Category Archives: Winner Reports

What Zarah Pattison did with her prize money…

Zarah was voted the winner of the Plants Zone in November 2016. Here she writes about using her £500 prize money to run a Science Fair in the University of Stirling.

If you’d like to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

The I’m a Scientist competition was a fantastic experience. Talking to the students enabled me to gain a better perspective on how young adults perceive scientists, what they enjoy/hate about science and what might have been stopping them taking science further in their education.

This has been particularly important in terms of outreach events, in ensuring we are capturing those students who feel that science isn’t for them and trying to change their minds! I have been particularly determined to change the perception of female scientists to both boys and girls.

On March 17th we ran a Science Fair in the University of Stirling, aimed at students aged 5-15 years old. In total there were 35 volunteers on the day from multiple organisations within and out with the University of Stirling.

We collaborated with Forth Valley College science department, Stirling Library and IT department, Centre for Aquaculture in Stirling and multiple departments with the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Sports Science in the University of Stirling. The event featured a range of scientific activities.

Staff from Biological and Environmental Sciences department ran chemistry experiments, sessions on animal behaviour and a focus on conservation, with attractions including ‘seed bombs’, ‘bug hotel’ and ‘building a bat’. Children were also able to learn about renewable energy by building wind turbines.

A demonstration of 3D printing and scanning was hosted by Information Services staff; Aquaculture held a ‘What is it?’ quiz using scanning electron microscope images; Computing Sciences and Maths taught sustainable agriculture using Lego; and Sports Sciences explained heart monitoring, muscles and neurons. Staff from Forth Valley College held sessions on ‘life at microscopic level’, forensic; and ‘understanding your DNA’.

We had approximately 250 students attend the Science Fair which was an increase on our March 16th 2017 Science Fair of 150 attendees. I felt that this year’s Science Fair was a big advancement on our previous events. The main reason being that we were able to use the prize money to run competitions and enable volunteers to buy materials for their activities.

In each of the science book prizes each scientist wrote a message of encouragement in the cover. Our event even made it into the local paper which can only be a positive influence for the next event in March 2019.

I hope that the Science Fair become an integral part of the Natural Science Faculty outreach agenda and I will continue to run and organise this event in the future. I spent £250 on science books for competition prizes (I still have books for next year’s Science fair), £70 on poster printing for activity stalls, £55 for equipment (e.g. colouring pens, blue tack, sweets), £30 for subsistence for voluntary staff which included 1 water and a bag of crisps per person and £90 for stickers for completion of 4 activities at the fair.

Photography by Whyler Photos of Stirling

Posted on June 7, 2018 modem in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What James Hickey did with his prize money…

James was voted the winner of the Tellurium Zone in November 2013. Here he writes about using his £500 prize money to produce outreach videos for volcano science.

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

So far I have used the money to produce outreach videos for volcano science. I have had very good feedback, and one of the videos is now featured on one of the University of Bristol science outreach webpages where it has reached approximately 500 people!

I spent the money on video equipment and am now developing an outreach website to host the videos on. I am now a lecturer at the University of Exeter and continue my outreach work as a Science Outreach Officer at Cornwall Sea to Stars.


Posted on May 2, 2018 modem in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Laura-Anne Furlong did with her prize money…

Laura-Anne was voted the winner of Sports Science Zone in November 2016. Here she reports back on using her prize money to run activities for Biomechanics Day at Loughborough University.

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

On April 11th 2018, the biomechanists at Loughborough University welcomed 57 Year 10 students (24 females, 33 males) and their teachers to our labs as part of the now-worldwide Biomechanics Day 2018 : an international celebration and showcase of all things biomechanics. Students from the four Leicestershire-based schools participated in a morning or afternoon full of biomechanics-related activities.

Students participated in a range of activities where they learnt about reaction times in sport, measuring forces and movement during sporting tasks, taking live images of muscle and tendon working, and having a go at stretching and foam rolling like elite athletes. Students got an insight into the types of biomechanics projects currently running around the world in places like the Nike Sport Lab in the USA, skiing in Switzerland, cricket injury research at Loughborough, and how biomechanics is used in the English Institute of Sport.

This was then followed by a short careers talk from five lecturers in our research group (two females, three males), who each described their pathway into biomechanics, what is our real passion for trying to solve, why we enjoy our job, and what sort of things we each do. Particular positives from the day were that 87% of the students agreed the visit had shown them how varied this part of science was and 73% agreed they would be interested in learning more about this area of science. The day was full of smiles from the visiting students and teachers, undergraduate student ambassadors, and the Loughborough staff and students, which I think the photo captures brilliantly.

There’s much more to come! We have recently participated in our university-wide STEM day, and will host another 90 Year 10 students on May 29th as part of a university-wide HCOP event. I have been appointed the outreach co-ordinator for the School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences at Loughborough University, and have been invited to present as part of workshops at the major conferences in biomechanics in Brisbane, Dublin and Auckland. I’ll be speaking about my I’m a Scientist and outreach experiences and how these could be applied elsewhere around the world.

The IASUK prize money is used to cover the costs of food, refreshments, and equipment for use on both previous and future large-scale outreach days, as well as developing posters which communicate our research and the area in language accessible to the general public. This work is also further supported by Loughborough University.

Posted on April 25, 2018 modantony in PhySocWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Philip Moriarty did with his prize money…

Philip was voted the winner of the Terbium Zone in March 2015. Here he writes about using his £500 prize money on developing the script and artwork for a nanotechnology-themed graphic novel, “Open Day”.

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

I initially said that I would spend the money as a contribution towards the development of a video game. Unfortunately, the games developer with whom I had initially scoped the game could no longer commit to the project (the video game project has instead been kick-started via a company in Bristol). The prize money was instead spent on developing the script and artwork for a nanotechnology-themed graphic novel, “Open Day”.

Written by Shey Hargreaves with art by Charli Vince, Open Day is a “warm-­‐hearted, funny, and bittersweet tale of ambition and overcoming the odds as much as it is an exploration of atomic manipulation and nanoparticles.” The novel is the result of a collaboration between Hargreaves, Vince, the Nanoscience Group at the University of Nottingham, and Professor Brigitte Nerlich (sociologist and emeritus professor at the University of Nottingham).

In addition to the funding from “I’m A Scientist”, “Open Day” is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council through a grant award, “Mechanochemistry at the Single Bond Limit: Towards Deterministic Epitaxy”. The entire proposal is available here. The funding was used to support visits of Charli Vince and Shey Hargreaves to the School of Physics and Astronomy, and for travel funding associated with the “Nottingham Does Comics” event.

It’s too soon to say how many people the project has reached but “Open Day” will be published later this year  and we would hope that the novel will have broad appeal. We will update with sales figures (and social media impact) when the novel has been published.

Above: where the story is set

Since winning the prize money, I have been heavily involved in outreach and public engagement both online (e.g. the Sixty Symbols, Numberphile, and Computerphile YouTube channels) and offline (“Pint of Science“, “Skeptics In The Pub“, “Café Scientifique“, “Science In The Park“, “Spring Into Science“). I have also written a popsci book on the deep and fundamental links between quantum physics and heavy metal, to be published by BenBella later this year.

See here, here and here for blog posts about the upcoming graphic novel.


Posted on April 11, 2018 modem in IOPWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Thomas Clements did with his prize money…

Thomas was voted the winner of the Evolution Zone in March 2015. Here he writes about using his £500 prize money to create a mobile taphonomy experiment to take to schools (Taphonomy is the study of how organisms become fossilized).

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

I used the prize money to create a mobile taphonomy experiment to take to schools. Unfortunately this proved difficult to transport  and was too time-consuming to provide on-demand to schools, so I instead created some videos and used the remaining money to buy a tablet to show school students. I went to seven schools and reached around 300 students.

I then took the videos we made to three fossil festivals which had 1000+ footfalls each. I hope to make a YouTube series on it now I’ve finished my PhD! Since winning the prize money, I’ve been involved in lots more outreach activities, namely I’ve been active in multiple fossil festivals and STEM visits to schools.

Posted on April 4, 2018 modem in UniReadingWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Emma Osborne did with her prize money…

Emma was voted the winner of the Gravity Zone in March 2016. Here she writes about using her £500 prize money to set up a YouTube Channel, ‘The Extraordinary Universe’.

If you’d like to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

I used the prize money to buy equipment to set up my YouTube channel, which contains lots of videos about astrophysics and how the extraordinary universe works,  for example ‘What happens if you fall into a black hole? or ‘What is a pulsar?’.

Using this channel I have so far been able to reach 80,000 people. I spent £250 on a video camera, £50 on a microphone, £50 on lighting and £150 towards an iPad for editing and animation. I have also been using Instagram to support my YouTube channel, and that has been very popular (over 30k followers) which can be found here.

Using the equipment I bought with the prize money, I have been able to consistently produce content, as now the only costs I have are on my time. Since setting up my YouTube channel, I have had many fantastic opportunities come my way and I have even won an award for my science communication.

It all started with this competition, and for that I am eternally grateful! I have to say that everything I have achieved since taking part in this competition wouldn’t have been possible without the seed funding provided from the prize money. I have given many talks, demonstrated at science festival/events, use social media as an educational channel, interviewed on local and national television. More on what I’m up to next can be found on my website.

Posted on March 21, 2018 modem in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Joe Bathelt did with his prize money…

Joe was voted the winner of the Brain Zone in November 2016. Here he writes about using his £500 prize money to develop classroom resources about working memory.

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

As a neuroscientist working on brain development, I’m working with children a lot and am amazed by the kids’ willingness to sit through some often quite boring experiments or lie in the slightly intimidating brain scanner. Many of the children are curious to hear more about the science, but there is usually not enough time during the experiment to talk about these things in detail.

There are some very successful efforts to tell teachers and parents about our research, but there is hardly anything aimed directly at kids. I thought that children would like to hear about the interesting things that we find out about their minds and brains and that they could also benefit from some of the insights that we have gained from this.

This is part of the team posing with the working memory game.

With the help of my colleagues, I developed a school lesson to teach children between 7 and 11 years about working memory – that is our mind’s ability to store information for a short time and manipulate it. At the heart of the lesson is an interactive exploration, where children take the roles of a scientist and a participant. The scientist presents pictures of items on a board to the participant, then turns the board away and removes one of the items. The participant has to remember where the item was on the board and if it was edible or not.

Through this game and the other parts of the lesson, children can explore the concept of working memory, can develop awareness of working memory limitations, and can come up with strategies to manage their working memory in school and at home, and get an insight into cognitive psychology.

Part of the resources for the working memory activities. Download the resources

Getting these ideas into a suitable format for primary school was quite difficult, probably because we, as scientists, usually like wordy and complicated explanations that, understandably, do not hold the attention of a classroom of 7-year-olds. So, we tried the lesson at a local primary school, which helped us to improve the lesson a lot.

Now that the lesson plan is ready, we made it available online for teachers in the UK and around the world: Working Memory For Kids Lesson plan. We’re also aiming to take the working memory lesson on the road regularly to teach more children about our research.

This is me at a science demonstration at the Blue Dot Festival.

Thanks to the inspiration and encouragement that I gained by participating in I’m a Scientist, I also participated in other public engagement events to bring science to more kids. I put together a mini-version of the working memory game for a brain science stand at the Blue Dot Festival in July this year. I’ve also became a science mentor for Frontiers for Young Minds, a science journal for children.

Posted on December 20, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Loren Gibson did with her prize money…

Loren won the Protein Zone in 2014. Here is what she did with her £500 prize money…

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:


I decided, after some work with Science Oxford, that I would donate the money to them for use in their new project working with teaching children in schools about antibiotic resistance. This helped them with developing some free workshops around penicillin and antibiotic resistance to run in local state secondary schools.

They provided 10 schools with the workshops which included a practical activity about antibiotic specificity using agar plates, a game and a debate about antibiotic resistance. The game used fluffy bugs oversized petri dishes and puzzles to show how antibiotic resistance works. Furthermore, they are planning to give each teacher a resource pack with posters and follow up activities. Science Oxford said this is a massive help to them to provide money for the resources for this project.

Since taking part in I’m a Scientist, I have also represented the company I work for at a science fair, explaining what the company does to both children and adults. Furthermore, myself and a few of my colleagues showed Year 10 students around our labs and did an activity and quiz with them about what it is that we do on a day to day basis. We had some great feedback from both events and we really enjoyed it.

Posted on December 13, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Stuart Archer did with his prize money…

Stuart was the winner of the New Materials Zone in 2013 and spent his £500 prize money running workshops for around 50 students at local schools.

“I ran a workshop for local schools in Sheffield where the students made “dye-sensitised” solar cells from fruit juice. Blackberries, cherries and raspberries all have a useful dye in them that can be used to make the solar cells, so we compared and contrasted the three in teams. Prizes were available for the best team and best individual solar cell. Approximately £350 of the money went towards equipment and solar cell components. £100 went towards consumables for the workshops and the rest went on travel costs.

It all went very well, the students and the teachers were really happy with it and we will likely add it to our annual programme of outreach at Sheffield. We continue to deliver the workshops and have more planned for this year.”

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

Posted on December 6, 2017 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Megan Seymour did with her prize money…

Megan was voted the winner of the Energy Zone in November 2016. Here she reports back on how she used her £500 prize for her own science outreach project

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

As a final year chemistry PhD student at the University of Edinburgh I have taken full advantage of the opportunities I’ve had to engage school children and the wider public with research taking place at the University, and science in general.

Having lead school science workshops, organised science festival drop-ins, hosted student lab visits and volunteered at public open days I was keen to do something a little different with my prize money.

My idea came from doing a walking tour of the city, which opened my eyes to the fascinating history of science here in Edinburgh. I wanted to take the idea of a science themed walking tour, and inject a whole lot more fun by designing a city wide, month long, Science Treasure Hunt!

I spent countless weekends trawling the city for hidden scientific landmarks and narrowed my list down to 10. These points of interest included graves, statues and plaques commemorating famous scientists, exhibitions in museums and art galleries and geological formations in local parks. I wrote a little about the scientific and historical significance of each location, and for each one came up with a question which could only be solved by finding each clue.

The David Brewster Statue. But how many fingers is he missing? You’ll have to come and see him to and find out!

Science Treasure Hunt was designed and printed and ready to launch by mid September. On a public open day I coaxed visitors and passers-by into the School of Chemistry by making ice cream using liquid nitrogen and handed out over a hundred copies of the treasure hunt map and clues.

Making liquid nitrogen ice cream at the Edinburgh Doors Open Day and Science Treasure Hunt launch.

Entrants had one month to solve each clue and submit their final answers, as well as posting their all-important #ScienceSelfie to our twitter or Instagram pages for a chance to win a special bonus prize.

All correct entries were entered into a draw and three winners were chosen. An additional winner of the selfie competition was chosen and each winner received a certificate and a mini scientific microscope with instructions to conduct their own science experiments at home.

With the remaining money, an Edinburgh based illustrator and graphic designer have been commissioned to help design a second edition of the treasure hunt, to be run in the 2018 school Easter holidays. I am in discussions with the public engagement coordinator at the University and hope that the treasure hunt can be run as an annual event.


Posted on November 22, 2017 modantony in RSCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Richard Prince did with his prize money…

Richard was voted the winner of the Pharmacology Zone in June 2015. Here he reports back on what he did with his £500 prize money…

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

I used the money to run a series of 8 x 1hr workshops at Calder High School in West Yorkshire. I was put in touch with one of the science teachers there, Nicola Boulton, by David Wilkinson of WYSTEM: as a first step after doing IAS, I did the STEM Ambassador training and went along to some of their networking events, and I’d suggest that as something that any future winners should do – It not only helps with forming links with schools, but also gives you a free DBS certificate and insurance cover for your activities.

We timed the workshops to coincide with British Science Week and ran them for a total of 150 students in years 9, 10, 11. I did the chilli workshop four times, doing the Scoville test on a range of chilli sauces with names like “Psycho Drops”, “Ultra Death” and “ Mad Dog 357”.

We also did some alcohol and water extractions of commercially available chilli flakes named “Hells Flakes”. We didn’t find the chilli sauces to be quite as hot as the manufacturers claimed, but that could well be because many of the students testing them were confirmed chilli-heads!

One of the meters the students used in workshops displaying my own (moderatley) high blood pressure reading!

In addition to the chilli workshop, we also ran a mock clinical trial to determine if caffeine is a performance enhancing drug, running this workshop four times. I think this was quite a valuable experience for the students because it showed them how a double-blind trial is conducted, and helped them understand the placebo effect.

It was also quite timely because caffeine is currently on the WADA watch-list and Maria Sharapova had just admitted testing positive for meldonium, a substance that had just moved from the watch list to the banned list.

We used heart rate and blood pressure monitors and did reaction time and cognitive tests before and after drinking either a double espresso or a decaffeinated double espresso. We didn’t find any strong evidence for performance enhancement, but we did establish that my coffee was the worst the students had ever tasted! I’d love to try and run these activities again with a different school in the future.

Posted on October 18, 2017 modantony in BritPharmSocWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jonny Brooks-Bartlett did with his prize money…

Jonny was voted the winner of Lutetium Zone in June 2015. Here he reports back on the science outreach he was able to do using his £500 prize money.

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

In June 2015 I experienced one of the most hectic 2 weeks of my life: I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here. It was eye opening as well as exhausting but I loved every second. The early mornings and late nights answering the full spectrum of questions and being asked to think outside the box was very mentally stimulating. Winning it was such an amazing feeling!

I already knew what I wanted to do with the prize money: I wanted to have school students experience interdisciplinary research, to show them that sciences like physics, biology and chemistry aren’t as separate as they seem at school. I would do this whilst getting them to experience my field of research, X-ray crystallography.

To that end I teamed up with Professor Simon Coles and Lucy Mapp from the University of Southampton and last year we organised for a group of 9 AS chemistry students from Richard Taunton College to visit the University of Southampton for a day of crystallography. Throughout the day the students grew their own crystals of one of the biological building blocks, glycine. They experienced how difficult it is to manipulate a crystal and even mounted the crystals and fired X-rays at them to collect data.

Lucy (left) supervising a pupil trying to cut a crystal under a microscope

All of this was done with the additional aim of relating the content to the A-level chemistry syllabus. We have an additional 6 schools around the Southampton area that have expressed interest in visiting the University to do the same thing and we hope to secure more funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry to do more of these events.

Jonny giving a short talk about X-ray crystallography to the pupils

Not all of the money was spent on the crystallography day so we managed to do slightly more. The Oxfordshire Science Festival was held from 23rd June – 3rd July and over the weekend of the 25th and 26th I managed to team up with several academics to prepare a stand with lots of practical activities based around X-ray crystallography and Protein structure.

Our activities included growing protein crystals, making crystal structures with jelly babies and cocktail sticks, manipulating protein structures and learning how we can use the knowledge of the protein structure to fight against malaria.

We had people of all ages visit the stand but of all the activities, it was the jelly babies that went down the best. The kids loved making the structures (and then eating them) and we probably got through about 12kg of jelly babies over the weekend. It was incredibly fun.

Volunteers helping out at the science festival stand

A huge thanks has to go out to I’m A Scientist Get Me Out Of Here because they made all of this possible. I would also like to thank everyone else that has made this possible. It’s been such a great experience and I’m so glad to have had it.

Posted on September 6, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jess Bean did with her prize money…

Jess was voted the winner of Indium Zone in 2014. Here she tells us about the science outreach work she did using her £500 prize money.

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

Doing I’m a Scientist was a completely new experience for me, and I loved every moment of it. I really enjoy talking about science with anyone who will listen, so getting so many excellent questions from students all over the country was really fun and inspiring.

After winning my zone I wanted to use my prize money to do fun, hands-on science activities with kids in my local area. In 2015 I was put in contact with St Marks School in Bath, and we organised two after school workshops with Year 7 and 8 students. I used my prize money to buy all of the materials used during the workshops, plus some “giant microbe” toys (fluffy bacteria and viruses) used as prizes. I had not done much public engagement before, especially with younger students so this was a great opportunity to introduce them to some interesting and different science.

My research is on microbiology, so we did a range of experiments looking at the different types of bacteria that could be found in different parts of the classroom, as well as on other things such as our hands and mobile phones. We found some really interesting bacteria and fungi on all surfaces we tested, which had a wide variety of colours and shapes (including some especially furry and slimy ones!). We also looked at how hand washing affects the number of bacteria on your hands, by looking if bacteria grew after you had washed your hands with antibacterial gel.

Specifically, for myself this was also a great chance to collect some samples to take back to the lab and use for my own research. I work on a special kind of virus called a bacteriophage which is able to kill harmful bacteria, as an alternative to antibiotics. These viruses are mainly found outside in water and soil, and so we went around the local area and learnt how to collect samples of water (plus a few tadpoles) and soil using accurate scientific methods.

The next week, we analysed the bacterial plates that we had made earlier, but also did some extra chemistry experiments in the lab. We made bouncy balls out of borax and cornflour, we stained the bacteria found in natural yoghurt and looked at them under the microscope, used liquid nitrogen to freeze things to -198 °C and made erupting foam with hydrogen peroxide and washing-up liquid.

Overall, I hope everyone had an interesting afternoon, and that I could introduce them to some aspects of science that they wouldn’t otherwise have seen in school. I would love to do I’m a Scientist again, I think it’s a great way for kids (and teachers) to connect with science.

Posted on August 23, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Sarah Tesh did with her prize money…

Sarah won the Extreme Clean Zone, funded by STFC, in November 2013. Sarah donated her prize money to Build Africa, who used it to support their Water and Food Access project which has ensured a clean and safe water supply for 28 schools across Uganda.

In 2013 a borehole was installed at Kimogoro Primary School, and Sarah’s donation went towards teaching a Water Committee how to maintain it. The committee have been supplied with maintenance kits and training, including simple book keeping, sanitation and hygiene, as well as the relevant skills to undertake any necessary repairs in the future. Abdriku, a member of the committee, said ‘The training was very helpful since we developed the rules and regulation on the use of our
school borehole. ‘ Read more about the skills training project at the school here.

School staff using the well

Stephen, one of the students at Kimogoro, spoke about the effect having the borehole has had on his school day; “I am happy since we have clean water at school for drinking and washing our hands. The water also ensures that we get food at school and this makes us stay at school and spend more time with our teachers. We also take porridge during break time and we enjoy it. The community always gives us room when we want to use the water.”

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

Posted on August 23, 2017 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Allan Pang did with his prize money….

Allan was voted the winner of Yttrium Zone in June of 2012. Here he fills us in on how his £500 prize money was used.

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

I donated the money to the Young Crystallographers Group of the British Crystallographic Association. They were involved in organising a 4 day event in Newcastle for the British Science Festival which took place in September 2013. The event was aimed at school children aged 16, and they ran three one hour long workshops per day.

The workshops were based around ‘The Structure of Stuff is Sweet,’ which was aimed at teaching school children about what crystallography is, and why it might be useful. As you can see from the name, they talked about the structure of sugar, build crystals out of marshmallows and explained the many different polymorphs of chocolate, and what we can learn from knowing the structures of these materials.

The money won from I’m a Scientist was used to fund these activities, covering the cost of the materials that needed to be purchased to explain the concepts of crystallography. Also, as this was a 4 day event in Newcastle, the money was used to cover the travel costs of many of the volunteers involved, as without them it would not be possible for the event to go ahead.

Find out more about The Young Crystallographers Group


Posted on August 16, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Tom Lister did with his prize money…

Tom was voted the winner of Laser Zone in 2012. He donated the money to Ringwood Waldorf School Science department who planned to spend the money on apparatus such as heavy duty pulleys and ropes, spring balances, cantilever balances, masses and hangers, friction apparatus and Young’s Modulus apparatus.

Posted on August 10, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Chris Blanford did with his prize money…

Chris was voted the winner of the Biochemistry Zone in March 2016.  Here he reports back on using his £500 prize money to fund science activity equipment  for local schools.

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

I leveraged the prize funds towards a set of 50 ‘chocolate impact testers’. These testers are based on a rig developed at the University of Sheffield to help engage students using chocolate to investigate the physical property toughness.

The testers were part of the ‘Wonder Boxes’ put together by our local science museum, the Museum of Science and Industry. The rest of the sponsorship came from the the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers, the University of Manchester’s School of Materials’ OFFA allocation, and Greater Manchester Higher funds. The funds from I’m a Scientist covered about 5 or 6 of the kits.

A chocolate tester in all its glory

Schools in Greater Manchester had to compete to be given the resource box for the academic year. The activities needed to be integrated with the curriculum, used with STEM Ambassadors, in extracurricular activities, as part of engagement with youth groups and parents, or in partnership with other schools, to increase STEM engagement and Science Capital.

All schools offered the kits have at least 20% Free School Meals, and the first 41 invited were the 25% most needy state-funded secondaries in Greater Manchester, identified by STEM Learning based upon such metrics as Attainment (lower achievement of A*-C), higher levels of free school meals, lower level of students progressing into further study of STEM subjects and other factors such as rural, limited employers in area, and poor OFSTED reports.

Me demonstrating how to use the chocolate tester rig with a variety of delicious samples.

Numbers-wise, at least 30 schools received the kits and we’re expecting them to use it at least three times in the first academic year – plus of course any interactions taking place in the exhibition, or under the aegis of the contributing outreach groups using it themselves.

Posted on August 9, 2017 modantony in BiochemWinner, RSCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Daryl Jones did with his prize money…

Daryl was voted the winner of the Drug Development Zone in 2014. Here is what he did with his £500 prize money…

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


Asking for help during one of my talks. Lots of enthusiastic volunteers!

I gave some science talks at a local church here in Florida.  It was all ages from 5 to 11.  I used the RoboRoach and Human-Human Interface kits  and had some kids up on stage to demonstrate, and I did a quiz at the end.  We used two RoboRoach kits and raced cockroaches!!! It was fun.  I’ve had another request to do the same at a local school (however the RoboRoach kits only have 3 uses each so it’s starting to get expensive!!) I also bought neuroscience kits at the Society for Neuroscience. One is a kit that allows you to do “brain surgery” on cockroaches and then control their movements with your iPhone! Very cool and the children love it.

Posted on August 9, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Euan Allen did with his prize money…

Euan was voted the winner of Lead Zone by students in June 2016. He got straight to work using his £500 prize money and here reports back on what he was able to do over this last year.

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

After winning I’m a Scientist, I wanted to make sure I maximised the impact of the prize money that I had just been given. After a bit of thought, I decided that the best way for me to use the money was to help train some new PhD students that had recently joined the Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training (QECDT) that I am a part of, and work with them to put together a stall to present at the Festival of Nature — a natural science festival in Bristol organised by the Bristol Natural History Consortium each June.

After some training provided by the University of Bristol’s Centre for Public Engagement, the students and I set about planning a couple a demonstrations and ordering test items to begin construction of the stands. The first of the developed demos was to explain how a ‘Morpho Blue’ butterfly generated the fantastic blue colour of its wings via the tiny (nanoscale!) structures that it has evolved on its wings. This was done by looking at the structure of the wing using a USB microscope and also by comparing the wing to other iridescent items, including plants and peacock feathers.

The ‘Morpho Blue’ butterfly demonstration, including butterfly wings, a microscope, peacock feathers and iridescent shells and plants.

The second demonstration was to show the strange natural phenomenon of wave-particle duality, a feature of fundamental physics where some things can act as both a wave and a particle. This was done using a tank of silicon oil that was placed on top of a speaker that was oscillating at a particular frequency. This allowed us to produce droplets on the surface (see the image) that looked like particles but would sometimes act like waves.

The oil drop ‘particles’ generated as part of the demonstration. The particles form a triangular lattice because of the interaction of the waves generated in the oil bath below.

After the stand was completed and all set, it was time to take the demonstrations to the Festival of Nature. The festival this year saw over 8000 people come down to Bristol’s harbour side to see stands and demonstrations covering all of nature. Presenting at the festival were ourselves, the BBC, Bristol Zoo, the University of Bristol and UWE, and many more institutions and charities. The students spent two days talking visitors through the two demonstrations we had developed as they came and visited the tent we had set up in. We also had students providing outreach ‘on-the-go’ with the busking demos that we had put together using the prize money.

Ross of the QECDT demonstrating a standing wave – one of the busking demonstrations bought for the Festival of Nature.

Overall the weekend went really great and we had lots of good feedback from visitors to our stand, and even coverage from the BBC. The students learnt a lot from the experience and some have gone on to be involved with other outreach activities in the department. Parts of the demonstration have also been taken to the Royal Society Summer Exhibition and have been made available to those within the group to use of further outreach activities. I’d like to thank all of the Quantum Engineering students for the effort they put in over the very warm weekend and the team at the Centre for Public Engagement for the support they provided.


TOP Euan talking to the BBC about the stand from the Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training. BOTTOM Part of the team at the festival next to our stand (L to R): Joao, Giorgos, Rachel, George, Jorge, and Ross.

Posted on July 26, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Andrew Swale did with his prize money

Andrew won the Blood Zone of I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here in June 2013.

He donated his £500 winnings to the Liverpool World Museum to facilitate setting-up the Magical World of Science, a one-off science-based workshop for the general public.

Andrew Swale

Me and some workshop attendees on the day

Posted on June 8, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Phil Wilkinson did with his prize money

Phil was voted the winner of Digital Zone in March 2013. Here he reports back on how his £500 was used.

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

Hello! I am Phil, I participated in the Digital Zone back in March 2013. On I’m A Scientist I was frequently asked what my typical day was. Well my typical day during the event was something like this. Wake up. Grab coffee. Open I’m A Scientist, look through dozen or so newly asked questions. Stress over inability to answer them all. Answer questions: “When will the sun explode?” & “How many KFC Bargain Buckets will it take to get to the moon?”. More questions are asked. Open chat. Enter 30 excitable students. Intensely focus and furiously type. Have the validity of my research questioned and sense of humour challenged. Students leave to a chorus of well-wishing ad promises of votes. Be called a ‘lad’. Exit chat. Check new questions. Repeat throughout day.

Phil wilkinson

Me and the Game Makers club team

Now, my days involve working with students in school to help them make their own digital games in a Game Makers club. These game are different as they are designed with a specific social issue in mind. They tap into the growing trend for developing Games for Social Change – games that raise awareness of and tack problems in society. This work is being support by the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy. The money that I was awarded though the I’m A Scientist competition has been used in support of this club, including the purchasing of equipment and software licenses.

Regarding specific software, I purchased a license for Game Maker at £80 and an Oculus Rift Developers Kit 2 at £350 to show off the possibilities of VR! The rest has been sunk into ongoing travel expenses – not particularly exciting of course!

Posted on June 8, 2017 modantony in RCUKWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What James Holloway did with his prize money…

James won the Wellcome Trust-funded Palladium Zone in March 2013. He used his prize money to fund visits to local primary schools to engage the students with science through hands on experiments, showing them how interesting and fun physics can be.

James’ experiments included Magic Sand and NeverWet Spray to demonstrate hydrophobic behaviour and Pyrex submerged in cooking oil to demonstrate the effect of a refractive index on the behaviour of light. As well as playing with the experiments, Westfield Primary School held an afternoon question and answer session for James to talk to the students about being a scientist.

James also took part in the Diamond Light Source open day, bringing his experiments to the general public.

Posted on June 1, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ashley Cadby did with his prize money…

Ashley was voted the winner of Molybdenum Zone in 2012. in 2015, Ashley spent his prize winnings commissioning artists to develop artwork which interpret scientific research being done at Sheffield University.

The pieces were shown at the Krebs Festival in Sheffield. Ashley is continuing the project and is still in talks with artists for future collaborations and projects, working out ways of getting the artwork more visible to the general public.

The gallery at Krebs Fest 2015


Posted on May 31, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

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 | Leave a 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

Katie pickering outreach prize money project 3

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.


Katie pickering outreach prize money project 5

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.

Murray Collins 5

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

What Glafkos Havariyoun did with his prize money…

Glafkos was voted the winner of the Medical Physics Zone in March 2015. We asked him to report back on how he used his £500 prize money and here is what he said…

Last year I was humbled by being selected the winner of the Medical Physics Zone and it was an amazing, exhilarating and breath holding experience! I have never typed so fast in my life, so many questions!

I work in a hospital as a Medical Physicist. So my initial plan for the prize money was to create replicas of our scanners using Legos and Raspberry Pis so that children visiting the hospital could see how our scanners work. I thought this would be helpful for children who are scared of having a scan done as well!


The children got to write their own code for the robotic arm controlled by the Raspberry Pi

When I won the zone, and along with it the £500 prize money, I had second thoughts. I thought- why should I have all the fun playing with Legos and Raspberry Pis and not the children themselves? So then I thought why don’t I show children what Raspberry Pis  and coding can do? This would tie in very well with the recent push for teaching coding to children across the country.

At first I contacted a number of schools to see whether they would be interested in the project but had no luck. I then found out that our own hospital, King’s College Hospital in South East London has it own School Room for children who are staying at the hospital and so it all began: I bought two Raspberry Pi kits , a robotic arm (yes, a robot) and a Pi camera and, with the help of the teachers, organised coding teaching sessions for children at the hospital.


Fully certified Bumblebee programmers!

Wait, but what are Raspberry Pis? Raspberry Pis are a series of motherboards the size of a credit card.  They perform the same operations as a home computer, and have USB ports to plug in a mouse or keyboard. They are aimed at teaching coding to children. To make it cooler and even more exciting for the children I bought the robotic arm as well which I named “Bumblebee” for obvious reasons.

I did a number of sessions with the children for about an hour a day. I taught them what a Raspberry Pi is, and what coding is. How coding drives everything electrical and automated around us and why it is important in our modern world. Then they started coding with the robotic arm and moving things around, which was really good. Some of the children became so good at it they wrote codes on the Raspberry Pi that made the robotic arm pick up pens from pen holders and trapped Lego men in pots. Check out the video below to see how great the children were at working out their code!

The sessions in my opinion had two outcomes: First, the children were able to learn the basics and foundations of coding while playing with the robotic arm and coding with the Raspberry Pi. They also got an idea how science and computing can be applied in healthcare- in this case robotics! The other, and most important outcome, was that they were able to escape the normal hospital routine and environment whilst doing this. It gave them, I believe, the opportunity for at least a small period of time to forget about their conditions and focus on controlling Bumblebee.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed in the creation and running of the I’m A Scientist Get Me Out of Here competition and Medical Physics Zone- the I’m a Scientist Team, the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine and the Institute of Physics. I’m planning to continue the Raspberry sessions during the new academic year at the hospital as the school teachers are really keen and want to support the project all the way!

Want the chance to win £500 for your own outreach project? Apply now for the next I’m a Scientist event!

Posted on August 25, 2016 modantony in IOPWinner, IPEMWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Hayley Moulding did with her prize money…

Hayley was voted the winner of Gold Zone in March 2016. Here she reports back on how she got straight to work making the most of her prize money…

After being fortunate enough to be crowned the winner of the Gold Zone in March, I was adamant that I would fulfil my proposal of working with school pupils in my community in Cardiff. The schools I particularly wanted to work with were located in areas that were nearly gentrifying and had future prospects of expansion, socially, economically as a community and financially. I wanted to at least impact upon these children’s education in a way that was memorable and hopefully inspiring!

Children at Grangetown Primary making dreamcatchers!

Children at Grangetown Primary making dreamcatchers!

To be able to portray what I do day-to-day to the pupils in a fun, imaginative and engaging manner was difficult and needed a lot of exploration before we could go into the schools. Fortunately, at Cardiff University we have a well established and innovative scheme called ‘Community Gateway’. This scheme particularly works with families in Grangetown, aiming to develop long-term, equal and mutually beneficial partnerships between the residents and the services which surround them. Cardiff University aims to develop world-class research and development opportunities meeting the needs of the community.

My project was devised alongside Community Gateway to go into schools and promote sleep as a science of great importance, need, focus and current opportunity! The significance of sleep in our daily routines is under-represented and misinterpreted as an excuse to laze around. The fundamental need and dependence of sleep is something I believe wholeheartedly needs to be reinforced in the minds and lives of children internationally. The essential health benefits, academic, social and occupational benefits associated with sleep cannot be disregarded. To be able to convey this perception, I needed to devise a strategy: Why not make sleep fun!

HmouldingpostcardWe started by devising postcards that were delivered to schools to enable the pupils to ask me a question regarding sleep. I also wanted to know what they dream about to plant the proverbial seed in their minds (maybe it should be sheep in their minds, relating to sleep!). This ensured that I had an open path into discussing sleep. Making dreamcatchers, designing pillow cases and class dream-bed sheets sounded like a pretty reasonable route into discussing sleep with 9-10 year olds after that!

Having the option of hands-on crafts (painting and colouring) alongside brain hat-making and cuddly toys around to ‘talk’ about their sleep made for a child friendly and engaging activity. The school were amazingly accommodating, with heavy teacher involvement and interaction with both myself, my colleague Katie and the pupils too. Katie is an undergraduate at the University of Bristol (where I did my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry.) I was fortunate enough to have her facilitate the session. These are some of her thoughts on the session:

‘As an undergraduate at the University of Bristol, we are constantly encouraged to get involved with science communication. Despite this, I have never actually done so. This experience opened my eyes to how important it is to get children talking about science – specifically sleep. Many of the children we spoke to were surprised to learn how important sleep is, and how aspects of their lives can impact their quality of sleep (like watching a scary film then having nightmares about it). Many of the children particularly enjoyed colouring in different parts of the brain which was made into a hat, and they learnt which parts of the brain are responsible for different actions. There were also very excited to learn about how different animals sleep by means of using cuddly toys!

I am now aware of the competition ‘I’m a Scientist Get Me out of Here’, and think it’s a really useful platform to get young people interested in science. It has inspired me to get more involved in public engagement and education about science. Particularly with children as they can often be put off the subject at a very young age, which they then carry through life.’

Children at Grangetown Primary designing their dream bed-sheets!

Children at Grangetown Primary designing their dream bed-sheets!

Not only did the sessions create an open forum for discussion with the teachers, the pupils and Katie and myself regarding sleep and particularly dreaming, it has opened the possibility of expanding the project and taking this into more schools and events. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience even with the challenges of talking to 30 9-10 year olds about a topic so rarely touched upon. I already plan to run more activities in Sleep Awareness Week in March next year.

Being granted a rare opportunity like this by I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here has inspired me to deliver my project in more contexts, to focus on public engagement as an inherent part of my work and PhD, and to never stop being excited by and interested in the minds of children! From wanting to know how giraffe’s sleep to whether I could read their dreams – the future of science is in their hands. I have an obligation to aid their journeys along this path, and if I can do that with dream-catchers, pillow cases, brains and cuddly dolphins, then sign me up – I will be along for the ride!

If you’d like the chance to win £500 for your own public engagement activities, apply now to take part in the next I’m a Scientist event at

Posted on August 3, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Elizabeth Cooper did with her prize money…

Elizabeth is a Research and Development Chemist at Shepherd Widnes Ltd and won the Materials Zone in March 2015. Here she tells us what she was able to do with her £500 prize money…

I was fortunate enough to win I’m a Scientist in March 2015 in the Materials zone as I faced stiff competition from the other scientists, Rob, Martin, James and Martin! As I won I had the opportunity to spend the prize money on my own activity to engage people with science.

My main passion within science is chemistry. I have always loved chemistry since I was a child and because of this I decided to run a science club involving chemistry laboratory experiments.

Me on the left at my first Science Club

I contacted the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre in Widnes and was put in touch with a lovely woman called Clare Hampson who is the Education Manager there. The Catalyst Centre run free science clubs to children between the ages of 11-14 every second Saturday of the month. I explained to Clare about winning I’m a Scientist and how I was interested in running a science club one weekend.

On the day I was very nervous as I have never spoke in front a group of 11-14 year olds however all the children were lovely and I was soon at ease! For the first part of the science club I introduced myself and talked about what my job entailed. The children and I discussed pH, density and acid base titrations. For each of these topics the children completed mini experiments whilst completing a worksheet.

Elizabeth chemistry day 2

Completing acid base titrations with burettes

The children got to use different analytical techniques such as weighing material using a balance, testing the pH of solutions, measuring solutions using measuring cylinders, calculating the density of solutions and using burettes to complete acid base titrations to determine endpoints using indicator. My prize money was used to provide all the materials and equipment we used on the day. At the end of the science club all children received a free science book for listening, asking questions and actively taking part.

I would love to do these activities again in the future and I would like to thank I’m a Scientist and the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre for giving me the opportunity to pass my passion of chemistry on to potential scientists of the future!

Want to win funding for your own public engagement activities? Apply for the next I’m a Scientist event at

Find out what’s coming up next at the Science Club on the Catalyst Centre website

Posted on July 20, 2016 modantony in RSCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Andy Scott did with his prize money…

Andy was voted the winner of Health Zone in 2015. Here he reports back on how he’s used his £500 prize money over the last year to set up Project_D with a local school…

Last June, I’m a Scientist… took over my life for 2 weeks. I was hooked. I answered questions at breakfast, at work, lunchtime and late into the evening. During the live chats I achieved typing speeds I never imagined that I could. And while winning isn’t everything, it did feel like a great achievement. In fact, one of my colleagues, Matthew Round was inspired (by the answers I wrote that he didn’t agree with) to enter I’m an Engineer… this March and win it!

The project_D team from Chelsea Academy with Dr Zohya Khalique and Dr Andrew Scott from the Royal Brompton Hospital.

The project_D team from Chelsea Academy with Dr Zohya Khalique and Dr Andrew Scott from the Royal Brompton Hospital.

With the prize money and enthusiasm from the win I worked with our research public involvement coordinator, Julia Coffey, and Chelsea Academy school to develop a program we called project_D (‘D’ for the diffusion of water we measure with an MRI scanner in my research).

I went to Chelsea Academy to give a talk to year 10 about my research and the plans for project_D.

I went to Chelsea Academy to give a talk to year 10 about my research and the plans for project_D.

The idea was that 12 Year 10 students would take part in all the steps involved in a research project. I visited the school to present my research to the year group and introduced the project. Students who were interested applied to take part, just as we would apply for a job or for a grant to fund some research.


Dr Karen McCarthy (left) from the Cardiac Morphology department at the Royal Brompton Hospital discussing the anatomy of the heart with students during a hands on session with pig hearts at Imperial College.

We decided to run six workshops for the 12 successful students. We started with the basic science, so the students initially looked at the structure of the heart with a colleague from pathology and some real animal hearts and thought about how water might diffuse through muscle tissue.


The project_D students scanned a healthy volunteer in our MRI scanner.

We then ran workshops at the Royal Brompton Hospital with one of our heart research doctors. The students learnt about and used the MRI scanner to scan everyday objects and a healthy volunteer – translating the ideas from the basic science session.


3D representation of the diffusion of water molecules within a section of the heart muscle of a healthy volunteer. Scanned and processed by the year 10 project_D team.

Back at the school, the students processed their MRI data and planned a pirate themed stand, based on how water helps us look at the heart, to communicate the science they’d worked on to younger students. They have run their stand within the school, at the Imperial Festival School’s Day and will finish up with a stand at the Royal Brompton Hospital research open day in July.


One of the project_D students, Titus Adarkwa and Dr Zohya Khalique (right) from the Royal Brompton Hospital explaining the diffusion of water within the heart muscle tissue to primary school children at the Imperial Festival Schools Day.

It was fantastic to see the students develop their understanding over the course of the project and then communicate the science to their peers, just as we might do at a conference. The school are keen to run a similar project next year and we are investigating the possibility of getting other research groups within the hospital involved too.


Want to get hooked on engaging with schools and a chance to win £500 for your own project? Apply now for the next I’m a Scientist event at

Posted on June 29, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Cristina Villa Del Campo did with her prize money…

Cristina was voted the winner by students in the Heart Zone of the November 2015 event. She got straight to work using her £500 prize money to fund her own outreach activities and here she reports back on what she did…

Hi! I am Cristina, the winner of the Heart Zone in November 2015. I loved participating in I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! and despite the tough competition, I ended up winning! I knew I wanted to use the money to give back to the students so the first thing I did with the prize was visit some schools in person and get to know the students. They still had so many questions!!

The pupils and Cristina give the lab visit two thumbs up!

After talking a lot about different experiments with the students, I knew that they would love to see science in “real life” so I planned a visit for a group of primary school pupils to my own lab, the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) Centre of Regenerative Medicine at Oxford University. I arranged for them to come and prepared experiments for them so they could feel like real scientists for a day.

Armed with lab coats, name tags, goggles and gloves, together we saw zebra fish embryos with green hearts, used microscopes to look at heart cells beating in a plate and we even tested what was growing around our lab by collecting bacteria from different places.


Cristina talks about how the equipment in the lab helps her research into heart cells.

I enjoyed every second of the day, and it was amazing to share some of my daily life with the students and hopefully get them interested in science. Thank you to I’m a Scientist for giving us all the opportunity to share and learn from this day in the lab. It was such a great experience that now that I am in contact with this school. I have planned to repeat the visit every year!

On top of these projects this year I have also become a STEM ambassador so hopefully I can contribute to that as well and I have become a member of BIG, the community for STEM communication to the public. I have also set up a new Twitter account (@Cris_Villa_dC) to have the kids communicating with me, asking questions and requesting images and videos from my work in the lab.

Posted on June 9, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Barbara Shih did with her prize money…

Barbara won the Genes Zone in March 2015. Over the last year she’s been hard at work making the most of her £500 prize money and we asked her to tell us all about it…

I was fortunate to come out to be the winner for the Gene Zone for I’m a Scientist in March 2015, and I did the following two things with my prize money.

Barbara Shih 1

These aliens have a delightful range of mutations, but who inherited what from whom?

Firstly, I visited Whitdale Primary School. During one of the chat sessions in I’m a Scientist, they asked if I would come and visit them, and they were so excited about it I simply could not refuse! I used some of the prize money to make a couple of self-made genetic-related activities to bring with me that explain basic building blocks, mutation, and dominant and recessive inheritance. To make the activities more hands on, I used beads with different shapes, Lego, coin flips and paper cut-outs to make a variety of aliens.

The whole day flew past with an overwhelming amount of energy in the classroom with 52 Primary students, 2 teachers and 26 aliens. It was great fun; the students were not only super enthusiastic and welcoming, but also very good at picking up all the concepts, which was satisfying.

The remaining part of my prize money was spent on an ongoing project, which is making a comic-based science blog, The Runaway Lab Book, together with Dr Jonathan Higham. We wanted to blend science into web-comic to make it a bit of fun, although the attempt to be make a joke at the same time as explaining science can be proven to be a little tough. The money has gone into funding the sites hosting and kit to create the comics.

Another concept we are currently exploring is the idea that science is all around us; carrying out day-to-day experiments including testing the pH of household items, measuring the speed tea cools with and without milk, how coffee affects heart rate and blood pressure, and more.

In addition to the activities mentioned above, I have also helped out on the public engagement activities held by the Roslin Institute on the Doors Open Days and at the Royal Highland Show.

Like the the Runaway Lab Book comic on Facebook to to receive new updates and follow Barbara on Twitter @runawaylabbook.

Posted on May 11, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

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.


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.


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.

Image 17 lo res

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