaborate, the drive. These young women need to be celebrated, supported and encouraged. These young women will change the world.

What have I learnt from the whole thing? I think I learnt what most people mean by ‘collaboration’ and how hard it is to get people to do things for free on a weekend- absolutely no budget and no staff privileges meant I had a one month self-taught crash course in event planning/conference organising/crowd control/schools liaison, all the time struggling to keep out of the watchful gaze of my supervisor.

Me and a new friend make the most of the photo booth provided by my prize money

Me and a new friend make the most of the photo booth provided by my prize money

I also learnt that it’s important to be nice to people- especially when you’re asking for things for free! The ‘more girls in science’ pitch sales pitch is pretty compelling and usually when you explain what your plans are people are more than willing to donate their time, resources and efforts to such a worthwhile cause: but not if you aren’t polite or clear.

Arranging an event on campus is a BIG deal. You need to get departmental approval, security approval, faculty approval. You have to consult the college brand to see how you’re supposed to use the Imperial College logo, then break every rule in the book and change the colour. You have to have a pretty big name on the booking form to avoid paying thousands of pounds to rent lecture theatres on the weekend. Lots of people just don’t e-mail back, and lots of places still prefer phone calls (especially learned institutions and academies). Ultimately, everyone at the end of the electronic postal system is a human, and each one of those humans wants to know what you want them to do, or send, or design.

To run g4g day @ Imperial College London, I had to sweet talk an awful lot of people into doing an awful lot of things for free. But there are somethings that even that can’t cover! In the end, my I’m a Scientist prize money ended up covering the 250 custom designed beautiful bright blue books for the girls to detail their findings in over the course of the day and a very popular science Photo Booth. Actually, these parts of the day alone are most commonly brought up ‘post-event’, with Imperial’s Outreach Department and the Institute of Physics trying to arrange similar things for their events… so it was money well spent! I also really enjoyed speaking to the teachers that attended about how fun it was to take part in I’m a Scientist (and filling their bags with flyers). Rarely a day goes by when I don’t sing I’m a Scientist’s praises in some form!


Read Jess’ full account of organising the g4g day on her blog Making Physics Fun, which is full of useful tips on setting up outreach events at university.

See the full list of the workshops held on the day here.

Find out more about Greenlight for girls and their g4g Days at www.greenlightforgirls.org

Posted on February 17, 2016 modantony in RSCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Anaïs Pujol did with the prize money….

Anaïs came second in the Molecules Zone of March 2015 and was awarded the £500 after Peter Maskell found alternative funding for his project. Anaïs got straight to work making the most of this opportunity and here she fills us in on what she was able to do with the money….


I really enjoyed I’m a Scientist and, although I came second, I was fortunate to be kindly awarded the prize money by the winner, Peter.

I wanted to use the money to set up an outreach activity for to inspire young children to look around them and think about science. Initially I contacted people in charge of outreach activities at Antikor, where I work, but unfortunately they didn’t have an event planned in the near future.  As people couldn’t come to me I decided to look for a place where I could go to them!

One day I received an email from Science Grrl, in which I learnt that Fun Palaces were looking for scientists to do workshops. Fun Palaces take place in libraries around London every year in October. They mix art and science and are open to everyone. Libraries don’t have much funding available, so when I contacted Brixton Library they were delighted about my interest in doing a workshop with them.

Anaïs (left) brings light into the library

Anaïs (left) brings light into the library

I decided to base my workshop around light. I felt it was perfect for children and adults, mixed chemistry and physics, and was a way to relate science to art. I used the prize money to buy items needed to run the activity, including some chemicals. In the workshop I started by first explaining how the colours in light can become visible, answering questions such as “why the sky is blue?”. I then explained and showed the effect of UV light on quinine. We finished by encouraging the children to mix some chemicals, causing luminol to react with a flash of light. The children were really happy, and were especially  impressed by the experiment with luminol!

I also prepared posters and a display about the activity to attract people to come see us. On the day I asked a friend to help out with the event. We ran it all day with an audience of children aged between 6 and 13 years old, with and without their parents.

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South London Press covered the event and featured Anaïs’ workshop

We also had a visit from a journalist from South London Press which covered the event and published an article about our experiments. It was a really great day and thanks to I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here I can run this workshop again soon.

Posted on January 6, 2016 modantony in RSCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Nick Wright did with his prize money…

Nick won the Extreme Size Zone in March 2014. Here he tells us how he put his £500 to use in the name of  engaging school students with astronomy…


I wanted to find a way to put the prize money towards a project that provided school children with exposure to real scientific research in a fun and simple way. My original plan was to produce a series of posters that shared cutting-edge scientific ideas in astronomy with school children through simple but attractive imagery. In the end I did spend a portion of the money on this project, but I also wanted to do something more proactive that would have a longer-term impact on school children across the country.

Nick wright's poster

Nick created these posters with the most…ers. You can get them yourself from the links at the bottom of this blog.

The British Science Association runs an excellent scheme called CREST Awards, whereby 11-19 year old school students complete projects that help build their scientific skills. The work for these is typically done in school STEM clubs, which also provide an extra opportunity for students to engage with science.

Suitable scientific projects for CREST Awards are not easy to prepare, particularly astronomy projects and this was evidenced from the lack of such projects currently available for schools from the CREST website. I wanted to remedy this by designing a number of astronomy-related CREST projects that used real astronomy data, yet were easy for school teachers to use, and were also really fun for students.

Most astronomy data is actually free and readily available for anyone to use, including high-quality images that can be used to answer exciting and cutting-edge questions in science. It is my hope that by helping school children access this data and providing projects that allow them to study and use this data in a real scientific experiment we could enthuse the children to pursue scientific subjects in school and possibly take up a career in science. So I started designing a few projects that used real and freely available data.

As it happened at that time a local school in Hertfordshire made a request to our local STEMNET coordinator for someone to help them set up a new STEM club. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity not only to test my CREST projects, but also to work with a school going through the process of setting up a STEM club, and in doing so, see the process through the teacher’s eyes.

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Nick weighs up his interplanetary options: “Neptune goes with my shirt, but Jupiter really brings out my eyes”

Working with the school and the teachers I was able to refine and fashion the projects, making them easy to use for the teachers, while also being new and exciting for the school children. I used the prize money to visit the school regularly, give talks to the students, and advise the teachers on how to run the CREST Award projects I had designed. By being directly involved in the STEM club itself I was also able to see how the students reacted to the projects, what worked for them and what they enjoyed the most. It was a really enjoyable experience and taught me a lot about how teachers interact with students and what scientists can most helpfully provide teachers with to help them.

These projects will soon be available through the CREST website, with information for how they can be run, where the data can be obtained, and how the results can be interpreted by students and teachers. This is all thanks to I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here, so thank you to all involved!


You can download and print Nick’s posters for yourself using the links below:

Nick also has a limited amount of prints of the posters available to post out. Contact him through his blog to get hold of one: www.aclusterofthoughts.blogspot.co.uk

To read more about CREST awards and get involved, head to the British Science Association website: www.britishscienceassociation.org/crest-awards.

Posted on November 4, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Carmen Denman did with her prize money…

Carmen won the Immune System Zone in March of 2015 and has already been hard at work making the most her £500. Here Carmen fills us in on what she’s been up to…


Thanks to the I’m a Scientist prize money, I’ve gotten to step out of my research laboratory at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and talk with students and members of the public about science and science careers. During the competition, I had a blast meeting the many students online that participated in the I’m a Scientist chats, and they asked fantastic questions about infectious diseases, bacteria and vaccines.

I participate in outreach to students as a STEM ambassador because not only do I want to spread the good word about bacteria and vaccines, I really want students to see research scientists as real people, rather than people always in lab coats and safety goggles. I want them to know they don’t have to have the most perfect grades in every subject, that they can have hobbies like languages and music as well as work hard to cure cancer or make a vaccine! I am trying to inspire students to take science A-levels, and ultimately consider going into careers in science that they might not have ever heard about or knew to exist.

Carmen Microbes

My flashy new Giant Microbe collection and ‘Bug bites’ sweeties!

When I won the Immune System Zone I said I would use the £500 prize money to visit schools and help with events that would encourage science and science careers in young people and that is just what I have done. I have used the prize money for various train journeys to transport myself and co-workers to schools. I have also bought squishy cute Giant Microbes to help me explain different diseases and bacterial attributes, such as flagella, cell morphology, and sporulation. We have bug-shaped sweeties to hand out as rewards for asking good science questions, and pencils too! We’ve even gotten fancy bright blue lab coats for students and us to wear during a science outreach activity.

One of these activities uses a Glowgerm solution which we get students to rub into their hands either before or after hand-washing with soap; it goes on clear and then we ask all the children to wash their hands. Then using a black light the bacteria will light up so they can see how well or badly they washed their hands. It’s a fun experiment to do with all school age kids and brings home the message about washing your hands and preventing spread of bacteria really well.

In my travels so far I have been to a ‘Women in Science’ day at Tolworth Girls School where I talked with Year 11 students about careers in science along with 11 other women from different science backgrounds. The students said that they found the day ‘inspiring’ and many said they would want to take science A Levels.

Me as an ultra-serious looking living library  book. Better than a real library book and you can't write in the margins!

Me as an ultra-serious looking living library book. | Photo: Dr. Andrea Zelmer

I’ve also just been a ‘Living Book’ as part of an event at the London Bloomsbury Festival. I was ‘borrowed’ by members of the public for fifteen minutes at a time so I could talk with them about the topic of  ‘Bugs as Bioweapons’. I used the prize money to print off materials on microbes, antibiotic resistance, and the history of vaccines, and information on foam boards. Between myself and two co-workers we probably talked to almost 100 people at the event. I found this a really fun experience and we had some lovely feedback, one visitor said it was the’ best thing’ at the festival!

I’ve also participated with four of my favourite co-workers at a ‘career speed-dating’ event in Surbiton where I got to speak with over 150 year 6 students to convince them to take science A-levels, and I even have a work experience student now visiting me at my lab.

Aside from visits, I’m aiming to use some of the money to generate some simple, fun and re-usable ‘outreach packs’ to be used at festivals and school visits and help me and other scientists explain vaccines and infectious diseases in a simple and clear way.

Here I am in front of the flashy new Giant Microbe collection and ‘Bug bites’ sweeties! Holding some home-made beer, to show bacteria have their good not just bad uses! I also handed out career stories about people with science jobs and what A-levels they had taken to get them into the jobs they now have.

Here I am holding some home-made beer, to show bacteria have their good, not just bad uses! I’m also holding career stories about people with science jobs and what A-levels they had taken to get them into the jobs they now have.

The I’m a Scientist prize money is helping make all of this possible, and teachers are thrilled when I get in contact and offer to come visit. Coming up in November I’m off to a primary school in Taunton, Somerset to spread the good word about vaccines and careers in science as part of the schools ‘Science Week’, where apparently I’ll get to sing songs about science, give out prizes at an assembly, and then meet with Years 3-6 individually to do some activities. I’m also looking forward to planning more school visits, including a ‘science masterclass’ for 6th formers from Camden in the New Year.

Posted on October 28, 2015 modantony in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Hugh Harvey did with his prize money…

Hugh Harvey of the Institute of Cancer Research won the Light Zone in March 2015. He quickly got to work and here he tells us see how made the best of his £500 prize money


I wanted to put the prize money towards buying a 3D printer for a local school, and setting up a 3D printing club for the children. This is a great opportunity to spread awareness and experience of 3D printing to school children – something which I hope will encourage them to take up science careers.

hughstem3

This ain’t your parent’s inkjet– It’s got a whole new dimension, plus cool sci-fi lighting effects!

A call went out to all schools who take part in STEMnet projects in Sussex for them to tell me why they deserved the 3D printer. I also got in contact with the super generous team at Ultimaker who loved the idea and offered to help part-fund the project. In fact, they were so keen to help they even offered a free one month loan printer as a second place prize for another school! Ultimaker run a fantastic education programme based around 3D printing, and I’m very happy to be partnering with them to help provide a school with a brilliant 3D printing educational package.

On top of this, the talented 3D modeller and designer Brian Richardson heard about the competition and offered the winning school one of his gorgeous models for free, to get the kids inspired!

Six schools responded to the STEMSussex call for entries, with each school submitting a short statement as to why they deserved a free 3D printer. I read and re-read them, and took the bank holiday weekend to decide… All schools were of course worthy and put across a great statement, but in the end there can only be one winner!

hughstem1

Hugh, 3D printer, and the students of Longhill High School STEM club. You’ll never guess which pupils are 3D printed clones.

The winner was Longhill High School. Head of Technology, Mr Matthews wrote a wonderful statement detailing his own experience with 3D modelling and printing, and his plans to get the kids creating a start-up business designing and selling models such as iPhone cases and jewellery, with profits being reinvested to purchase the raw materials needed to create more prints.

Longhill High School has a large proportion of students from underprivileged backgrounds who don’t often choose STEM careers so it is an absolute pleasure to be working with them and donating a free 3D printer. I recently visited the school as a STEM ambassador and helped to set-up the printer and the 3D printing club. Who knows – we might find the next 3D printing genius!

A valiant effort by Cardinal Newman Catholic School earned them the second prize of a 3D printer on loan for one month. They’ll get to try out what the printer can do, as well as benefit from all the educational support from UltimakerCREATE that’s on offer. Mrs Stone, their Head of Technology, wrote of the sheer excitement the pupils had of watching Youtube videos about 3D printers, so I can only imagine what the kids reaction will be once they get their hands on one in the classroom!

My thanks also go out to Daniel Hawkins at STEMSussex who helped organise this competition and visits.


Follow Hugh on twitter @DrHughHarvey and check out his blog, drhughharvey.com, for more 3D printing adventures.

Posted on October 14, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Fiona McLean did with her prize money…

Fiona was the winner of the general science Promethium Zone in 2014. Over the last year she’s been hard at work on her project, funded by the £500 prize. We asked her to tell us how she’s been getting on…


In June 2014 (after a lot of fast typing!) I was delighted to be told I was the winner of the Promethium Zone! I had a lot of fun engaging with so many people across the UK that I wanted to be able to do the same with whatever I spent the prize money on. So I decided to take up the challenge of making videos that anybody could watch anywhere.

"The pipette stays in the picture!"

“The pipette stays in the picture!” Fiona ‘Scorsese’ McLean frames another heart-wrenching shot.

Making a video was quite daunting because it was something I had never done before. However, I eventually just went for it and spent the money on a high quality video set up. I then rounded up some of my friends and colleagues and had a chat with them about being a scientist whilst filming it.

When learning to edit, remember to take the advice "Murder your darlings" non-literally to protect your friends' health

When learning to edit, remember to take the advice “Murder your darlings” non-literally to protect your friends’ health.

Next came the hard bit! Editing. Who knew editing software could be so awkward?! After hours and hours of editing and working out how to add music in and altering audio levels and all the rest of it, I finally finished my first video!

It’s called “What is it like to be a scientist?” and it’s a great feeling to see the finished version after so much hard work has gone into it. I am really happy at how it turned out and I think it gives an insight into what being a scientist is actually all about. Watch it here:

My next video project is the video I originally wanted to make first but I felt I needed more experience in film making before I embarked on it. My research looks into trying to understand why and how people develop dementia. I am hugely passionate about not only the science behind dementia but also about raising awareness and helping people understand more about it. Therefore my next video will be trying to do this.

The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health where Fiona does her research. The red ivy is not a CGI effect.

The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health where Fiona does her research. The invading red ivy is not a CGI effect.

The best thing about spending the prize money on video equipment is that I can keep making more and more videos. I have so many ideas and can’t wait to start them! So thank you to I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here! for the opportunity and a MASSIVE thank you to all the students who voted for me!


Follow Fiona on Twitter @FHMcLean and subscribe to her Youtube channel for updates on her next videos.

Posted on September 23, 2015 modantony in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What John Foster did with his prize money

John won the Organs Zone in March 2014. Here he tells us how he used his £500 prize money…


Queen Mary University London, where I work, is home to the Centre of the Cell educational charity, “the first science education centre in the world to be located within working biomedical research laboratories”. After winning the March 2014 I’m a Scientist Get me out of here: Organs Zone I donated my prize money to support the great work Centre of the Cell do for scientific communication and outreach.

John Foster Centre of the Cell 2

Pictured: Nasal cavity outreach on a stick.

Centre of the Cell is located in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, East London. The Centre aims to inspire the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals, get people talking about biomedical research. and widen participation with further and higher education, especially in our local community.

John Foster Centre of the Cell 1

Getting our researchers into schools shows the human side of biomedical science

Educational sessions are run in the Centre of the Cell’s state-of-the-art ‘Pod’ and supported by workshops, mentoring and revision programmes, online resources and internships. The ‘Pod’ shows are interactive exhibits for visitors aged 8-18 which combine games, objects and website content to teach principles of cells and biomedical science.

The Centre of the Cell also takes eight different science workshops to schools including shows such as ‘Snot, Sick and Scabs’ and ‘Teethtastic’, and there is a Youth Mentoring Scheme for young people aged 14-19 which helps arrange work experience, allows students to meet with researchers and provides careers advice.

The prize money from I’m a Scientist Get me out of here has been used to support all these important science outreach activities.


If you’d like to arrange a visit you can find more information at the Centre of the Cell website.

Posted on September 16, 2015 modantony in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Grant Kennedy did with his prize money…

Grant was the winner of the Astronomy Zone in June 2013. We asked him for an update on how he has been using the prize money and here is what he said…


My I’m a Scientist memories are of a crazy few weeks where I typed as fast as I could trying to answer myriad questions. I don’t think my keyboarding skills are any better as a result, but it was great to see so much interest in my field!

I began with a vague idea of spending my winnings on a camera, and using it to take timelapse videos of the sky and what happens at some of the world’s great observatories, which I visit now and then. At some point I realised that lots of people already do this, (such as Christopher Malin), and they do a way better job than I ever could.

I love photography however, so I went ahead and bought a Gopro, with the new goal of using it to make some short films that aim to give an idea of what my job as a scientist is actually like. To show the cool stuff where I get to travel the world and hang out with other scientists, but also the less exciting everyday stuff where I sit at my desk and scratch my head.

Chin-scratching stimulates the scientific process.

Me sitting at my desk in Cambridge. I really am working! See the plots on my screen changing and me scratching my chin? Chin-scratching stimulates the scientific process.

Progress on this has been harder than I thought. It turns out there’s a knack to making time lapses look interesting, but not nauseating. I stuck the GoPro to my helmet for my bike ride to school (yes, I call it school because I go there to learn!), but the resulting film is rather disorientating. I also sat it on my desk while I drank my tea one morning, that works better, and you can see a short clip of it above. I’m slowly building up a bunch of these that make up a “typical” day, and when I’ve got enough I’ll put them together with a narrative to explain what my day to day life as a scientist is really like.

Body language is 90% of science communciation

Me (in front of the blackboard) answering a question after a talk I gave at a conference at the Paris Observatory. I can’t remember either the question or the answer, but it clearly required me to wave my arms around. Luckily, body language is 90% of science communication.

I’ve also taken the camera on a few trips over the last year, to Santiago in Chile and to Paris. I made a really long timelapse of me giving a talk at a conference, and you can see a wee cut out of me explaining something by waving my arms around a lot. I’ll be taking the GoPro to some more places this year to build up a video of what a less typical day, where I get to go somewhere interesting, is like.

My hope is that when I’m done I can convince someone in a totally different field of science to take the camera and make their own videos, with the same goal of giving an idea of what a day or two in the life of a scientist is really like.

Posted on September 9, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Keith Siew did with his prize money

Keith won the Hormones Zone in June 2013. We asked him to tell us what he’s been up to with his £500 prize money and here is what he said…


In May 2015 I was able to do outreach at the Drimnagh Castle Primary and Secondary Schools in Dublin, Ireland which I attended myself as a student. There I did 40 min workshop sessions with three groups of 6th class students (11-12 yrs) and four groups of 5th year biology/chemistry students (16-17 yrs). I used the prize money to buy reagents/small piece of single use items for the workshops (e.g. chemicals for making the tissues transparent, glucometer strips for showing blood sugars, etc).

I have to say I loved it and got some great feedback and engagement with the kids. I got permission from my supervisor and brought back some research equipment for recording blood pressure to do some demos and had got some reagents and samples to make some mouse organs transparent to bring back and show the kids too (of course they liked the gory stuff too). I got to discuss with them why blood pressure is important, how my research helps us understand the problem and some of the tools we use to study this (i.e. making mouse kidneys/hearts transparent to image – which also allowed me to address the ethical use of animals in biomedical research which helped to change a few minds).

The students even wrote about my visit in their class blog, A Very “Hearty” Discussion, where they say that “it takes guts to be scientist!”.

The design of the model kidneys, which I hope will be made a reality soon.

The detailed design of the model kidneys, which I hope will soon be made a reality

I had very early on been working on a model to try demonstrate how the kidneys concentrate urine in conjunction with The Physiology Society to try help explain the complicated process for A-level students. The model would demonstrate filtration, re-absorption and osmoregulation. However, after spending just under half the money on this, it turned out that the model wasn’t going to work as planned and would be difficult to replicate in schools in its current state. To further refine the model would have taken up too much of my time in the lab and The Physiology Society are now continuing that part of the project.


Posted on September 2, 2015 modantony in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ceri Brenner did with her prize money

Ceri won the Quantum Zone way back in June 2011. We caught up with her to see what she has been able to do using the £500 prize money and here is what she said…


My idea for the prize money was “Plasmas in your Pocket”– to design and print a set of beautiful, intriguing and educational coasters that can be used in cafes, bars and other recreational areas to introduce the public to laser-plasmas and their applications. To draw a person in the coasters rely only on the stunning snapshots of glowing plasmas that we’ve captured during high power laser experiments at the Central Laser Facility outside Oxford. Once they’ve admired the aesthetic beauty of the image, a second layer of wonder is offered if a person reads and learns what it is that they’re looking at and the societal benefit of the research.

To make this happen I partnered with Chris Hatherill, from pop science initiative Super-Collider, to design the coasters and realise the brief within the budget of £500.

Coaster designs

The designs of the coasters shine an extremely high energy light on the world of plasma physics.

We managed to come up with 3 designs and printed 1000 copies of each design with the given budget. So far I’ve been trialling them out at bars, cafes, public talks and events throughout 2015. I’ve taken them with me for school and public talks across the UK and have sent them to friends to distribute in Sydney, Australia and Washington, US. They were popular at my favourite rum bar, Milk, in Reading, which is my perfect target audience as they’re mostly 20-30 somethings with maybe a tech and sci interest but no background.

The produced coasters

The real thing, printed up and ready to take laser light physics into more bars than a round of pub golf.

I still have just under half of the original 3000 left, so there’s still a chance for people to get their hands on them! If they prove to be popular then I will look to seek further funding for more coasters from STFC or the Institute of Physics through their public engagement schemes.

Posted on August 26, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Sam Connolly did with the prize money

Sam ConnollySam was the runner up in the Astronomy Zone of June 2014. The zone winner, Roberto, decided to support Sam’s project with the £500, as he had secured funding for his own project from the Science and Technology Facilities Council through his STFC Public Engagement Fellowship.

We asked Sam to tell us how he had made use of the prize money over the last year, and here is what he said……


I took part in the Astronomy Zone in June 2014 and it was an incredibly busy zone. With 425 students involved who asked over six hundred questions, and almost eight thousand lines of live chat over 18 different chats, we were all kept extremely busy talking about space for the whole fortnight.

A huge number of brilliant questions were asked, about whether aliens existed and where they might be, how black holes and worm holes work, what dark matter is, and many other things. We were very lucky to have such an interested group of students to talk to.

Sam talking to students

The prize money gave me the chance to share my passion for astronomy with the next generation. thanks to I’m a Scientist and Roberto!

The outreach project I decided to spend the prize money on was to go into schools with the University of Southampton Astronomy Physics and Astronomy department’s ‘Astrodome‘, which is an inflatable, portable planetarium! The planetarium is used to project the stars all around our audience, so that we can explain the things people can see with their own eyes in the night sky. We can then zoom in on different objects in space like planets, galaxies and nebulae, as if we were using a telescope, so that we can explain the science behind the objects that we study as astronomers, and talk about the many questions we still need to answer.

Students inside the Astrodome

The students inside the Astrodome, getting ready for an out-of-this-world trip!

I went to ten different schools with the planetarium using the prize money, with the aim of getting school students interested and excited about astronomy and science in general. The money was used to pay for rental and fuel for the van used to transport the Astrodome to the schools.

One of the schools I chose to go to was the secondary school I went to myself before becoming a scientist, Bulmershe School in Reading. The experience I had learning science at school and the great physics teachers I had were extremely important in my decision to study physics at university and eventually become an astronomer. For this reason, I wanted to try to pass some of the enthusiasm for science I have gained back to the school and its current pupils, and attempt to inspire a new generation of scientists there, as well as in the other schools I visited.

The Astrodome team

Teacher and students with me and my faithful Astrodome, the big, beautiful, portable planetarium itself.


University of Southampton Astrodome Planetarium shows are free for local schools! Head to their website, astrodome.soton.ac.uk, for more information on show content and to book them for your school.

You can read about Roberto Trotta’s Hands-on Universe project here: robertotrotta.com/the-hands-on-universe/

Posted on August 19, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Andrew French did with his prize money….

Andrew was the winner of the Vision Zone in June 2014. Here he tells us about the project he’s been able to do using his £500 prize…


I had heard that I’m a Scientist was a fast and furious experience and boy was it! In the live chats, the questions came so fast, I thought my fingers were going to catch fire. But what a great experience too. It really felt like we were engaging with kids who hadn’t considered science interesting before. The format is great: being able to answer questions in detail in the evenings, and answering live questions (about ALL sorts of stuff!) during the lessons.

Andrew French Robot

Behold, your new robotic overlord!

With the prize money I promised I would be buying some Lego to try and help teach computer vision (what you can do with a computer and a camera). But what to build? We then came across a great website which shows you how to build a Rubik’s Cube solving robot out of Lego. It uses a colour sensor to scan a cube, and then solves it using robotic components made of Lego. This struck me as an excellent way to introduce people to several parts of computer science at once – how we can sense the world around us (such as colours), how we can approach ways of solving problems (such as the Rubik’s Cube), and a bit of robotics and Lego thrown in for fun.

Andrew French Demo

Who will win? Puny human child brain cells? Or cold calculating Danish plastic?

The prize money paid for enough Lego to build the system, and a couple of Rubik’s Cubes. The final result was excellent. We have so far taken it to computer science days at local schools, where it has gone down extremely well. Especially when students can race the robot to solve the puzzle! It really engages children into thinking about robots and problem solving, and how you can approach problems like understanding what we see around us.


If you’d like to build your own smarty pants Rubik’s Cube solving Lego robot, all the instructions and video evidence is at mindcuber.com/mindcub3r/mindcub3r.html

Posted on July 29, 2015 modantony in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Roy Adkin did with his prize money…

Roy won the Colour Zone in March 2014. We asked him to tell us all about how he’s used his £500 prize and here is what he said…


Well, it has been an incredibly busy year and a half since I’m a Scientist! My research has taken up almost all of my time but I have managed to get out and about to schools to deliver a few talks on chemistry, meteorites, solar system formation, the Rosetta mission, formation of comets (making a comet from dry ice is cool – literally!) and the origins of life (the organic building blocks and where they form in space).

The prize money has meant I can bring actual meteorites to my workshops in schools

With the money I won I have bought lots of items that I can use to model and explain what I am talking about. I have bought a piece of a Campo del Cielo iron meteorite, a tektite (a blob of terrestrial rock made molten by an impact) and several samples of metallic elements including iron, nickel, iridium and gallium which are found in meteorites. I also purchased an old Crookes radiometer to show how the sun’s light can deflect objects in space and change their orbits depending on how light or dark they are.


Chemicals that can be found in a meteorite- ready to make some interesting colours when heated.

Elements that can be found in a meteorite – ready to make some interesting colours when heated.

A tektite and a piece of the Cielo Del Campo meteorite all the way from Argentina

A tektite and a piece of the Cielo Del Campo meteorite all the way from Argentina


In preparation for the bigger chemistry demonstrations, the ‘Flash – Bang – Wallop’ stuff (which hasn’t yet gone out on the road, as it were), I’ve bought a range of samples of elements, including sulphur, bismuth, lead, tin, vanadium, titanium, niobium and tantalum, so that pupils can see and touch elements that they may only ever have heard of. I also used some of the money to subsidise an iPad with fantastic apps called ‘Elements’ and ‘Elements in Action’, both of which are an invaluable tool when teaching the chemistry of the elements. Finally, I purchased two small hand held spectroscopes for when I produce coloured flames making it possible to see how the spectra change depending on the elements being heated.

This almost antique Crookes radiometer shows how the photons from the sun can move objects!

This almost antique Crookes radiometer shows how the photons from the sun can move objects!

Happily for me, my work is very interdisciplinary, so I’m able to mix and match the samples and equipment to suit what I’m talking about. I can combine meteoritics and solar system formation with elements and spectra. For example, meteorites contain a higher amount of iridium in them (use the meteorite) so when they heat up in the earth’s atmosphere they produce an iridium flare (use the iridium sample and an iridium compound) which is a flash of light green in colour (use the spectrometer).

I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here was a brilliant experience; being able to connect with, educate and enthuse school pupils was really a privilege. I think this collection of bits and bobs will keep their interest value for years to come and I hope to use them to grab the interest of pupils all over the country for the rest of my career!

Posted on July 22, 2015 modantony in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Sofia Cota-Franco did with her prize money

Sofia won the Ecology Zone in November 2013. We asked her to tell us how she had been using her £500 prize and here is what she said…


Being part of I’m a Scientist was both scary and a huge adventure! It seems like yesterday that questions were being fired up at the speed of light and my fingers could barely keep up with the tired keyboard and the flashing lines of the chat-room screen! I got everything from the most mind-boggling question to “do you like sloths?”, and really cracked my brain to get around the “how would you solve world hunger?”. But winning was just the beginning and the rush has continued when it came to putting the prize money to good use.

The first idea was to use some of the money to visits a few schools and organize a “Marine Science Exploration Day!” to celebrate it all! This soon proved a challenge to organize within a short time frame! After much debate, date re-arranging and multiple requests, I have decided to keep it as an ongoing project outside the I’m a Scientist scope, but keeping its science sharing philosophy, and I have now planned visit to schools both in Portugal and the UK!

sofia

Me at the Meet the Scientists event full of posters, microscopes and other activities that helped people understand marine biology

One of the things the prize money recently came in hand for (and this took me quite a long time to decide) was to assemble a “Marine Science Discovery Kit” that I can use for these visits, so that the I’m a Scientist legacy will live on. I decided get a range of educational materials to showcase Marine Science from one end to the other (e.g. animal models, underwater microscope, identification guides for field days), covering the basics from the understanding of our marine microscopic world to the identification of species on the beach, while showcasing a variety of groups, from seaweed, to crustaceans, cetaceans and much more! After this, all I had left to do was to get creative!

In the meantime, I took part in the “Meet the Scientist!” event, in a chance for scientists to showcase their science to the wider public (and on what I thought was a great idea to start piloting my ideas for marine science days!). It was a blast (take a look at the pictures)! I used another part of the prize money to do a stand called “It’s a barnacle world!” where, besides the massive A0 posters on everything you always wanted to know about barnacles, I had microscopes mounted with baby barnacles and micro seaweed and loads of hands-on activities!

sofiamarine

A flask of micro-seaweed for people to examine under the microscope!

You could get in the blind box (if you were brave enough!) to discover the fake barnacle and make your own barnacles (with as many cool adaptations as you could think of!) and take them home with you! We had a few hundred people coming by and it was a challenge to keep up!

But this was just the beginning and in the following months I have managed to participate in the Green Fest, SplashDown! Summer School, Marine Science Career Fair, help out in the Young Researchers scheme and am about to become a STEM Ambassador! Also, some of the school visits are coming up and I cannot wait to put my Marine Science kit to good use again!

My latest project using the prize money is the creation of a website with all the nitty-gritty bits of being a marine scientist and some teaching resources and do-at-home activities to divulge the fascinating facts about our oceans! You will be able to contact me directly, about everything related to marine-science and being a biologist, and we can keep the scientist-public door open (so look for updates to this post soon!).

This has been quite a journey since the epic weeks of I’m a Scientist and, thanks to its funding that helped to “plant all the little seeds” for the new projects, it has been an ongoing quest for science. I am quite excited about what the future holds and wish all of you prospective scientists the best of luck. May science be with you and remember to enjoy the journey!

Posted on July 8, 2015 modantony in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Naomi Osborne did with her prize money…

Naomi won the Neodymium Zone in June 2014. Since then she’s been working hard to make good use of her £500 and she sent us this update on how it’s all going….


Last June I had the pleasure of talking to students in the Neodymium Zone over 2 weeks, answering many intuitive questions and enjoying great discussions with classes during the live chats. I was completely surprised when I was voted as the winner, and very happy! Winning £500 to spend on science communication opened up so many ways in which I could carry on engaging students in the world of microbiology. I had a few ideas of ways that I could do this, but it didn’t take me long to settle on the idea of a microbiology eBook.

Meet the Microbes’ started off as a fun Twitter conversation with colleagues a couple of years before and was actually made a possibility with the prize money. Inspired to carry on engaging students and the public in science after taking part in I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here, I started volunteering for the Thames Valley Branch of the British Science Association. It was through this volunteering that I met a bioartist Immy Smith, who was able to make my microbe ideas come to life, which was perfect timing! Over the past year I’ve been writing the book, and it’s now complete and ready to download.

meetthemicrobes

Luke Onostock, Sam ‘N’ Ella and Dinah Coccus pictured here are just a few of the many fascinating microbes you can meet in the e-book!

‘Meet the Microbes’ is a book where young readers, or anyone wanting to learn about microbes, can delve into the weird and wonderful world of microbiology and become a scientist by tracking a flu outbreak, growing microbes and even using them to make your own food. Aside from learning about the good, the bad and the ugly microbes, readers can also carry out experiments at home.

Apart from using the prize money for fantastic illustrations, I’ve also set up a website (www.meetthemicrobes.co.uk) and you can download the eBook now as a PDF (and soon on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Google Play). I’m hoping teachers will also find this site helpful in future, as I plan on adding resources such as microbiology lesson plans and experiments that can be used in the classroom. I really hope students will enjoy reading about Mike O’Bacterium, Sue Domonas and the many other menacing and marvellous microbes in the book!

Without the I’m a Scientist team, The Wellcome Trust and all the students and teachers involved in the event, ‘Meet the Microbes’ would not have been made possible so a HUGE thank you to all!

Posted on July 2, 2015 modantony in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ekbal Hussain did with his prize money…

Ekbal was the winner of the Barium Zone in June 2014. We asked him to tell us what he’d been up to with his £500 prize money and here is what he said…


I used half of my prize money to fund my own outreach work. The majority of the £250 was used to create and design an earthquake hazard model. This model was then used to teach several 6th form classes about structural stability of buildings during earthquakes. The feedback from theses sessions was resoundingly positive, so much so that I’ve been booked up to repeat these sessions with the same schools in future years.

EkbalEarthquake model

The earthquake model hazard I have developed to use in schools. Remember to Drop, Cover and Hold on!

I have also demonstrated the earthquake model at the Science Uncovered night at the Natural History museum. This is a fantastic outreach evening where the museum opens up during the night and scientists are encouraged to present and talk about their science to all members of the public covering age groups from pre-school to the retired.

EkbalSTEMwork

Me getting my activities ready for the Science Uncovered evening at the Natural History Museum.

I will be leaving my earthquake hazard exercises and models with new PhD students at the University of Leeds who have agreed to continue using them to inspire and inform young people on the importance of geoscientific knowledge in hazard management.

As pledged on my I’m a Scientist manifesto, I donated the rest of the prize money to the Geology for Global Development (GfGD) organisation. This is a fantastic young organisation formed by a group of students and undergraduates with the aim to increase the impact of geoscientists in international development.

Earth scientists have an intimate knowledge of how the planet works and can play a pivotal role in all aspects covering climate change, natural disasters, finding water, increasing crop yields and oceanography. The £250 at GfGD will be used to teach young earth scientists how best science can be used in international development.

Posted on June 10, 2015 modantony in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Hayley Evers-King did with her prize money

Hayley won the Ruthenium Zone in March 2013. We asked her to tell us how she had made use of the £500 prize money. Here is what she said…


Taking part in I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! showed me just how inspirational working with young people can be. It also showed me the power of the internet to connect people across continents, as I chatted to UK students whilst I was working in Cape Town, South Africa.

During my time living in Cape Town, I was involved in a number of university level projects to help build a new generation of scientists to solve the range of problems facing South Africa and the rest of the world. Winning I’m a Scientist encouraged me to take a step back and look at how I could help get those young scientists in to university in the first place.

Using the prize money, I partnered with the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth System Science (ACCESS) and some fellow scientists from the Cape Town area to set up a bio-science club at a local school and run a week long version of the ACCESS “Habitable Planet” workshop which would help the students to explore why the planet Earth is habitable for us as humans.

Hayley and the students

Me and the students getting active in the classroom

We met with the students a few times before the workshop, so that we could all get to know one another and to figure out what the students wanted from their club and the workshop. These meetings included discussing what scientists do, why South Africa is a special place to study science and even taking a hike to explore Cape Towns iconic Table Mountain.

For the workshop we spent a week learning the story of the Earth and how it has changed over time to become the place where we live today. We started our story with the Earth as a bare rock in space, learning as the week progressed that you need an atmosphere, oceans, geology, water and life to explain why the Earth is the way it is. As the week went by the students built their own collage model of the Earth, adding things to it each day to show what they had learnt.

The collage of the Earth. As you can see it was much updated!

The collage of the Earth. As you can see it was much updated!

We took lots of field trips during the week to bring the story of the Earth to life with local examples. To understand the role of our oceans, the students visited the Two Oceans aquarium and went to have a look at the ship that oceanographers like me use to study the oceans around South Africa.

Later in the week, the students also visited Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, the University of the Western Cape and the University of Cape Town, to learn all about the different types of scientific research that is conducted there. They got to use high tech equipment such as interactive 3D maps, used microscopes to investigate how we can use plants to understand climate, and even dissected a shark!


Hayley and a shark

Getting to grips with the shark dissection

Looking down a microscope

The students were able to use university equipment


Throughout the workshop we encouraged the students to ask lots of questions. And just like the students involved in I’m A Scientist, they did not disappoint! Prizes were awarded for the best questions of the week and the questions asked covered everything from the big bang, to food production, to how to become an engineer!

The prize money from I’m A Scientist, together with funding from ACCESS, supported the bio-science club activities and workshop in various ways. In particular this included covering the costs of transport for myself and other scientists who were involved, entrance for myself and a botany specialist to Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, stationary and craft supplies for the collage and other activities undertaken, lunches for the students for the Table Mountain hike, snacks for the students for after school meetings, plants for experiments conducted at UCT, and finally some fantastic books as prizes for the students who showed the greatest interest during the workshop through the questions they asked.

The class on the field trip to Table Mountain

The class on the field trip to Table Mountain

We finished off the week with two events. First, a big debate, where students showed how much they had learnt about to the Earth by debating current environmental topics including climate change, geo-engineering and what sort of food is most sustainable. I was really impressed with how the students had learnt to think critically, even when they didn’t initially agree with a statement. On the last day, a group of scientists from around Cape Town joined us for a careers morning where the students could get advice on all their career related questions.

The bio-science club is continuing this year and even though I have now moved on to a new job back in the UK, the lessons learnt from I’m A Scientist have encouraged the students and I to keep in touch via skype!

Posted on May 27, 2015 modantony in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment