Category Archives: Winner Reports

What Jennifer Stephens did with her prize money…

Jennifer was voted the winner of Agriculture Zone by students in 2014. Here she tells us what she got up to with her £500 prize money.

If you’d like the chance to win funding to for your own science outreach activities, apply to take part in I’m a Scientist at

After winning I’m a Scientist I became a STEM Ambassador and started the website to promote science subjects to young people with differnet resources. Some key tools that I have used in teaching are free science apps that appeal to kids of all ages as they are a fun way to learn. There is a wide range of apps to help understand biology, chemistry, physics, environment, space and there are even apps for pre-schoolers.

3D Cell app

On the site. there are also science experiments that can be set up at home and these have been tested by some of our work experience students.

Megan, one of our work experience students, doing the chromatography experiment using felt tip pens.

Scientists’ work is very diverse and there are lots of different careers students can go into. The Scientist Profiles on the website give an in depth look at some of these. Even in the area of Agriculture there are varied careers that students can go into if they want to help feed the world!

These profiles show students what it’s like to be different scientists

The prize money went towards creating and hosting the Sciphun website. I also spent money on flyers and T Shirts with Sciphun printed on them to give away as prizes for competitions on the site.

Since winning I’m A Scientist I have also been invited to speak at schools and Career Conventions to promote science subjects. Every year I give tours to over a hundred students and visitors that visit my lab and greenhouse. Young people are fascinated by science once they are exposed to it close up, and we need to keep that spark alive.

Posted on May 24, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Nicholas Pearce did with his prize money…

Nicholas was voted the winner of Rhenium Zone in 2015. Here he reports back on how he used his £500 prize money for his own public engagement activities.

If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your science outreach work, apply for I’m a Scientist at

Since the I’m a Scientist competition is all about interacting with students, I was sure I wanted to visit schools and show these students first-hand what it’s like to be a scientist. I decided to go for what I knew best and show off some chemical reactions in front of a live audience.

My first opportunity to do this was at Nottingham’s Festival of Science and Curiosity – a week-long celebration of all kinds of science in February, where I put on two chemistry shows for families that attended.

Future scientists help me to make a glowstick.

The show started with chemical traffic lights – a reaction of a sugar solution that slowly changes colour from green to red to yellow but can then be shaken up to turn green again. Volunteers were then called for (lots of hands went up!) and with their help, we made a bright blue glowstick from mixing chemicals as they flowed down a clear plastic tube into a beaker.

It’s not magic, it’s science 😀

I then poured the contents of this beaker into a new tube and the light changed colour from blue to neon yellow. “It’s magic!” was called from the audience (my favourite comment of the day) so I saw a chance to explain some of the chemistry responsible (it’s not magic, it’s science). The show also contained some smells, pops and bangs, finishing with an explosion from a dry ice powered cannon.

I really enjoyed doing the show at the fair: seeing and hearing the audience’s reactions and knowing it meant people were excited about science felt like a great achievement! Afterwards, one of the parents in the audience asked if I would be interested in doing the show again at a local school, to which I hastily agreed.

A couple of months later I travelled to Awsworth Primary School for a repeat performance that happened to coincide with the March for Science day. This time the audience was much bigger, with the whole school turning up to watch one of two shows. It was fantastic being able to deliver a ‘potions’ lesson to a sea of pupils and explain to them what being a scientist is like. After hearing about the first show I did earlier in the year, one of my co-workers from the lab was keen to help with this performance, so I’ve been able to get even more real scientists involved in communication and outreach through I’m a Scientist. We were also featured on their school blog.


I’ve had a lot fun doing these shows and think they’ve been really effective at spreading the message that science is worthwhile, interesting and something that everyone can enjoy. Thank you to everyone in the I’m a Scientist team as well as to the funders for making it all happen. I’m sure I’ll be doing even more of these demos in the future!

Posted on May 18, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Bob Bonwick did with his prize money…

Bob was voted the winner of the Organs Zone in 2012. Since then he’s used his prize money to support his outreach efforts and here he tells us more about what he’s been up to.

If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your public engagement work, apply for I’m a Scientist at

Since winning my zone in this program, I have upped my commitment as a STEM Ambassador.  To this end I have spent time in developing my visual aids which I have used not only in my STEM work but also internally when teaching as well as external outreach event.

I have spent many hours taking images of tissues with many different stains demonstrating their diagnostic utility as well as explaining my profession to people.  The prize money has helped me to go from the rudimentary print outs to A3 foam boards with high quality images on them to make my explanations easier to many different groups and levels.

I have also been to a number of schools careers events that would have otherwise been difficult for me to attend.  This has also used the foam boards as well as other visual aids and anatomical models I have bought with the prize money.

More recently I held workshops at the Cheltenham Science Festival fringe event held by the NHS trust I work for in Cheltenham.  I delivered the same workshops 4 times on two consecutive days, with a number of colleagues helping.  The workshops were entitled ‘who are you calling normal’ where we went through a number of physiological measurements to demonstrate that normal is a range, when we understand the normal range we can spot the abnormal.

I have now moved to a new hospital where in addition to clinical practice I am also an associate lecturer at the University of Bangor.  I still use one set of the foam boards in my outreach here and the other set remains with my old department who continue to use them in public engagement events and STEM talks.

I continue to use my experience taking part in the’ I’m a Scientist…’ program in my daily life and encourage more of my colleagues to participate in the program.

Posted on April 24, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Emily Robinson did with her prize money…

Emily was voted the winner of Copper Zone in 2011. She used her prize money to support Bright Club  Manchester , a comedy night where researchers, from all fields and backgrounds, take to the stage to perform short stand-up comedy routines about their work.

Bright Club attracts an adult audience that might not be interested in a lecture but will find that there is something they can take away from the diverse body of knowledge they are exposed to over the course of an evening. The Bright Club ( concept started at UCL in London, with Manchester being the first off-shoot, but it has since turned up in many cities across the UK and even made it to Australia.

After plucking up the courage to do a comedy set about her own PhD research, Emily enjoyed the experience so much she joined the organising team. In her spare time she helped to organise Bright Club Manchester events and supports researchers, who may have no experience of doing stand-up comedy, by providing training and advice.

Emily says “*performing was a great experience! As an organiser I
relished the opportunity to help others share their research with a wider

If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your public engagement work, apply for I’m a Scientist at

Posted on April 17, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What James Pope did with his prize money…

 James was voted the winner of the Dysprosium Zone in March 2015. Here he reports back on how he ‘s been using his £500 prize money.

If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your public engagement project, apply for I’m a Scientist at

I never expected to win the Dysprosium Zone in March 2015, as that I’m a Scientist event began my hope was to make it past the first eviction, such was the competition within the zone. As for the event itself, the quality and variety of the questions asked was incredible and my typing speed very much increased over the course of two weeks of live chats!

One memory that stands out for me was that our final day coincided with the solar eclipse over the UK.  It was a fittingly cloudy day over Cambridge, but one of the schools in the zone had still got outside and measured the changes in light at their school, before sharing it with myself and others in the final open chat.  This, and the answers from the other scientists in the zone helped my education to expand further as well, and that was the real joy of I’m a Scientist.

The portable, unmeltable ice core

I had decided to create an artificial (or “fake”) ice core to take to schools.  As an Antarctic climate scientist, with an interest in past climates, ice cores are a vital part of that work, but are impractical to take anywhere, especially schools.

My initial plan was a solid bespoke plastic core, however this was unfeasible to source and potentially too heavy to use safely within schools.  With help from the I’m a Scientist alumni network mailing list, a suggested new, more “Blue Peter”, design based around drain pipes, bubble wrap and, of course, some sticky back plastic was produced.  After a trial using a soft drinks bottle and cling film, I decided to take on the new design.  I’m not the most delicate of DIY types, more into demolition than considered construction, but a pretty smart looking core was produced.

Drilling an ice core can be pretty well shown in video resources that have been produced by the British Antarctic Survey.  But actually describing how we can use those cores to reproduce past climates is a far trickier concept.  Through my artificial ice core, I have a prop that gives an idea of the size of a working piece of core.

Using the core, it is easier to visualise what is meant by “gas bubbles in the ice” and explaining some of the trickier concepts within this branch of palaeoclimate science.  The current version of the core, I still see as a prototype and I hope to refine my design as I use it more to ensure it is as useful a resource as possible.

Since I’m a Scientist, I have started to diversify my outreach, and while getting into schools remains the “core” of my outreach activities, I have also started to get involved in more events communicating my science within the local community such as through panel events in the Cambridge Science Festival.  I am also getting involved in a national outreach campaign with my funding body the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through this year that rolls out in 2018 across the UK.

Finally, there are three thank yous I would like to make.  Firstly, I want to extend my thanks to all the IAS team.  It is a great experience and one I will always champion whether my colleagues are completely new to outreach or a veteran of the school visit.  Secondly, a huge thank you to Anna, Leonie, Olivia and Joe, the other four scientists in the zone, who made the competition fierce yet immensely fun.  Finally, to the kids in all the zones, I’m a Scientist is nothing without you, your energy, interest and intrigue is the reason it’s such a success, so a huge thanks to you all.

Posted on April 12, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Clara Nellist did with her prize money….

Clara won the Nuclear Zone in March 2014. Here she tells us how she used £500 prize money on further public engagement with science.

If you’d like the chance to win £500 for more science outreach, apply for I’m a Scientist at

After taking part in the I’m a Scientist event, as I wanted to use it to bring particle physics to schools that aren’t currently able to work with scientists from universities. However, the original plan of doing this through particle physics masterclasses wasn’t able to happen and so, after a fortunate discussion with colleagues at CERN, I was able to stick to the original idea, but support a project designing and building cosmic ray detectors that can be built by schools cheaply!

The prize money has been put towards the CosmiPi project which aims to build the world’s largest open source cosmic ray detector. The original team for the project met thanks to the first hackathon by The Port at CERN in 2014, where people with a mutual interest in building a cosmic ray detector were able to come together and shared skills and enthusiasm. I joined as part of a discussion on how to make the data from the detectors public so that this huge data set could be analysed by anyone around the world.

Specifically, the prize money was put towards developing the next prototype and on materials to spread the message to schools that this is something that they might be interested in. The reach of the project could be huge. Since both the hardware and software are open source, and the aim is to use materials which are as affordable as possible, such as the Raspberry Pi, it means schools around the world can take the design, start building their own and begin measuring cosmic rays coming from the sky  and beyond!

It has been recently announced that runners up in the CERN Beam Lines for Schools Competition will receive a CosmiPi to perform physics experiments in their schools.

I think the biggest change for me since I took part in IAS was that this was first time I had done serious science communication online. I had just moved to France (and my French wasn’t very strong at that time), so I couldn’t do my usual outreach method of visiting schools at working at a science festival. After the success of IAS, and seeing how much you can do online, I was motivated to find more ways I could use the internet to communicate the research at CERN. Now I even manage all of the social media for my experiment, ATLAS.

The next step for me would be to expand my outreach work online and also to get more involved with summer schools, especially in place that don’t have a strong connection already to particle physics and hopefully inspire the next generation of physicists.

From taking part in I’m a Scientist, I learnt that it was possible to do good science communication online and I was able to develop my ability to describe complicated scientific concepts in a clear and understandable way.

Posted on March 29, 2017 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Frank Longford did with his prize money

Frank was voted the winner of the Holmium Zone in March 2015. Since then he’s used his £500 prize money for his own science engagement activities and here he tells us what he got up to.

If you’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply for I’m a Scientist at

I had a great two weeks taking part in I’m a Scientist, and was thoroughly honoured to be voted first place by the students involved. The Holmium zone group were some of the most funny, intelligent and enthusiastic scientists I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

Our research group contains a mixture of experimental and theoretical chemists, physicists and computer scientists, so what better way to celebrate this mixture of disciplines than a programmable physics experiment that measures a fundamental chemical constant? And it’s also made out of Lego…

Our Lego Watt balance; colour design was based on the Barbarians’ rugby socks.

Since receiving the prize money, we organised a summer project for two undergraduate students to design and build a Lego Watt balance, based on the diagrams found in a journal paper published by NIST. The money went into purchasing the electronic equipment and Lego bricks, which we sourced from a variety of online companies. As a consequence, our Watt balance has a very colourful appearance.

The guys did a great job to get the project up and running, and even made us our very Lego construction manual for future reference, since they only had photos to work out how to build the model! Once complete, they also tested the programming and circuitry and made some further suggestions to improve our version for use in schools. We are currently finishing off these amendments and hope to use the Watt balance as part of our student-run university Outreach project towards the end of the academic year.

Posted on March 22, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Paul O’Mahoney did with his prize money…

Paul won the Medical Physics Zone in March 2016. Here he reports back on what he’s done with his £500 prize money over this past year.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

So after winning the Medical Physics Zone, I decided to get right on the task of designing an exhibition for the Dundee Science Festival. My plan was to have a UV camera that would allow people to see the effect that sunscreen has on their skin – on a UV camera sunscreen would show up matte or shiny black due to UV light being absorbed or reflected away.

Ready-made UV cameras can cost anything upwards of £1000. Due to not having over £1000 and needing some of the money for other parts of the exhibition, I decided to go much more low budget. The Raspberry Pi has a camera module called the Pi NoIR which has the IR filter removed so you can use it for infrared motion sensing and such, but it turns out removing this filter also makes the camera sensitive to UV light – all I had to do was put a visible light filter over the camera and I had myself a super cheap UV camera! Well, I needed a Raspberry Pi to control the camera… and to learn how to program a Raspberry Pi… and a computer monitor to display the live video… and a UV light source for using the camera indoors… but that’s all, and it came well within budget!

The images were a bit dark, but the sunscreen is clearly visible!

The images were a bit dark, but the sunscreen is clearly visible!

So I set up at the Dundee Science Festival with the UV camera in a somewhat dark looking corner (this was necessary to get a good contrast on the camera)

The UV camera all set up at the Dundee Science Festival

The UV camera all set up at the Dundee Science Festival

The exhibition went really well and a lot of people were interested in the camera. As it was a live video, visitors were able to draw on their arms and faces and see the effect real time. Overall I am very happy with the camera, and grateful that I got the opportunity to show the exhibit.

Moving forwards, I hope to have this as a more regular outreach feature for our department, whether at open days or taking round schools. Another thing I want to try out is to hook the camera up to a portable screen so that we can take it outside and try it in the sun! So thanks to I’m A Scientist and all the participants in the Medical Physics Zone for making this possible!

Posted on February 8, 2017 modantony in IOPWinner, IPEMWinner, Winner Reports | 1 Comment

What Scott Lawrie did with his prize money…

Scott was voted the winner of Iridium Zone in March 2016. He got straight to work using his £500 prize money and here he reports back on what he’s been able to do this past year.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

Scott Lawrie Sparkophone public engagement outreach 1

The test piece I made as proof of concept. It worked perfectly, as can be seen by the bright spark in the middle.

When I entered the ‘I’m A Scientist’ competition and had to think of something to spend the prize money on, I had recently been doing lots of demos with a Van de Graaff generator. I was on the lookout for something else to demonstrate high voltage when I stumbled upon a sparking xylophone – also known as a sparkophone! In my job I design and develop particle accelerator equipment which uses high voltage and resonant cavities; exactly how the sparkophone works. It’s loud, flashy, exciting and demonstrates several different physics concepts: perfect to show off to the public.

When I won the competition and before the prize money came in, I was so excited that I got to work immediately building a prototype using some parts already available in my lab. Happy with the concept, I bought the components for the real thing and spent a few days constructing the sparkophone. It consists of plastic tubes cut to length to produce ten musical notes starting from A-minor. Applying 30,000 volts across two bolts inside each tube, they spark randomly, playing a loud and somewhat tuneless song.


Scott Lawrie Sparkophone public engagement outreach 2

Me proudly testing the completed sparkophone in my lab. Somewhat dangerous with exposed high voltages, I had to box it all in before taking it on the road!

As thanks to the students who voted for me to win, I visited a few schools who took part in ‘I’m A Scientist’. I spent some more money from our PR group to box the sparkophone in to make it safe even without somebody guarding it. Then I travelled round the country to a few schools – waking up at 5am in one case to make it on time!

There, I gave hour long talks, interspersed with various practical demonstrations. As well as the sparkophone, I showed off a Van de Graaff generator, a salad-bowl particle accelerator and how standing waves work in acoustics. Then I tied it all together to explain basically how a real particle accelerator works. There were lots of opportunities for the students to join in the demos and answer questions. My visits were (and continue to be) a very fulfilling part of my outreach programme. There was definitely a buzz around the schools as everyone heard about my visit, so I think the students got a lot out of it, too.

Scott Lawrie Sparkophone public engagement outreach 3

Me and the fabulous students of Hawley Place school.


Scott Lawrie Sparkophone public engagement outreach 4

Demonstrating standing waves with a skipping rope at St. John Payne school.

Every time I use the sparkophone, the first question people ask is whether it can play a real tune. In principle yes it can, but the electronic circuitry needed to do so is somewhat more complicated and beyond the time I had available to implement. Maybe if I’ve inspired someone enough, they can work with me to extend it as a Summer project one day…? Thanks so much to the ‘I’m A Scientist’ team for the funding; it’s been so much fun building the kit and interacting with all kinds of students. I’m looking forward to more visits soon.

Posted on February 1, 2017 modantony in News, STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jennifer Gupta did with her prize money…

jenguptaJen won the Cobalt Zone back in June 2011. Here she tells us what she’s been able to with the £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

It’s been a while since I participated in I’m a Scientist and won my zone. I’ve got to admit that it took me longer than I was expecting to spend my money! This was for a couple of reasons. First of all by the time I received the money I was well into the final throes of my PhD in astrophysics, spending all my time finishing off my research and writing up my thesis. The second reason is that I went straight from the PhD into my current job as Outreach Officer for the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, supported by the South East Physics Network and The Ogden Trust. I’m now lucky enough to be paid to do science communication, and better still our department has a budget to spend on our outreach activities!

Listen to the Seldom Sirius podcast. It's out of this world, obvs.

Listen to the Seldom Sirius podcast here. It’s out of this world, obvs.

One of the first things I did with my winnings was to buy an audio recorder. I was heavily involved with The Jodcast (Jodrell Bank’s astronomy podcast) while I was doing my PhD and wanted to be able to continue podcasting when I left.

My podcasting plans were put on the back-burner for a while but in 2016 I finally got round to starting a new podcast – Seldom Sirius. Seldom Sirius is a seldom serious podcast about astronomy where a group of us get together via Skype on a semi-regular basis and have a chat about space-related topics. It’s a bit like if we recorded the conversations we have in the pub, except it takes place via the internet and there’s no drinking involved! You can check us out and subscribe at

I also spent some of my money on travel to take part in events such as Winchester Science Festival and the rest of the money I donated to two organisations. One is Astronomers without Borders, which I mentioned in my original profile. Astronomers without Borders work across the globe to being people together through astronomy through projects such as Telescopes to Tanzania.

The second organisation is Science Grrl. This is an organisation I have been involved with from the start, when female scientists and science enthusiasts got together to produce a calendar showing real people in science (I was in December 2013 alongside fellow I’m a Scientist alumni Sheila Kanani). As they say on their website, “Science Grrl is a broad-based, grassroots organisation celebrating and supporting women in science; a network of people who are passionate about passing on our love of science on to the next generation”.

Posted on January 25, 2017 Moderator - Josh in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jesus Calvo-Castro did with his prize money

Jesus took part in Spectroscopy Zone in November 2015 and was voted the winner. Below he tells us what he’s been doing with his £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

One of the toughest questions I was asked when participating in I’m a Scientist (Spectroscopy Zone) back in November 2015 was what would I do with the prize money if resulted winner of the competition. After giving it a bit of thought and motivated by the questions in the live chats I came up with the idea of making a video where students could see how is a day in one of the spectroscopy labs where I work, from making up samples to using different instruments.

I thought that, whilst more advanced students would probably find entertaining/interesting a more in-depth explanation of what we do, it would be better suited to ‘just’ show general lab practice so that it would appeal to a wider student audience.

Setting up the Gopro in the labs, hidden camera style

Setting up the GoPro in the labs, hidden camera style

I started by buying an action camera (GoPro) and a number of accessories that would allow me to place the camera in different positions in the labs and once purchased…film, literally, hours and hours of videos of three of the students (thank you!!) within my research group at the University of Hertfordshire while performing their daily tasks in the research laboratories.

Some of these filmed videos were then edited and you can see the first result here! I’m hoping to make more videos like this for the university to show what working here is like  so please feel free to pass on your feedback!

Finally, I would to thank everyone that makes I’m a Scientist possible and particularly to all the students that took their time to participate in the live chats and voted for me! It was a great experience that I highly recommend to everyone!

Posted on January 18, 2017 modantony in RSCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Mark Hill did with his prize money

Mark was the winner in the Forensic Zone in March 2011. He donated his £500 prize winnings to a local school, St Lawrence CofE Primary School in Sussex. He visited the school to present the cheque in assembly, and it was spent on science equipment for the students.

Mark now works for Transport Research Laboratory where he specialises in the human factors associated with road collision. He continues to take part in engagement and outreach activities through lecturing at universities and forensics departments.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to kickstart your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

Posted on January 11, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ditte Hedegaard did with her prize money

Ditte won the Genomics Zone in June 2014. She donated £200 to The African Science Truck Experience (TASTE), to help promote science in schools in Africa. The remaining prize money was used to develop a stem cell workshop at the Thinktank Science Museum, Birmingham. Ditte tells us more about it here.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply to take part in I’m a Scientist at

When I won the competition, I was working on a virus genomics project. I have since then changed research field to stem cell therapy in liver diseases, so wanted to develop an activity which would explain where stem cells are found and why they potentially will be a good form of therapy for patients with poor livers.

The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body and plays a vital role in digestion, production of proteins and cleaning the blood. It is very important that we look after our liver, since we can’t survive without it. There are however over 100 different liver diseases, which together effect more than 2 million people in the UK. Many of these diseases have no treatment and it is therefore important that we develop new treatments, such as stem cell therapy.

It was very important to me that the children and adults understood that unlike donating a heart or liver, a stem cell donation is relatively simple and more or less pain free. We have so many stem cells to spare that it is important that we donate our cells when someone else desperately needs them.

The reason why stem cells have become such a popular therapy, is because they are able to change their function when they are moved from one place to another in the human body. If you put them into a broken bone then they will start acting like a bone cell and start healing the bone and the same is possible with the central nerve system and muscles.

Ditte Hedegaard develops stem cell outreach workshop for engagement

The materials for my workshop. The stem cells had to be removed from the model bone using real surgical instruments.

The reason why they can do this is because they are thought of as “young cells”, which have not yet decided what they want to be. We all have millions of stem cells, which in theory can be taken out and transferred to somewhere else in our body, which needs some assistance in recovering, or to another person who is poorly. It is almost like we walk around with our own personal medicine cabinet inside us.

Stem cells can be found in many different places in the human body, but the best known ones are found inside our large bones. It can be very tricky to isolate them and to tell them apart from all the other types of cells, which are also found in the bone. For my workshop I had therefore made a large “bone” out of jelly, which contained many different “cells” (small beads), some were stem cells, with magical powers of changing themselves when they were put into a new place (in this experiment it was the “liver”) and others were normal cells which wouldn’t change.

The workshop participants had to remove the “cells” with surgical equipment, without breaking the bone and then transferring them to a container representing the poorly liver. If the transferred cell changed colour and tried to look like the other “liver cells”, then the participant had found a stem cell and won a small price.

All in all the event was highly successful and I really enjoyed watching future surgeons and scientists enthusiastically identifying “bone stem cells”. All of the items bought can be reused, so I’m looking forward to performing the activity again in the near future.

Posted on January 4, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Zach Dixon did with his prize money…

Zach was voted the winner of Xenon Zone in 2014. Here he reports back on what he was able to do using his prize money.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply for to take part in I’m a Scientist at

My project had a bit of a rocky start, but with a bit of perseverance and help from some lovely people, the money got to the right place and helped with the communication of science! I had originally planned to construct and distribute experiment kits to schools. The idea was that they could carry out fun experiments which would explain some important principles of health and disease. I eventually realised that these kits would be difficult to make (with safety concerns about some of the reagents), and that they might not be easy to organise and supervise for teachers!

Zach Dixon school science public engagement 2

Using beads to help explain DNA base pairs

After speaking to a number of people at ‘I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here’ and at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, I was put in touch with Louise who works with the North Tyneside Learning Trust. This fantastic organisation carries out excellent genetics workshops for schools, amongst many other scientific engagement activities.

The money was donated to the North Tyneside Learning Trust and spent on running half day genetics workshops in primary schools in the North East. These workshops involve fun experiments and activities which help to explain the concepts of DNA and genes and how they impact on health and disease.  I was able to join in with one of the workshops at a local primary school. My job was to answer questions on what it is like to work as a scientist, and I got some great questions ranging from ‘What was your favourite experiment’ to ‘How do you blow things up?’. The workshop was very well received by all involved and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!”

The children get to create their own bead DNA strands.

The children get to create their own bead DNA strands.


From Louise at North Tyneside Learning Trust…..

“The money has been used to buy the equipment and materials for these workshops; including a lot of kiwi fruit!  Feedback from pupils and teachers has been fantastic.  The participation of Zach and other scientists at the workshops has been a huge success; children have been fascinated and asked lots of questions such as ‘whether they get to blow things up on a daily basis’.  One Year 6 child enthusiastically told his teacher ‘We’ve had a real scientist in all morning, it’s been the best day ever!’”

Posted on December 14, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ollie Brown did with his prize money…

 won the Particle Physics Zone in March 2015. Here he fills us in on how he’s been using his £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

I was lucky enough to be selected for the I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here Particle Physics zone, and emerge victorious! It was a really great two weeks, and I had a lot of fun engaging with both the students, and my fellow scientists Yelong, Vicky, Michele, and Jackie who provided stiff competition! So what have I been up to since then..?

The LEGO Watt Balance

I decided to use the prize money to buy the components for a LEGO Watt Balance. It took a little while (mostly because I had to learn how to order stuff to the University) but all the parts are now here, and we hope to enter the final build/testing phase very soon!

Ollie Brown outreach project 1

Look how much joy this is already bringing to immature PhD students!

Alright you say, but what is it, and what are you going to do with it? Well, dear reader, a Watt balance is a device that pits gravity and electromagnetism against each other. It allows the user to either very precisely weigh an object (if they know the value of Planck’s constant), or to determine Planck’s constant (if they know the weight of an object).

Planck’s constant is a very special number that determines the scale at which quantum physics (the kind I research) happens, so it’s super exciting that such a (relatively) simple device can be used to calculate it! Once we’ve finished putting it together, the plan is to take it round science festivals and schools here in Scotland, get people to calculate Planck’s constant for themselves, and use it as a fun way to introduce quantum physics!

Only Scotland? 🙁

Well I’m originally from near London, so I’m down that way occasionally, but it’s a bit tricky to get the watt balance on the train… That said, if it’s the sort of thing that interests you could always think about building your own! In particular if you’re a science teacher at a school, this is exactly the sort of project you can apply to the Institute of Physics to fund ( and the design, parts list, and software to run the experiment are freely available here: …jus’ sayin’.

"You can build me too!"

“You can build me too!”

I’d like to say a great big thank you once again to the IAS team, as well as all the students who voted for me last March. I had a lot of fun, and I’ve even learnt some new things about particle physics and building experiments myself!

Posted on November 23, 2016 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Katie Pickering did with her prize money…

Katie won the Body Zone in November 2014. Here she reports back on how she’s used her £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

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Me helping the film director understand what it’s like to have your performance tested.

I have used the money to supplement talks I have given to school students in Yorkshire on how to become a Sports Scientist and what the role entails. I came from a small town in one of Yorkshire’s areas of deprivation and I hope to have inspired children in similar circumstance to myself to take an interest in science beyond the classroom, and link it to what they love and enjoy. For me that was sport, hence becoming a Sports Scientist/Exercise Physiologist.

Katie pickering outreach prize money project 2

Students can make their own physiological measurements using new technology

I purchased a reconditioned iPad and bought apps for it to allow the students to interact with the human body and address how sport science and physiology are linked. The iPad also allows me to show smaller groups of students videos of physiological testing procedures with athletes.

As much of my work is centered around technology in sport I am also able to highlight how technology such as iPads is revolutionising this type of work in the field. We are now able to wirelessy synch heart rate monitors to capture real time data and make adjustments to training practices. My main aim with this is to highlight to students that there is a distinct cross over between technology and science now that did not exist a few years ago.


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Filming session for Sports Nutrition section of the #WomenInSportsScience film has begun!


My final element is still a work in progress as there is a small amount of money left in the pot. A friend of mine is a film director and offered to help make a YouTube video. It is still being filmed and edited but will focus on stories of female sports scientists, what their roles entail and how they got into it.

Keep an eye out on Twitter for #WomenInSportsScience as the homemade I’m a Scientist T-shirt is currently on tour round the UK! Once the film has aired in the New Year there will also be a Twitter hashtag competition where the best science related t-shirt hashtag will win the travelling shirt!

Posted on November 17, 2016 modantony in PhySocWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Matthew Malek did with his prize money…

Matthew was voted the winner of Light Zone in 2014. we asked him to report back on how he used his £500 prize money and here is what he said.

When I started competing in the Light Zone, I envisioned that I would make an online interactive video about the history of the universe with my prize money. Online videos covering this content already exist, of course, but I wanted to add another dimension — making a ‘choose your own adventure’ style production where viewers could click on various sections to increase the level of detail described.

Well, you know what they said about the ‘best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…

After winning the competition, I went about contacting folks with the technical know-how and production equipment to turn this dream into reality. I am fortunate enough to have friends who do this sort of thing professionally, so I could call in a few favours and get help for a ridiculously low price. Sounds good, right?

Turns out, I had dreamed too big… at least for now. When I had laid out my grand scheme, I was commended on the depth of vision… and informed that there was no way it could be done for five hundred, or even a thousand pounds. Ah well.

When life hands you lemons, it’s time to make lemonade. Back to the drawing board, I decided to design a use for the prize money that would be able to keep giving through the years. Given the focus on secondary school students in I’m a Scientist, I also wanted to do an outreach project that could be aimed at secondary schools. After much rumination, I settled on this idea: If I purchased a telescope, I could go to secondary schools to talk about astronomy… and then make it experiential, engaging the students by taking them outside and letting them see the stars for themselves! This would even keep with the theme of the Light Zone, since telescopes are all about light!

Brilliant… with only one flaw. Schools are open during the daytime. An ordinary telescope isn’t much good then.  Hmmmm…

In that case, how about an extraordinary telescope? A solar telescope can be used during the day. It is only good for looking at one star… but it can provide amazing views of that star! One can buy an inexpensive neutral density filter rather easily, giving some basic views of the sun in white light. They deliver images that look something like this:


The sun, as seen in white light only. Not terribly interesting.

That’s okay, but I wanted to do something better. I decided to look into a hydrogen-alpha telescope, which blocks all light except for that within a narrow wavelength band around 656.23 nm. This light is emitted when an electron in the sun’s hydrogen drops from the third energy level to the second. That sounds dry; I will explain why it is exciting — this is the wavelength of the light emitted by many features in the sun’s atmosphere, including solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

I started shopping for solar telescopes and found that perhaps I had leapt from one overly expensive idea to another. It turns out that these ‘scopes can easily cost upwards of two thousand pounds for instruments with 60 – 100 mm apertures and a bandpass of 0.5 Angstroms! Whoops! Luckily, I came across the Coronado Personal Solar Telescope, or PST. This is an ‘entry level’ solar telescope; the aperture is only 40 mm, and the bandpass is 1.0 Angstroms (or 0.1 nm)… but it is quite fit for my outreach purposes. Here is what the sun looks like through a Coronado PST:


At 656.23 nm, the sun can be seen for the dynamic orb that it truly is.

I’m sure you will agree that this is much more interesting! And, by the way, those flares on the right side of the picture are all much bigger than the Earth!

I priced a PST for £600 — only slightly more than the prize money. I happily topped up the rest as a personal donation and placed the order. Whilst waiting for it to arrive, I crafted a presentation on ‘The Life & Death of Stars’. This talk covers star formation, the different types of stars on the main sequence, and the possible fate of stars when their fuel is exhausted — like white dwarves, or core-collapse supernovae.

When the telescope arrived, I was ready to start visiting schools. I made contact with local schools, like the Eckington School in Derbyshire. My typical school presentation starts with time in the classroom, going over my slides on the life cycle of a star. After the presentation is finished, I take groups of six students at a time outside to observe the sun through hydrogen-alpha light. Early on, I brought the whole class at once. I soon learned that small groups are best; otherwise the queue can get a little rowdy!

Students often come back to observe a second time during the visit; this is excellent, because the sun is not static — it changes in real time, and will look different the second time they catch a look.

In the end, my original vision didn’t come anywhere near reality. In its place, though, it a completely different project that incorporates the mission of I’m a Scientist and the theme of the Light Zone into a learning tool that will continue to fascinate students for years to come!

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

Posted on November 14, 2016 modantony in IOPWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jen Todd Jones did with her prize money…

Jenna Todd Jones won the Brain Zone in March 2013. Here she updates us on what she was able to use the £500 prize for, and her outreach activities since taking part.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply for I’m a Scientist at

I decided to use the funds to reach as many people as possible, having it contribute to my work across many projects, as I wanted to get as many people as possible excited about the brain and psychology.

I used some of the funds to purchase large, hardy posters that will last a long time and can be seen by many people. The posters showed cognitive illusions and fun psychological experiments like the Stroop test, the Ebbinghaus illusion, and lots of others. These were great to use with individual people and with groups. I also used it to help others learn how to talk about the brain and psychology so that many others could use them in their outreach activities too!

Me receiving the STEM Network Award for my outreach efforts

Me on the left receiving the STEM Network Award for my outreach efforts

I also used the funds to get a mobile EEG headset (that stands for ElectroEncephaloGraphy) that shows your brain waves in real time! I used this in classrooms and in big events so that people could practice concentrating hard and watch how their brain waves changed. It also shows when you’re feeling sleepy and not paying attention which was really useful!

With the prize money I was able to reach at least 400 children and adults and will continue to reach many more. I have used the resources I produced with the funds in all of the projects I have participated in since winning I’m a Scientist – get me out of here!

While at Bristol I continued to be involved in the Brain Box Challenge visiting primary schools in and around Bristol. I also continued to participate in Brain Awareness Week each year in Bristol, as well as the University of Bristol Festival of Science and the Future Brunels schools project.

I’ve participated in Soapbox Science, an annual event aimed at increasing the involvement of girls in STEM subjects. I even wrote an article about this for the Guardian Online.

I also took part in the Midwich Cuckoos project in collaboration with the British Film Institute and CineLive, taking a bespoke outreach program to schools in hard-to-reach areas around the UK – including my home town in South Wales!

Posted on October 26, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Murray Collins did with his prize money…

Murray Collins won the Chlorine Zone in 2011. Here he reports back on how the £500 prize money has helped his outreach activities since then.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

With the prize money I bought a go-pro camera which I intended to use to make films to show to school children what it was actually like living and working in the rainforest. I thought that this would be an engaging way to approach science communication, and move from dry facts in a book to a living experience.


Murray Collins 8

Screenshot from my films created with the Go Pro Camera. Here I was walking through intact forest.

This approach was scuppered somewhat when the camera itself was stolen whilst I was working out in Berbak national park. However, I did manage to get some useful footage, and have made the best of this by using it in my science communication work.

Murray Collins 3

Showing videos, photographs, satellite maps and wood samples to the public at the Science Night at the Zoo

As such I think that the prize money from IAS has supported my science communication development over the past five years. In particular I would highlight the work I have been doing as the Environmental Scientist in Residence at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland since 2015.

Murray Collins 1workshop at rzss

Science communication workshops at RZSS

This is largely a science communication position. In this post, I use my experience at clips from Berbak national park to engage the public and students with forest research. Specifically, I have:

  • Held workshops for school pupils on forest science (240 children attending my workshops over two days, see photographs below)
  • Run an event called Science Night at the Zoo, running a stall with three PhD students on deforestation and forest science (photographs below)
  • Am doing a talk in November on rainforest science at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo
  • planned to take University of Edinburgh PhD students and staff in February 2017 to Dynamic Earth Edinburgh to present forest science work to school children visiting on school break. This will include video and photographs taken in Berbak national park, Sumatra, using the equipment I bought with the prize money.

During these talks and science events, I use the video clips in order to show people what it is like in the forest, and try to engage them with the issues of deforestation, carbon storage and biodiversity.

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Sunset over Berbak National Park.

In particular it is really useful to be able to show people the muddy pools in Berbak national park which support an incredible array of ichthyological diversity, specifically the stenotopic acidophyllic icthyofauna (highly specialised fish which are adapted to live in the acidic water of peat swamp forest). I have included some photographs of these fish below, as I do in my science communication work.

Murray Collins 7 Murray Collins 6

I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Wellcome Trust and IAS for supporting my work in science communication and will keep you updated about how my work develops over time.

You can see Murray talk about his research in the video above at Edinburgh Zoo on 9th November: From muddy boots to adventures in space: monitoring the world’s forests.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

Posted on October 19, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Stefan Lines did with his prize money…

Stefan was voted the winner of Big Data Zone in 2014. Here he reports back on how he got on using the £500 prize money…

My plan with the money was to build a weather station powered by a small computer called a Raspberry Pi. I was excited to buy the components I needed – an AirPi printed circuit board, sensors, powers supplies, storage, monitor, keyboards… and of course the Pi!

It turned out buying the parts was the simplest stage, however, as I was soon faced with the unexpected task of having to solder all the sensors the circuit board. Depressingly, I managed to melt most of the circuit board in what was my first (and last I can assure you) experience with a soldering iron.



No jokes about ‘soldering on’, please. Breadboards for life!

I spent hours trying to connect up the device but no, it was gone. Hands on Science 1 Me 0.

Slightly deterred but ever optimistic I managed to salvage the sensors. But how to connect them up? A few solderless breadboards, wires, resistors, and many, many hours later I had devised a circuit, connected it up and life was recorded on the Pi! Data was being fed into the Pi and I had to then decode it using some modules programmed in Python. Soon I was able to retrieve the temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure of my bedroom.

I stuck the Pi and circuits down onto a wooden slab and travelled to my hometown of Plymouth to hand it over to the lovely people at my old secondary school. I was able to show them how the Python code crunches the data and outputs to a file, and then how to plot this data using scientific software. I mentioned the plethora of topics that could extend this project such as broadcasting their meteorological data to Twitter, for example. After all, who in the world wouldn’t want to know how damp it is in science lab B?


The students taking climate measurements of their own science lab.

While I was there I was also able to give a lengthy talk on my work in Exoplanet science, with a focus on what universities were suitable for studying different areas of this fascinating topics. I was able to relate my own work back to the simple data processing done on the Pi too, completing the circle of science! The students were looking forward to receiving new sensors I am sending them which will allow for them to monitor air quality and the temperature of chemical reactions. They will be able to communicate their own knowledge on to younger students in the school, hopefully encouraging interest in basic programming.

Many thanks to the Gallomanor and the I’m a Scientist team who run this exciting scheme for students and scientists alike, I wish I could come back and do it all over again 🙂

If you’re a scientist with an idea for an outreach project, sign up for the next I’m a Scientist event at and you could win £500 to make it a reality. Just maybe watch out for the soldering.

Posted on August 31, 2016 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment