Category Archives: Winner Reports

What Tom Branson did with his prize money….

Tom won the Drugs Zone in 2013. Here’s how he spent his £500 prize money.

Taking part in the I’m a Scientist competition was such great fun for me and I really felt it was fun for the students too. Reading the huge range of questions and chatting to the overly enthusiastic students confirmed my thoughts for what I wanted to do with the money after I won.

I originally planned to use it to get more school students into the university to see how things were really done. At the University of Leeds I used the money to buy materials and develop a permanent position for another PhD scientist to run outreach activities and workshops for school students. This scheme allows more students to connect to real life scientists at the University and see where they could be working themselves one day.

Over the year there are many opportunities, especially for Year 12 students, to come in to the University and perform some exciting new spectroscopy and analytical workshops, such as CSI Leeds! Our fully trained science communicator is there throughout the year to keep the projects going. I myself have now moved away from Leeds and so have left the project in their capable hands, but I will keep looking out for new opportunities to get involved in similar projects again.

I’m a Scientist has really boosted my confidence for communicating my work to students and the general public. It enabled me to get a place in the Leeds postgraduate conference last year, presenting my work to the public. Hopefully, I was able to get a few more hooked on science!

Posted on May 21, 2015 Moderator - Josh in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Anna Middleton did with her prize money…

Anna Middleton won the ComputationalBio Zone in 2014. We asked her to tell us what she’s been up to with her £500 prize, and here is what she said…

I was incredibly proud to have won I’m a Scientist Get me out of here. My research is within the field of social science, I’m interested in how people engage with genetics and what they want to use from the technology. This involves framing complex concepts about genetics in a way that means something to individuals and then asking them questions about the subject. I try to use as many imaginative ways to explain genetics as I can, e.g. film and metaphors. I learnt from the young people who asked me questions on I’m a Scientist that they liked direct answers; for many of the research areas I cover, there is no right or wrong answer but many shades of opinion, so it was a challenge for me to condense the ethical issues surrounding genetics into a few sharp sentences.

I engage with many different types of people as part of my position – teaching genetic/genomic counselling to health professionals, teaching ethics to scientists and communicating the findings of my research to the public. As with I’m a Scientist the audiences I work vary in their knowledge about genetics – some have no background knowledge and others know a lot. I find it is really helpful to gather feedback on what audiences know and understand and in the past I might have asked for a show of hands in response to a question, but now with the I’m a Scientist prize money I can do this via a Turning Point handheld voting pad.

One of the pads used for gathering the opinions of the audience.

One of the pads used for gathering the opinions of the audience, linked to a laptop.

These pads enable audiences to click a button and share an anonymous opinion on genetics. Being able to engage in this way is fun (the results are instant and the audience can see how they have voted within a graph beamed onto a screen) but is also informative (it allows people, in an anonymous way, to see how their views compare to others present). The voting system also allows me to do more social science as I can use the data to explore people’s attitudes and this in turn fuels my research.

The feedback I have had from using this voting system has been incredibly positive – audiences like to play ‘Who wants to be a Millionnaire’ and be asked a question they can give direct feedback on. The £500 prize money was incredibly welcome and is being put to good use. My only problem now is the voting handsets are in so much demand from colleagues that I’ve had to create a booking system to lend them out!

Posted on May 13, 2015 modantony in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Leila Nichol did with her prize money…

Leila Nichol won the Medical Physics Zone in 2013. Here is what she did with her £500 prize…

I initially signed up to “I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here” as something fun and different to look forward to after completing my viva for the Association of Clinical Scientists. I really had no idea what I was getting into! It was great speaking to so many school students and raising awareness of Medical Physics, a lot of them seemed really interested which made it really enjoyable for me and the other scientists involved.

Leila Nichol at the Medical Physics and Engineering Conference

Me helping school students get to grips with medical physics

I was honoured to be voted the winner on the Medical Physics Zone and used the £500 prize money to continue the theme of science communication. I attended a Science Communication Masterclass with prolific engineer and television personality, Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, in conjunction with Screenhouse and UCL. This was a fascinating day where I got to meet many inspirational like-minded scientists. I’ve managed to put my new found skills to good use during my visits to various schools and science fairs, as well as speaking at conferences and giving a radio interview. I donated the remaining prize fund to IPEM Outreach who hosted a training session for outreach volunteers at the Medical Physics and Engineering Conference in Glasgow, September 2014. This should help in the continuous promotion of Medical Physics to school pupils and raising awareness of the field.

Taking part in I’m a Scientist was a great success for me, and I know that the other scientists enjoyed it as much as I did. I would thoroughly recommend taking part to anyone!

Posted on May 7, 2015 modantony in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Kirsty Ross did with her prize money…

kirstyrossKirsty won the Krypton Zone in 2012. We asked her to write us a blog on what she’d been up to with her £500. Here is what she said…


Thank you again to all who voted for me in the competition! I was stunned to win the Krypton Zone and I can clearly remember sitting on the train on the last day refreshing the page on my phone. I have never typed so fast in my life in the live chats and I became slightly obsessed with providing answers to every single question in my forum (121 at last count!)

As I mentioned on my profile page, Arthritis Research UK funds my research into the role of mast cells in rheumatoid arthritis. I decided to develop activities based around that theme and so invested most of the winnings in a pair of arthritis simulation gloves. I worked with Glasgow Science Centre’s BodyWorks exhibit to develop activities to show how difficult life is with arthritis. Visitors could wear the gloves while attempting everyday tasks like tying shoelaces, doing up buttons and measuring their grip strength. Most people lost ~25% of the strength in their hands, simply by wearing the gloves!

Arthritis simulation gloves help demonstrate the symptoms of the condition

Arthritis simulation gloves help demonstrate the symptoms of the condition

My winnings also funded visits to primary and secondary schools (including a pupil referral unit) in Aberdeenshire, Hampshire and Sussex. I spoke to over 325 children and their teachers about the importance of animals in scientific research over the course of National Science and Engineering Week 2012. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like me to speak at your school.

My winnings also paid for: printing my poster about my research at the University of Strathclyde Research Day, an entry into the Science Bake Off at Glasgow Science Festival, and the establishment of the Wee Science Club at Strathclyde University Nursery. All in all I think I managed to stretch the winnings a pretty long way. Thanks again!

My delicious entry into the Glasgow Science Festival bakeoff competition!

My delicious entry into the Glasgow Science Festival bakeoff competition!

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

What Becky Cook did with her prize money…

Becky won the Cadmium Zone in 2013. Here’s how she spent her £500.

I competed in I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of here in June 2013 and I was the winner of the Cadmium zone! I was really surprised to be voted the winner but extremely happy too. I found the two week competition exciting and really rewarding and I recommend it to anyone interested in science outreach and communication.

I wanted to use my prize money to give school students a realistic experience of science with some hands on activities that they could learn scientific concepts from. I decided that in order to do this it would be best to donate the money to organisations that could have a bigger impact than I could alone. Therefore I split my prize money between British Science Association and STEMNet.

The money given to the British Science Association was spent on their CREST award scheme. CREST is a project-based awards scheme for the STEM subjects and gives students a chance to complement their education and also gained a highly regarded award that can be used in job and university applications. CREST work can be linked into work experience placements, after-schools clubs or numerous linked schemes. Students can investigate or design and make, research a subject, or design a science communication project.

STEMNet used their share of the prize money for their STEM clubs scheme. STEM clubs are after school clubs that give student opportunities to learn about scientific subjects in a variety of different ways. The money was used to buy hands on activity packs for a number of these clubs held at schools within London. STEMNet gave me the opportunity to attend a couple of the clubs as the STEM ambassador that lead the activities. This was a rewarding experience where I got to engage the kids on a variety of scientific concepts using hands on experiments. Also, in these STEM clubs I talked about my work on cancer research and I how I grow cancer cells to understand how they behave.

I felt that the money I received went a long way and fulfill what I had hoped the money would be used for. I’m a Scientist was an amazing experience and I got a lot out of the two week competition and winning my zone led to more outreach experiences for me and more students engaging with science!

Posted on April 15, 2015 Moderator - Josh in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Rosie Coates did with her prize money…..

Rosie won the Caesium Zone in 2014. We asked her to write us up a brief blog on how she’s been spending her £500. Here’s what she said:

Never in a million years did I expect that I would win I’m a Scientist in March 2014! I was desperately hoping to survive the first eviction, so to make it all the way to the end against such strong competition was an absolute shock.

The first thing that struck me when the competition began was the sheer volume of questions asked by the pupils participating and how engaged they were with the whole exercise. The second thing I noticed was that a lot of the questions were about really big ideas and were, quite frankly, really blooming difficult to answer! It was an absolute pleasure to be able to feed the pupils’ curiosity and to have them feed and invigorate mine over the course of the event.

Before the competition began I promised that, should I win, I would use the money to open the doors of my university, The University of Liverpool, to school children and let them see what it is we do there. This is exactly what I did with a great deal of help from my friends and colleagues in the Institute of Integrative Biology.

The first event took place in April 2014 and thirty pupils from Pinfolds Primary School stormed the teaching labs for a day spent investigating good and bad microbes in our food. We used microscopes, probed the myth of “the five second rule” and even tasted kimche- all in the name of science.

For the second event we became more ambitious and in December 2014 fifty year six pupils from Northwood Primary School descended. This time we had fun looking at the wonderful world of microbes. We got up close and personal with the bacteria on our skin, used glitter sneezes to see for ourselves how disease can be spread and tried some tasty treats to help us learn about DNA as the recipe for life.

These two events, which were days jam packed with activities and experiments, gave me the opportunity to develop and test drive a bank of “plug and play” activities with accompanying resources that other researchers can pick and choose from or adapt to their own research. Not only this but many of the activities were designed in such a way that they can be replicated in the classroom so the schools themselves also directly benefit from this bank of resources.

I feel that the money from I’m a Scientist has extended my opportunities to engage with a wider audience through the resources I have been able to pull together. I am grateful for the freedom to continue to be able to feed children’s curiosity and interest in science, which only serves to reinvigorate my own passion. For this I would like to say a wholehearted thank you to I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here.

Posted on April 1, 2015 modantony in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Lewis Dean did with his prize money…

lewisdeanLewis Dean won the Lanthanum Zone in 2014, and received £500 to spend on a public science communication project. We asked him to write up a brief report on how he used the money.

My main memory of Lanthanum Zone is a manic blur of answering questions. As a primatologist (I work with chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys, lemurs, children) interested in animal behaviour, I was never short of a question or two. On the final afternoon, in an extended chat, my last rival for the title, Ian Hands-Portman, and I went head-to-head in a good-natured battle to the death. It really wasn’t clear who would win; certainly everyone deserved to.

The money that I was awarded went towards a show that I devised and produced alongside my colleague Kate Cross. We wanted to examine what we know about chimpanzee intelligence and cognition. So we did the obvious thing: we put one on trial for murder (don’t worry, not a real one). It’s not quite as strange as it seems. To demonstrate that a chimpanzee could be guilty of ‘murder’ we have to discuss topics like whether chimps are capable of planning, whether they know other chimpanzees think like they do and whether they have morals. These are all questions that people in my field are researching and are don’t always agree on.

By having a trial, we got to invite ‘expert witnesses’ (scientists) to talk with the ‘jury’ (the audience) about their research and what that tells us about chimpanzee intelligence. The jury, in turn, got to quiz the researchers and at the end of the show got to deliver the verdict – was the chimpanzee guilty?

So far, the chimpanzee has always been found innocent, but it’s not been a unanimous decision and it has stimulated plenty of debate amongst the audience. I thoroughly enjoyed my I’m a Scientist experience and the opportunities that it’s afforded me. Many thanks to all the staff, teachers and pupils involved.

Read more about this project at Lewis’ blog here.

The expert witnesses put forward their evidence.

The expert witnesses put forward their evidence.

The Edinburgh Fringe festival 'jury' vote on the verdict: innocent or guilty?

The Edinburgh Fringe festival ‘jury’ vote on the verdict: innocent or guilty?

Posted on March 25, 2015 modantony in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Alan Richardson did with his money….

alanrichardson02Alan won the Human Limits Zone in 2013. We asked him to write us up a brief report on how he’s been spending his £500. 

Taking part in the Human Limits Zone was a great experience, from which I personally learnt a great deal. Interacting with younger children about science really made me think about how to present answers in a truly fundamental and understandable manner. It also made me realise how little children get to experience what goes on in universities and especially working laboratories.

As a result of this I chose to arrange for a number of local schools to bring in early years secondary school pupils to have a lecture and attend some lab sessions on human performance and extreme environments. The pupils had a lecture on things we do in the labs, like respiratory measurements, maximal strength tests and assessment of maximal oxygen uptake. They then had some lab sessions, run by postgraduate and undergraduate students in which they measured their lung function, heart rate, strength and various basic physiological measures. Finally they got to go in the heat chamber and the hypoxic chamber (which simulated altitude) to briefly experience what it would be like in different environmental conditions.

One the children arm cooling and measuring skin temperature

One the pupils cooling his arm and measuring skin temperature

I think the pupils really enjoyed their morning with us and made them actually consider the functionality of the human body more, rather than just learning about the body and how it functions from textbooks. I hope it also opened up their ideas to university and science.

Posted on March 4, 2015 modantony in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Sam Geen did with his prize money…

samgeenSam won the Extreme Speed Zone in 2013. We asked him to write us up a brief report on how he’s been spending his £500. Here’s what he said:

I took part in the Extreme Speed zone back in June 2013. It was one of the busiest zones that month with 491 students, 1182 questions and 7749 lines of live chat. We were asked about everything from galaxies to subatomic particles, as well as what bananas and galaxies have in common. My sister even pitched in to correct me on psychology – turns out that your heart can actually trick your brain into thinking you’re in love (see Sams edit below for the link to the question).

Build your own galaxy Demo

Build Your Own Galaxy demo running at iGAM4ER

My project was to create a version of the code I use in my research on huge supercomputers that anyone can pick up and use to make galaxies. Since the event I’ve been fiddling with Fortran and poking at Python trying to get something that is easy to use, fast and educational. I presented a tech demo to the 2013 iGAM4ER competition  in the Cité des Sciences in Paris. This demo had a galaxy being formed over the course of the event, with a Wiimote set up to allow people wandering through to pan around it in 3D as it evolved. It was a fun but tiring event.

I’ve set up a website at Build Your own Galaxy, where you can track my progress. Last year I hacked up a proof-of-concept called Super Supernova that you can try out on the site. This is a simple illustration of how exploding stars called supernovae can shape a galaxy by blowing gas out of the galactic disk. Go to the site and try it out!

Sam at  iGAM4ER 2013

Sam at iGAM4ER 2013

Since this project mostly uses up my free time rather than my spare cash, I decided to donate half of my prize money to GalileoMobile, a non-profit project where teachers and astronomers travel around the world to places such as India, Uganda and Bolivia to bring astronomy to children who don’t otherwise have the resources that we have to learn about the night sky here in the UK. They used the money to buy a sunspotter telescope (see below) to make images of the sun and identify the location of sunspots, and will take it out on their upcoming expeditions to South America this year.


The Galileo Mobile Sunspotter telescope

The sunspotter telescope that GalileoMobile bought with Sam’s donation

Posted on February 25, 2015 modantony in News, STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Simon Langley-Evans did with his prize money…

Simon won the Iodine Zone in 2013. We asked him to write us a brief report about how he used his £500. Here’s what he said:

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to take part as a scientist in the Iodine Zone in November 2013. In addition to experiencing a fantastic fortnight of communicating with secondary school students, I was very pleased to be the winner of the event. I had all along made a commitment to use the prize money to help my local primary school to develop science resources and this is what I did in the spring of 2014.

Students using the data loggers at Kegworth Primary School. | Image courtesy of Kegworth Primary School

Students using the data loggers at Kegworth Primary School. | Image courtesy of Kegworth Primary School

Kegworth Primary School in Leicestershire, is a relatively small school with around 160 pupils ranging from reception to year 5. Like all similar schools, Kegworth struggles with funding and the introduction of the new primary science curriculum has been challenging in terms of resource.

The prize money from I’m a Scientist was used by the School to purchase a set of four TTS data logger boxes. These kits enable children to monitor three environmental inputs simultaneously (temperature, sound and light intensity), collecting data either as single snapshots or as continuous data over prolonged periods of time.

The data can then be uploaded into a simple analysis package which enables graphical representation of the data. Having the data loggers will enable the children in the school to design their own experiments which focus on environmental science, biology and physics. For example, using the loggers children can monitor the temperature and light conditions which best favour seed germination, examine how materials insulate hot or cold liquids, investigate how light intensity diminishes as the sensor moves away from the source, or even measure the speed of sound.

One of the data logger boxes. | Image courtessy of Kegworth Primary School

One of the data logger boxes. | Image courtesy of Kegworth Primary School

The new kit that the school has acquired provides exciting new ways of generating data in science investigations that will encourage the children’s appreciation of scientific method and develop their capacity to visualize and interpret results.

Posted on February 11, 2015 Moderator - Josh in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Hannah Brotherton did with her prize money…

Hannah Brotherton won the Tin Zone in June last year. Let’s take a look at how she spent her £500 prize money…

It was a fantastic and amazing opportunity to not only be a part of I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here but also lucky enough to have won it. The competition taught me how to not only engage with students about my research but how to maintain that excitement and enthusiasm along the way. This event gave me the opportunity to see how excited students are about science, which keeps my own passion and excitement for my research alive.


As part of being crowned zone winner, I promised Gresham’s School that I would visit them as a small thank you for their amazing support. With my winnings I created a series of different activities regarding hearing/communication that was delivered not only at Gresham’s School but also at other schools in the local Manchester area. The money has helped to create new activities that are delivered to this very day at events such as National Science and Engineering Week.

Part of my winnings also went on a camera to help document events. The money also allowed me to deliver hearing/communication workshops at more remote events such as the Science Arena at the Jodrell Bank Observatory.

All the resources and equipment bought with the winnings has set up a “pool” of resources for the students at the University of Manchester to use for public engagement events. Without I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here, being able to engage the public with my research would not have been possible.

Thank you for an amazing experience!

Posted on August 22, 2014 Moderator - Josh in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Anna Williams did with her prize money…

Anna Williams won the Forensic Zone in June 2011, and won £500 to spend on further science engagement. Let’s take a look at how she spent her winnings…

With the prize money awarded after being voted the winner in the Forensic Zone in June 2011, Dr Anna Williams designed and created resources for a “Discover Decomposition” workshop aimed at 13–18 year olds.

Resources for a ‘Discover Decomposition’ workshop

Resources for a ‘Discover Decomposition’ workshop

The one-day workshop is specifically intended to allow young learners an opportunity to learn about the work of a Forensic Anthropologist, and get up close and personal with some human and animal bones. They can discover how an animal decays after death, and how information from the decaying body is used to determine post-mortem interval and contribute to the investigation of crime.

The workshop gives students a chance to experience some of the sights and smells of a real crime scene, see a real dead body (animal) and become forensic investigators for a day.

Anna presented the workshop free to students from several local schools while at her previous university. She has recently moved to the University of Huddersfield, where she intends to continue to offer it to groups from schools in the area; those who participated in I’m a Scientist in June 2011 and others. The workshop will be held on the outdoor forensic taphonomy facility she is currently in the process of creating there.

Posted on August 20, 2014 Moderator - Josh in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jon Stone did with his prize money…

jonathanstoneJon Stone won the Technetium Zone in March 2013, and won £500 to spend on a science communication project.

Jon wrote a piece about his experience and how he’s spent the £500 in an article for the EGU’s GeoQ Education magazine. We’ve summarised it here, but you can read the article in full at:

Talking about I’m a Scientist, Jon says…

“I wanted to have a go at the challenge of talking to young people in that situation. School kids asking questions about what you do – where else do you get that forum? The chance to answer interesting and exciting questions motivated me: they don’t ask the usual questions, but unique and wonderful things.”

“The format is awesome, especially for this day and age – that’s how people are used to interacting with each other. Another thing is the excitement: because it had the competitive element, you want your work to be cooler than the others.”

With his prize money, Jon bought a DJI Phantom quadcopter with a GoPro camera, to take aerial photos of the land around volcanoes after they erupt. Before he got the camera, he’d used a kite with a camera attached! He’s used the quadcopter around Tungurahua volcano in Ecudaor, mapping pyroclastic flow deposits after eruptions. Images from the quadcopter are digitally stitched together and used by the local authority to make maps and provide information about evacuations. It’s also helped Jon talk about his work with local children who crowded around to see the quadcopter. None of this would have been possible without the competition prize money.

Jon using the quadcopter on Tungurahua

Jon using the quadcopter on Tungurahua volcano, Ecuador

“Even if I had that kind of money myself, my wife wouldn’t let me buy it, it would seem like a frivolous expense. If I was to give advice to other winners I’d say do something with the money that’s a bit of a risk. You never have that opportunity to have a new idea and go with it.”

Talking about his research in Ecuador was just an extension of geoscience conversations during the event:

“I think the kids know a lot more than they think they do – it’s about joining the dots and making connections. But they know less about Earth science than more classical sciences. That made it all the more fun for me.”

“It was genuinely the most exciting two weeks of my life. I think I learnt a lot about the necessity: what’s sufficient to answer this question which isn’t misleading and will make them ask more questions. People realising scientists can be normal is really cool and really important. I enjoyed those personal questions as much as I did the questions about science, and I didn’t expect to.”

“We’re so lucky in academia because we have a flexible work schedule. The only reason I think someone wouldn’t take part is if they hadn’t heard about it, there isn’t a comparable experience, it’s a genius idea.”

Jon has made videos of the film and images he takes with the quadcopter. Here’s one from Ecuador:

Posted on June 3, 2014 in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Mario Ruiz did with his prize money…

I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here! WinnerMario won the Cells Zone in June 2013, and won £500 to spend on a science communication project. Let’s take a look at where the prize money has gone.

Mario Ruiz 5

I'm a Scientist winner, Mario Ruiz's, science communication project

Kids and parents arriving at the tent

Winning I’m a Scientist last June was a complete surprise, but also a great opportunity for me and my friends at Cosy Science to make the pilot activity of our Science club idea a reality. Cosy Science is a monthly Science café in which a top scientist speaks during 30 minutes about a hot scientific topic in the friendly atmosphere of a pub. The audience, a mixture of scientists and non-scientists, are encouraged to ask questions afterwards, creating a two-ways dialogue between the speaker and the attendees.

Due to their format, the Cosy Science talks are for adults only. We wanted to try and create something different for kids, and that’s why we came with the idea of the CoSci Club! The CoSci (Cosy Science) Club aims to be a series of workshops for school students — key stage 2/3 — in which they will learn and experiment about certain topics such as Evolution, Cell Biology or the Human Body. For our pilot activity of the Club, we had the opportunity to be involved in the Bloomsbury Festival, an annual festival of Art, Music and Science happening in the streets of Bloomsbury, in London.

I'm a Scientist winner, Mario Ruiz's, science communication project

Two girls trying to decide which man was the tallest in the picture

I'm a Scientist winner, Mario Ruiz's, science communication project

No one was able to shake my hand at the first attempt wearing the reversing goggles!

I'm a Scientist winner, Mario Ruiz's, science communication project

A little tigress looking for the right answers of our quiz

The activity, The sense-sational world of human senses, took place in the Francis Crick Institute tent of the festival hub, in Russell Square. As the name suggests, everything was focused on how the human senses work and how they can be deceived! Kids (and no-so kids too!) were able to see the world upside-down wearing a pair of reversing goggles; they were tricked looking at optical illusions; they tried to guess what was inside our mysterious boxes by smelling through the holes, and also the food stuck to the bottom of another big box by touching it blindfolded; they created some music with the wine-water glasses too, and struggled to speak on a microphone while listening to their own distorted voice!

Apart from all the fun experiments, we proposed to the kids a game in which they had to choose the correct answer for five questions related to curious facts about the senses. They had the aid of a series of posters distributed throughout the experiment tables, so they also needed to search for the right answers! The lucky winner of the game received a family ticket to the London Zoo.

The overall experience was a success: the kids loved all the experiments, we had a lot of fun interacting with them plus everyone else who came to the tent, and we also learnt what kids are interested about and how to challenge and make them think. Hopefully in the near future we will be able to properly set up CoSci Club in a school, or several ones, with more fun activities and experiments!

Thanks to I’m a Scientist for making this real with its generous funding, to everyone who dropped by our tent and play with our experiments, and also to my fantastic colleagues and friends Kinga Bercsenyi, Nathalie Schmieg, Mariana Campos and Alessandra Audia, because without them Cosy Science wouldn’t exist.

I'm a Scientist winner, Mario Ruiz's, science communication project

From left: Kinga Bercsenyi, Nathalie Schmieg, Mariana Campos and Alessandra Audia, and Mario Ruiz.

Posted on February 19, 2014 Moderator - Josh in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jennifer Paxton did with her prize money…

I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here! WinnerJennifer won the Health Zone in March 2013, and won £500 to spend on her own science communication project. Let’s take a look at where the prize money has gone.

It seems like only yesterday that I was crowned winner of the Health Zone of I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! so I was shocked to realise that it has actually been over six months! Taking part in the event was so much fun and I’m very pleased to say that I gained a lot from it. I learned how to communicate my work and ideas to students and doing this really reminded me why I love my work and my Tissue Engineering research so much. I can honestly say that the whole event reignited my passion for science and has been such a positive experience that has lead to other exciting projects and developments in my career.

paxtons body box 2I thought long and hard about what to spend the prize money on. My initial thoughts were to design posters about my work and send them out to the schools that took part in the event. However, because of the fun I had during I’m a Scientist I decided to become a STEM ambassador and I have really enjoyed the interaction with school children. So instead, I decided to spend my winnings on a whole collection of science resources that I can take into schools!

I used the whole £500 of my winnings to buy a large variety of resources that are all connected with the human body and can suit a variety of levels, from early years to secondary. Dr Paxton’s Brilliant Body Box has items such as a model human torso, human heart model, Velcro skeleton, digestion game, inflatable body organs, microscope and microscope slides of body tissues, teeth and nutrition activities, breath volume kits and many, many more things! There is also a whole supply of activities to make learning about the human body fun!

paxtons box

I have planned an event with a local primary school to tie in with their teaching block on the human body so I am really looking forward to that. Also, I am relocating to Edinburgh in the New Year to take up a Lectureship in Anatomy so I hope to be able to continue my outreach activities in my new role. I am very keen to get children involved in learning about anatomy and the human body and as well as contacting local schools, I will have resources available on my website for teachers and children to use and to allow them to contact me about arranging school visits, or perhaps visits to the labs. I am very excited about inspiring the next generation of anatomists and Tissue Engineers and it would not have been possible without I’m a Scientist!

Posted on February 12, 2014 Moderator - Josh in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jo Watson did with her prize money…

JoannaWatsonJo won the Cancer Zone in June 2010, here’s how she spent her winnings:

I have a confession to make. Spending the I’m a Scientist prize money took way longer, and was way harder than I ever thought it would be!

Since winning the money I have learnt that there is a lot more to creating teaching resources than I originally thought. I have spoken to teachers, other scientists and others about my idea of creating a teaching resource and how it could be used in schools. I have also discovered that there are people out there who are dedicated to creating teaching resources that are much better than I could make.

One of the great projects I discovered is the Millennium Mathematics Project, a maths education and outreach initiative for ages 3 to 19 and the general public. They provide educational activities and materials on a range of maths topics, including free online multi-media resource packs about ‘Maths and our Health’ and ‘Disease Dynamics”.

The resource packs they have created are so fantastic that I decided the best use of my prize money would be to help them to publicise the packs to schools across the country. They used the £500 to design and print promotional flyers and posters for their Maths and our Health resources. After sending some of the promotional materials out to schools they saw a substantial increase in people accessing the resource packs online. They hope that this will help even more students to develop an informed understanding of issues about health and medicine which feature prominently in the media and are likely to affect them personally.


Taking part in I’m a Scientist has led to me getting involved in science communication in a way I would never have had the confidence to do before. I’ve been to a workshop about online science communication and represented Cancer Research UK Science at a public event.

I think that, for me, the best thing to come out of taking part in I’m a Scientist was realising that my knowledge and experiences are worth sharing with people outside my department or scientific field. Chatting with students and thinking about the questions they asked was really inspiring and I hope that I’m a Scientist was my first step on a life-long commitment to getting the public involved in my work and in science in general.

Posted on January 22, 2014 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Sean Murphy did with his prize money…

seanmurphySean won the Gallium Zone in March 2012. Where has he been spending his £500?

We have been making some progress with our plans to create an interactive iBook to educate school children about regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. With the emerging importance of the field we believe that an early introduction to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine will stimulate the interest of school children and motivate them to pursue a career in science and technology.

With this goal in mind we are preparing an interactive iBook, providing an introduction to the field and providing an overview of the different approaches and technological advances being made in the field. With a target audience of mid to upper high school children we are aiming to create an interactive online book that can be downloaded for free, which will contain high resolution images, movies and interactive models that will stimulate the interest of students in school and at home.

Progress so far

To date, we have produced a set of chapters. Content includes simple explanations and concepts, the history of procedures such as organ transplantations and transfusions and information about technologies such as bioprinters, bioreactors, MRI and CT imaging, and electrospinners.

Imagine a world a new heart, or kidney, or lung, could be picked off a shelf and transplanted to a patient that needed it, where a lost limb could be regained, where healing a burn could be as easy as printing a photo…

Also covered is current regenerative medicine and tissue engineering technology and advanced/successful clinical trials, along with potential future technologies, such as limb regeneration and whole organ bioprinting.

Chapters have been contracted to experts in their respective fields, who will use their current research and data, written in a format that is easy to understand and includes as much visual and interactive information as possible.

Future plans

As we have been collecting text, data and visual/interactive materials, it has become apparent that it is quite complicated to ensure interactive iBook is compatible with multiple devices (such as PC, Mac, Android, iPad and iPhone). For this reason we are contracting our IT/development work to an IT specialist, with a background of publishing interactive iBooks. Once a preliminary draft is completed for the iBook, we will distribute to a local high school class and provide students with a survey to provide feedback and comments. We will then make relevant changes to the iBook before the uploading online and advertisements to schools that the book is available for download.

Following completion of trials of the beta version of the book, the final version will be widely available for school classes and children at home to further their education in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Posted on January 15, 2014 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ben Still did with his prize money…

BenStillBen won the Subatomic Zone in November 2011, here’s where his £500 went:

Winning I’m A Scientist the first time was amazing but the second time has really put the icing on the cake! I have been telling my peers that it is the best crash course in science communication you can get with or without leaving your desk.

I have used my money to fund my travel and involvement in art-science collaborations across London and most importantly the Jiggling Atoms project. Particle physics and illustration collided in the Jiggling Atoms project; the brainchild of artist Natalie Kay-Thatcher. Over six months 25 dedicated artists attended lectures and seminars about physics! They were set the task of visually interpreting aspects of the often-viewed incomprehensible world of particle physics.

A series of four lectures from co-organisers Malte Oppermann and Jennifer Crouch transported the artists from everyday experience and thinking into the strange realm of the atom and scientific methodology. They learnt of the guiding forces and lumpy discrete nature of Nature. Then in a final lecture from myself we went deeper down the rabbit hole, smaller than the atom to explore particles.

Jiggling Atoms is a project to create art from physics ideas

The Jiggling Atoms team, including Ben on the far right. Image by Jiggling Atoms

Once enthused and educated about all things science; the artists were given five short briefs. Each brief explored different aspects of particle physics; quantum weirdness, the space between particles, ‘seeing’ particles with machines, symmetries and the rules of Nature, and the very early history of the Universe. Various methods of interpretation were also suggested; a toy or game, image or series of images, object, comic strip, or info-graphic. While ideas were taking seed a number of seminars and e-mail conversations followed. From these discussions the briefs took on new and exciting dimensions as artists and scientists’ explored ideas of representing the subject matter off brief.

We hosted an exhibition of the work produced and array of workshops and talks between 1st-7th October 2012. But the project does not stop there! Jiggling Atoms is an idea more than a one off project and it continues today through the brilliant website designed by artistic director Rosie Eveleigh. We hope to expand the activities of Jiggling Atoms in the near future – watch this space!

Posted on November 6, 2013 in News, STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Suze Kundu did with her prize money…

suzekunduSuze won the Energy Zone in June 2011, here’s what she did with her money:

With my winnings, I funded myself to go to the BIG Event in 2012. It was in York, and I met lots of like minded people, from professional science communicators to science educators. I had decided by this time to do the INSPIRE course at Imperial which is a science communication heavy PGCE for post-docs, so my trip to BIG combined with lots of encouraging words from some of the teacher-trained people at Life in Newcastle at the British Science Festival 2012 encouraged me to accept the place I was very luckily offered.

Since going to BIG, I have continued to collaborate with many of the people I met there and have gone from strength to strength in terms of sharing my science! I remember a couple of days before the reception at Wellcome in 2012, I took part in a Tell Us Your Dissertation competition in two minutes. Public speaking at the time made me so nervous I thought I may pass out. I used to get the same feelings at conferences when presenting papers too.

Not one to get caught out my something as silly as fear, I tried to confront it head on, and through taking part in the two minute thesis explaining competition accidentally made eye contact with Steve Cross, public engagement superhero at UCL. He only knew who I was through cheer leading the UCL competitors involved in IAS, but signed me up for a Bright Club, and all the other wonderful things that followed. I got on board with the Science Showoff team, which have me lots of new experiences and insights I to how events are set up and managed, how other acts ‘sell’ their science, and how lovely it is to be able to encourage people to give it a go, having genuinely been just as nervous and inadequate-feeling myself before I started doing this.

Without IAS, Steve, UCL’s Bright Club, and other really lucky things happening, I wouldn’t have become this science-sharing-Suzemonster that I am now. IAS was like the nucleation point of my super-saturated-Suze crash into the world of science communication, and being able to attend something like BIG (which is ridiculously expensive if self-funded!) was invaluable to my development.

Posted on October 30, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Hywel Vaughan did with his prize money…

HywelVaughanHywel won the Boron Zone in June 2010, here’s how he spent his winnings:

Taking part in I’m a Scientist was a massive learning curve for me, and made me really appreciate not just the value of communication, but also just how cool some of the work other scientists out there are doing is. It made me take another look at what I was doing, and pushed me to go and get involved in more education projects, which the fund helped me develop.

One of these projects is called the Formula 1 in Schools challenge. This is where schools get to enter teams of students who design and build racers that are fired down a track at quite scary speeds! All of this is done with strict guidelines on the shape and materials of the vehicles, and all has to be accompanied with presentations, strict analysis, branding and a whole team feel that is exceptionally challenging. After taking part in IAS I started to get involved with this cause, and helped to judge some of the competitions. The project I worked for (Bloodhound SSC) also set up a new class of racers that children could enter into.


Some of the mini F1 cars raced by school students. Image by Bloodhound SSC

I decided to use the money to help develop some example vehicles for this new class of racer – to show students just how many possibilities there were, and how they could really let their imagination go wild with the design. I decided to look into previous land speed record vehicles, as these have a wide range of shapes and sizes, colours and design features. I also thought I would have a bit of fun, and looked at designs from cartoons such as Wacky Races (hopefully you are not too young to know what that is!).

The £500 went a long way, funding the sketches, cad design, renderings, manufacture and finishing of the cars. It allowed me to turn my crazy ideas into a reality. After sending out the design files for manufacture, and with some tweaking here and there, we ended up with a whole host of vehicles. We took these along to the Farnborough International Airshow where they were tried out by literally hundreds of people, in some cases reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. For me and the team, this was a great success, but nothing compared to what some of the students had done!

Hopefully though, these cars (which will now travel the country to demonstrate the scheme) will perhaps spark the imagination of future competitors. It just goes to show, science is more than just calculations. It takes a little bit of imagination too…

F1 in Schools aims "to provide an exciting yet challenging educational experience"

F1 in Schools aims “to provide an exciting yet challenging educational experience”. Image by Bloodhound SSC

Posted on October 23, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Sam Vinko did with his prize money…

samvinkoSam won the Electromagnetic Zone in March 2012, he tells us where his winnings went:

Following my victory in the I’m a Scientist competition, I donated my prize money to support the charity Sense about Science.

As the name suggests, Sense about Science is all about helping people make sense of science and evidence. They are a source of information, counter misinformation and champion research and high quality evidence. By working with scientists, policy makers, the public and the media they give people the tools to think critically about claims being made daily about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education or anything else.

Their Ask for Evidence campaign aims to hold the people who make these claims accountable. It says that if anyone wants us to vote for them, believe them or buy their products, then we, as consumers, patients, voters and citizens, should ask them for evidence.

People are challenging things like the retail chain selling supposedly MRSA resistant pyjamas; a juice bar for the evidence behind wheatgrass detox claims or the Department of Health about rules for Viagra prescriptions. So Sense About Science are all about getting the public to think critically about scientific claims and they have loads of resources and database of scientists who volunteer their time and expertise to help people understand the evidence.

I’d encourage you all to have a look at their website: and start making the best possible use of all the various resources offered to help support the important choices we all make in everyday life.

Posted on October 17, 2013 in News, STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Paul Higgins did with his prize money…

paulhigginsPaul won the Space Zone in November 2012, find out how he spent his winnings:

I participated in the Space Zone of the 2012 Irish I’m A Scientist contest while finishing off my PhD. I was both surprised and elated to win it! (proof: I then defended my thesis, got married, and moved to California…whew. Finally, this summer I was granted a bit of free time to kick off my ‘dream’ project: My proposal is to build an interactive, story-driven, educational website to help bring astronomy and space concepts into the Irish class room.

I managed to put together a consortium of solar scientists, teacher and outreach consultants, and web/game/graphic design developers. Using the Irish school curriculum, with the help of Irish school teachers, we are designing lessons that can be used in the class room to teach concepts such as magnetism, gravity, and the planets. The lessons are made to be engaging through our use of comic book-style art work, and the linear background story is used as a vehicle. Each lesson ends with an on-line quiz about the lesson (teachers will have access to the results), followed by the student being rewarded with a web-integrated mini-game, designed to subtly teach the student a space themed concept, such as orbital mechanics (ever played Galaga?).


With the prize, I obtained some web space and the domain name, and hired a web designer to put together a nice splash page for the project. I am currently working with a graphic designer to put together a sample comic book page, introducing the background story. So, with the I’m a Scientist money we now have nice page (; work in progress!) advertising the project and its elements. Building on our I’m a Scientist-funded proof of concept, the Solar Surfer team is currently working on a proposal for a substantial outreach grant to continue the development process and engage Irish schools during 2014. Wish us luck!

Hopefully those amazing students that voted for my project in the Space Zone will see the Solar Surfer team visit their schools in a year or two!

Paul and the Solar Surfer Team

Posted on October 8, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Pete Etchells did with his prize money…

peteetchellsPete won I’m a Scientist In the Zone in 2012, he tells us how he spent his £500:

When I won I’m a Scientist: In the Zone last year, I had grandiose designs on using my winnings to set up a new website to host lots of new psychology-based videos. Unfortunately, real life got in the way – I moved house, moved job, and got married all in a very short space of time!

But I do have some good news though: along with three other fantastic psychologists, I’ve set up a new Psychology-themed blog at the Guardian called Head Quarters. As part of this blog, I am going to be using my I’m a Scientist winnings to start up a new podcast there which takes a look at interesting stories about psychology that hit the news, and explain the science behind the headlines.


So far I’ve bought some professional recording equipment (such as recorders, microphones, and so on), and plan on using the rest of the money for training and travel. I still hope to make the videos – I definitely see this is as stepping stone towards them! Be sure to check back to our blog soon to see the results!

I’d also like to add that taking part in I’m a Scientist: In the Zone is one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had. It’s really made me think very seriously about how I communicate science and who I’m communicating it to, and it’s now something that I hope to make a career out of. So thank you to everyone who voted for me, thank you to everyone who asked questions, and thank you to all of the moderators and people behind the scenes at Gallomanor for all of the work that they put in to making it such a brilliant experience. You’re all amazing!

Posted on October 1, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Callum Johnston did with his prize money…

callumjohnstonCallum won the Cells Zone in November 2012, here’s where his £500 went:

Having finished my research and moved onto new challenges in engaging partners in Scotland’s National Health Information Service I was unable to use my I’m a Scientist prize money myself and so I decided to donate it to Edinburgh Neuroscience.

edinburghneurosciencelogoEdinburgh Neuroscience are a collective group of researchers involved in all aspects of neuroscience from the city’s 4 universities. They have a vibrant programme of public engagement activities and I was involved in several of these during my undergraduate and PhD studies. The Brain Awareness workshop we run called “How we see the brain and what the brain sees” introduces children to the basic structure of the brain and ways of imaging the brain in the clinic and in basic research. We then explore how the brain can sometimes be fooled by the visual illusions. The workshop is hands on with children building plasticine brains, making their own optical illusions and even getting allowed to hold a real human brain!


Kids taking part in a getBRAINY quiz. Source: Edinburgh Neuroscience

We also go out to schools with our getBRAINY workshops to teach children about how neurons in the brain talk to each other. Again we have creative competitions, running games, gory pictures and even a Harry Potter based game to learn about the different chemicals in the brain.

This year one of Edinburgh Neuroscience’s new ventures is working with other partners from the University of Edinburgh to help establish the Midlothian Science Festival. Instigated as a small local event in 2012, it was very well received and this year they want to create a full programme involving schools workshops, drop-in sessions for families and film and discussion evening events for adults.

Students mimicking nerve cell connections. Source: Edinburgh Neuroscience

Students mimicking nerve cell connections. Source: Edinburgh Neuroscience

Edinburgh Neuroscience has committed to get involved for 2013 and the £500 from the ‘I’m A Scientist’ prize will be used to allow these neuroscience-related events to happen. Edinburgh Neuroscience has no other funding to support this activity, so this will allow them to provide lots more activities including sending some of our getBRAINY workshops into schools and evening talks etc for adults.

Posted on September 24, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jo Giles did with her prize money…

joannagilesJo won the Genes Zone in November 2012, here she tells us how she spent her winnings:

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to spend the £500 prize money! I spent £200 printing silk posters of the hi-lights from the “I’m a scientist” round in November, and I posted them out to all of the schools that took part in the Genes zone. I thought the posters would serve as a reminder of how much fun the competition was to the participants and would remind them to take part next year!


I then donated the remaining £300 to Jeans for Genes, specifically for the use in Genes are us. This charity develops educational resources for schools to help educate students about genes and genetic disorders. It’s a fantastic charity, and since winning I have been in touch with Lizzy Bishop, the marketing manager of Jeans for Genes, and we have spoken a lot about how I can get more involved with the charity. I hope to be able to help in the development of these educational resources and even visit school assemblies with her from September.

Thanks so much for the prize money, it has allowed me to become more involved with a really fantastic charity which I feel very passionately about.

Posted on September 17, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Chandrika Nair did with her prize money…

rikanairChandrika won the Vanadium Zone in June 2011, here’s how she spent her winnings:

Since competing in I’m a Scientist, I’ve been inspired to continue involving myself in outreach activities. I used some of the prize to fund travel expenses to science festivals, fairs and events, where I volunteered at outreach stands and engaged with audiences of all ages:

  • £50 – Transport to Big Bang Science and Engineering Fair 2012 at the NEC Birmingham. I volunteered for one day at a microbiology interactive outreach stand of the Society for General Microbiology, primarily interacting with school children and families.
  • £10- Transport to Big Bang Science and Engineering Fair 2013 at the London ExCeL exhibition centre. I volunteered two days at a microbiology interactive outreach stand of the Society for General Microbiology, primarily interacting with families.
  • £5 – Transport to Science Uncovered 2012, a Europe wide science outreach event including a night of science and entertainment at the Natural History Museum. I took part in Soapbox Science and my role was to engage interested adults on a range of scientific issues.

The bulk of the prize money has been put towards a microbiology outreach project I started call SuperDuperBugs.


Superduperbugs is essentially a website whose primary role is to host two interactive science communication games about bacteria and the immune system. I hope to convey a range of complex topics such as innate immunity, antibiotic resistance and phage therapy, using fun and interactive games (‘Play’) as well as additional educational content pages (‘Learn’).

The two games are called Quorum bubble and Macrophage Chase. I enlisted the help of a colleague from the Systems Biology Division at Imperial who specialises in cell shape and motility to program these games with accurate cell biology features. We currently have two playable beta versions however I’m hiring the services of a professional games designer to improve the graphics and playability.

While it is unlikely that there will be a lot left of the prize money, once the game is finished I will use the remainder to promote the website.

Posted on September 10, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Tom Crick did with his prize money…

tomcrickTom Crick won the Chromium Zone in June 2011, and won £500 to spend on a science communication project. Let’s take a look at where the prize money has gone.

Being a computer scientist, Tom spent his prize money on the following equipment for teaching an introduction to programming and electronics:

1 x Parrot AR.Drone programmable quadrotor/drone – this is a flying quadcopter (a helicopter with 4 rotors) which you can programme

3 x Raspberry Pi and peripherals – a Raspberry Pi is a very small single-board computer which can be used by beginners all over the world to learn programming.

2 x Arduino starter kits – to help learn how to use Arduino, a circuit board with software that beginners can use to build electronics projects.

Tom says “I’ve taken this kit into tens of schools, as well as using it for when schools visit my university — it’s been very useful!”

Posted on September 4, 2013 in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Lizzie Eaves did with her prize money…

lizzieeavesLizzie won the Materials Zone in June 2012, here’s how she spent her money:

In the year since I won the Materials Zone of I’m A Scientist, things have been really busy for me and it’s often been tough for me to find time to think about science communication! However, I have managed to do a few things with my prize money:

University of Manchester, Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (WiSET)

The promotion of science and engineering to girls is something I’m pretty passionate about, and having been involved with WiSET during my time at Manchester Uni I thought it was only fitting for them to receive some of my winnings. I donated £100 to them, in order for the society to be able to afford a coach to take a group of 50 female students from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences to tour a local industrial facility, which will hopefully inspire them to go on and pursue a career in science and engineering after they finish their studies.

University of Manchester, School of Materials

This is the school where I am currently studying for my PhD, and it has a rich history of scientific outreach activities. Rather than trying to organise a huge event all on my own with no special contacts or knowlege, I’ve donated the money to the Outreach team of this department who put on many activities every year in the Greater Manchester area, quite a few of which I’ve helped out at in the past and hope to continue doing in the future!

Posted on September 3, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Vicky Young did with her prize money…

vickyyoungVicky won the Selenium Zone in March 2012, here’s how she made use of the £500:

Taking part in I’m a Scientist was amazing fun, I had such a great time and I would like to thank everyone who voted for me.

I used the money to help fund one of my science communication activities; the Egg and Sperm Race, which I launched in 2011.

The Egg and Sperm Race is an activity that demonstrates how difficult it is for a sperm to reach an egg and how infections such as Chlamydia can impair your fertility. We do this by racing sperm through a giant 2-meter female reproduction tract, which has lots of obstacles along the way. The winner is the first sperm to reach the egg.

Children having fun racing sperm!

Children racing sperm!

We take this activity to music festivals around the UK and in 2012 we took it to Green Man Music Festival in Wales. My £500 prize money went towards helping take more volunteers than we did last year, as it was HARD work. It paid for an extra ticket to the festival and for some food and water for our hard working volunteers along with some consumables for the activity.

The festival in 2012 was great, we had over 1000 visitors to the activity and although our activity was targeted to adults we got lots of children visiting too. Parents were big fans and we even gave out a few first sex education lessons, on request of course. The sperm racing generated a lot of competition with people competing for “I came first at the egg and sperm race” prize badges.

Posted on August 27, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Katherine Haxton did with her prize money…

katherinehaxtonKatherine won the Germanium Zone in March 2012, here’s how she spent the £500:

When I won I’m a Scientist in March 2012, my goal was to create a set of chemistry experiments that were portable so that I could escape my office once in a while and do chemistry with enthusiastic students.

I’ve used the £500 from I’m a Scientist to set up three different experiments. The first looks at superabsorbent polymers, and compares three different types to work out which makes the best fake snow. These polymers are also used in nappies and to help plant pots retain water during dry spells. This is a good activity for wintertime and was take out to a Chemistry at Work day at the Potteries Museum, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent in December 2012.

A student having a go at the slime experiment

A student having a go at the slime experiment

Superabsorbent polymers are good fun, but not really very summery – who wants to talk about snow in the middle of June? The second activity is making slime by cross-linking poly(vinyl alcohol) with borax. Poly(vinyl alcohol) is basically school glue, and borax can be used to make wonderful slimy stuff, particularly when coloured with some food dye. This activity has been used at Keele University’s community day and at the Royal Three Counties show in Malvern in 2013. Between those two activities, we’ve made about 700 bags of slime using about 15 litres of PVA solution!

While I am a polymer chemist, I’m also very interested in why chemical reactions happen and what we can do to make them happen faster through catalysts. The final activity developed to be portable asks the question ‘is faster better?’. At a Chemistry at Work Day at RAF Cosford Museum in June 2013, we used yeast, solid potassium iodide and potassium iodide solution to investigate how fast hydrogen peroxide breaks down. The reaction is catalysed by the yeast or potassium iodide and hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen. With a little help from some washing up liquid, the speed of reaction can be measured by how fast the foam is produced.

The I’m A Scientist money has been put to good use buying the kit necessary to run these activities in the future as well. I’m hoping to continue to attend these kinds of events with the kit and perhaps be able to arrange to take it into schools in the next year.

Posted on August 20, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ian Van Der Linde did with his prize money…

ianvanderlindeIan Van Der Linde won the Nickel Zone in June 2011, and won £500 to spend on a science communication project. Let’s take a look at where the prize money has gone.

Ian decided to split his £500 across a number of different projects:

  1. Travel expenses to attend STEM outreach event as judge  – the Big Bang fair, Imperial War Museum & Duxford.
  2. Funding towards a Nuffield Research Placement for a school-aged student to work with us in our research labs over the summer.
  3. Buying equipment for school “taster day” activities hosted at the University.
Posted on August 18, 2013 in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Paige Brown did with her prize money…

paigebrownPaige won the Health Zone in I’m an Engineer in March 2012, she tells us how she spent her winnings:

Following my I’m an Engineer win in the Health Zone, I started a science photography initiative. I spent $800 dollars on a used Canon T3i SLR camera, and started a website for my science photography at Since my original camera purchase, I used my I’m an Engineer winnings as well as personal funds to buy extra camera lenses, including a Canon 100mm Macro lens that can magnify objects up to two times their actual size.

My goal was to provide inspiring and thought-provoking photography of the world at the small scale that we don’t always see up close, the scale of plants and insects. This is also known as macro photography. By using a special macro lens and other specialized equipment, I can magnify the size of tiny insects such as ants and spiders.

A Funnel Weaver Spider, family Agelenidae. Image by Paige Brown

A Funnel Weaver Spider, family Agelenidae. Image by Paige Brown

Every month, I fund my own website where teachers and students can download complimentary macro photography images for educational use. I always attempt to identify the plants and insects in my images, for educational use, and welcome teachers and students to help identify and describe the plants, insects and wildlife depicted in my photos.

My new photography website also a portfolio of my science journalism, so that students and teachers can learn more about science through my photos and writing.

I hope that through my experience as an I’m an Engineer participant, and because of my winnings, students and teachers will be inspired by my photography to learn more about the world around them. Students can use my images for their class projects by clicking on the ‘Buy’ button on an image, selecting ‘Downloads’ and ‘Personal use.’ Complimentary 500 pixel images are provided for personal and educational use.

Posted on August 9, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Samantha Weaver did with her prize money…

samanthaweaverSamantha won the Pathology Zone in June 2012, here’s how she spent her £500:

I’ve spent the money buying science books, equipment and dressing up outfits for my children’s nursery.

I got each ‘room’ a butterfly garden so they could watch and learn about caterpillars turning into butterflies – they used this in conjunction with the book ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’. They now have dressing up and role play equipment to be doctors, nurses and vets and I helped them set up their role-play corner in the pre-school room to become a vet and doctor’s surgery.

The rest of the money was spent buying science books – mostly from Usborne books – so they now have a science library – some of the books were ‘Things to make and do’ types which are used as ideas for group work activities – such as making elastic band powered vehicles and crystal gardens. All-in-all the items will be enjoyed by many budding scientists for years to come!

Posted on August 5, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Sarah Martin did with her prize money…

sarahmartinSarah won the Strontium Zone in June 2012, she tells us how she spent her winnings:

I co-organised the residential, 1-week Astrobiology Summer Academy 2013, which brought together 10 students (15-18 years old) from schools in Shetland, 4 from Edinburgh, 1 from Leicester and two PhD students from NASA (USA) to experience university research in biology, astronomy and geology.

I was responsible for the biology activity day. It kicked off with an introduction round where students picked objects from a table and discussed whether they were alive or dead, organic or inorganic (e.g. limestone, toothbrush, a flower, a lemon, ball of yarn etc), which was actually quite difficult! We then had a lecture by Lynn Rothshild, head of Synthetic Biology at NASA, before hitting the lab and the biology assault course that I devise to simulate interdisciplinary research.

In 5 expert teams, the students analysed 12 mystery samples from Planet Earth and tested whether the organic molecules we had spoken about earlier were present. The Lipids team used brown paper and emulsions, the DNA team precipitated DNA with cold ethanol (strawberries are amazing!), the starch team used iodine and the protein team performed Bradford Assays. They came up with control tests and repeated experiments that had shown up as inconclusive. The Project Managing team kept track of who got how much of which sample and collected the results.

DNA extractions from mystery samples from Planet Earth

Students extracting DNA from mystery samples from Planet Earth

Following lunch, a lecture on the origins of life on Earth and a lab tour, they then decided which 4 samples would be suitable for mass spectrometry (high in protein and low in lipids) and digested them, before hearing from two PhD students about how cells make decisions and what extremes of life are on Earth. They then got a demonstration of a home-built visible light spectrometer, a lecture on how it could be used to detect organic molecules in space, and instructions on how to build their own using phone cameras and and public lab.

I then ran the samples and two days later I revealed the protein sequences they had identified by mass spectrometry, which included Fragaria ananassa (strawberry!), Musa acuminata (banana!), Hordeum vulgare and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Barley + Yeast = Marmite) and Ostreococcus tauri (the green alga I work on).

The following day, the students presented at a public event at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and constructed hands-on displays of

  • the spectrometer and of the search for life on Mars, including handing out make-your-own-spectrometer packs to the public
  • a lego & jelly primordial soup in which children could attach the basic building blocks of life to each other, and build amino acids
  • displays of extreme environments on Earth (including a dry ice volcano) and a quiz of which animal can survive which extreme conditions and how.

Some photos are available on our website here and we even made the news in Shetland!

We’ll be scaling it all up and making it a national academy next year, will keep you posted. I’m also speaking to teachers to generate mass spectrometry results that can be used in class rooms.

Posted on July 31, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What David Pyle did with his prize money…

davidpyle-wDavid won the Potassium Zone in March 2011, here he tells us how he spent his £500:

When I won my zone of I’m A Scientist in March 2011, I had the intention of taking video cameras on volcano fieldwork, and to make either video- or podcasts of my work in the field.

In early 2011, one of my field sites (Santorini volcano in Greece) was showing some early signs of unrest, so I invested in a simple video camera and three static ‘timelapse’ cameras. We managed to capture some footage of us putting out volcano monitoring equipment, but in the end the unrest died away in early 2012, without any eruption. I have some great timelapse footage of the passing seasons, but nothing that we have yet turned into a polished video.

The other thing that the win did for me was to inspire my efforts in ‘online’  engagement activities. In Oxford, this led to my involvement in OxfordSparks, and our creation of a short animation showing how volcanoes work.

Posted on July 30, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Nicola Ibberson did with her prize money…

nicolaibbersonNicola won the Rubidium Zone in June 2012, here’s how she spent her winnings:

Following my I’m A Scientist win last year, £250 was donated to Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) projects; more specifically it was spent on the STEMgirls project, a Q&A answer service connecting 11-18yr olds interested in STEM careers with the women working in those jobs.

The money went towards providing the funds for an administrator to moderate and promote the site, enabling hundreds of career hunting teens to get the advice they needed about ‘real life’ day-to-day work in science. Getting advice from women working in my chosen scientific discipline was invaluable to me when I was trying to work out what I wanted to do for a career, so this project is quite close to my heart.

The other £250 prize money was given to fellow I’m A Scientist participant Tiffany, who had written an incredible poem-based book on evolution aimed at primary school children. She was a great contributor to I’m A Scientist, and was clearly very passionate about her book and the way it would help introduce complex scientific concepts to children in a fun and understandable way, so when I won the Rubidium zone contest, I felt it was only fair to split my prize money with her. The money was spent developing the book, Little Changes, which is now available online at and in paperback from Amazon. Tiffany hopes to get the book distributed in primary schools this year.

It has been really great to see the good that has come from the I’m A Scientist prize money, and how it is working to support the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Posted on July 29, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What John Short did with his prize money…

johnshortJohn won the Bromine Zone in June 2012, find out how he spent his winnings:

With the £500 I decided to use this to participate in the first “I’m a Scientist Live” event at the Cardiff Science Festival on Sunday 15th July 2012.  The money was spent on flights, other travel, accommodation etc to go from St. Andrews to the Wales Millennium Centre.  This was my first science festival and I was very nervous but excited to go on stage and go into combat with other scientists!

There were 5 other scientists participating, where after going through several rounds of questions 4 of us would be voted off.  We came down from a “green room” to find an audience of about 200 (perhaps I’m exaggerating, but it felt like that!). We each had two minutes to introduce our work and ourselves. We had been asked to bring two facts about their work but one had to be a lie which the audience had to guess which one was which. This round was called Science Fact or Science Fiction (the round was renamed to this after my suggestion :)).


John on stage communicating science!

My science truth was that in countries around the world, but not in Europe or the UK, use Genetically modified crops etc to produce food and other stuff like T-shirts.  My science fiction was that scientists in the US had created a “Lazarus” virus, capable of reanimating the dead. About 60% of the audience thought that the Lazarus virus was true!! In the next round, we were asked science questions from the audience.  However, after this round, unfortunately myself and 3 other scientists were voted off, leaving two left to battle it out.

This was an immensely enjoyable experience, increasing my confidence and ability to communicate with the public in a pressurized situation.  Being able to answer questions without using jargon is an essential attribute to have.  The public was interested and enthusiastic, asking very good questions, and I think we were all able to answer them etc.  Hopefully we demystified what scientists do, and what the scientists’ lifestyle is like (we are not all caged up in labs all the time) and hopefully inspired the children (and adults) who were there to question everything and perhaps choose to become scientists in future!

Find out more about I’m a Scientist Live in Cardiff here.

Posted on July 26, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Evan Keane did with his prize money…

evankeaneEvan won the Iron Zone in June 2011, here he tells us how he spent his winnings:

I have donated my prize money to 3 very important organisations. The first is TASTE (The African Science Truck Experience).

This is a UK-based charity which works in Uganda to bring science to high school students. In Uganda science achievement in schools is very low, something which is strongly influenced by a lack of funding to buy any lab equipment! It is very difficult to learn science ‘by rote’ rather doing the experiments yourself. It is this ‘getting your hands dirty’ that really creates understanding. TASTE aims to change the situation by bringing lab equipment from school to school, in a truck, for students to use, as well as providing training for local teachers. It is an excellent project and that is why I donated £300 of my prize money to it. Amazingly, this small sum covers the cost of regular experiments for 30 children for an entire academic year. I am not the only IAS Winner to have donated to TASTE: so this competition is hugely benefiting this extremely worthwhile project.

I donated a further £100 of my prize money to the Museum Of Science and Industry (MOSI), in Manchester.

It is actually the largest museum of its kind in the world and is built on the site of the world’s first railway station (visitors can even take a ride on 1830s style trains)! It also has a full replica of ‘Baby’ – the world’s first stored-program computer (which is definitely not a baby in size!), as well as numerous historical aircraft and locomotives. It also runs very successful outreach events and above all else it is free to enter. In June 2013 the museum was threatened with closure, to huge public outcry and several government petitions which seem to have fended off the immediate danger, but the free access is still under threat. I feel free access to MOSI is extremely important as it is a vital educational (and historical)
resource which would be inaccessible to many if an entrance fee were introduced. The numbers prove this as MOSI currently attracts over 800,000 people each year. Before it was free to all, less than 300,000 could afford to visit it – I hope my donation will keep MOSI free for those people who would otherwise not be able to visit.

I donated the final £100 to the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA).

This group was set up in the 1930s to help academics fleeing from Nazi Germany. Jewish scientists, as well those with any opposing political views were experiencing strong oppression from the government. The group was founded in Britain and helped thousands of academics flee to the United Kingdom and the United States, and many of these saved academics went on to become Nobel Prize winners. Today CARA’s work of defending academic freedom continues in places like Iraq, Syria and Zimbabwe. In the Irish language ‘cara’ means ‘friend’ so for me (an Irish scientist) it is a very pleasant name for what is a very important group.

Thanks to the Wellcome Trust and I’m A Scientist for making all of this possible,


Posted on July 26, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Alison Atkin did with her prize money…

alisonatkinAlison won I’m a Scientist, In the Zone in July 2012. Here she tells us how she spent her winnings:

The I’m a Scientist, In the Zone event was such an incredible experience.  I had such a wonderful time interacting with students and their teachers through the live web chats and the forum Q&As – I think I learned nearly as much as they did during the process.  I tell all the scientists I know that they should sign up to take part!

I was really honoured to be selected the winner of the 7-11 zone and I want to thank all of the students who voted for me.  THANK YOU!

I really wanted to do something with my prize money that would reach as many people as I possibly could – and so this meant setting up a website.  It can be accessed by all the students in all the schools that have ever taken part in I’m a Scientist, but it can also be accessed by students (and anyone else) from anywhere in the world!

When I was in school one of my favourite things was a radio show called Quirks and Quarks (and it’s still one of my favourite things now).  It allowed me to learn about all different kinds of science and research in a really interesting and easy way.  I wanted to create something a little bit like this and that is how Penny University came about.

Penny University

While we’re working on getting the podcast up and running, we’ve been posting up written interviews with researchers – focussing on the newest research out there, which is done by students (PhD) and people who have just finished university (post-docs and early career researchers).  I think these researchers are a great example of how you continue to learn every day, even after you leave school, and that there are LOADS of subjects out there for you to get interested in.

So far on Penny University we’ve featured people who study fat cells and diabetes, really old magnetic rocks, medieval teeth, kids and dyslexia, and even Romans!  We are also starting to add even more features to the website and in the future we hope to seek out researchers who can answer questions that our readers (and listeners) have sent in to the show.

The £500 helps to cover the cost of setting up the website and maintaining it  – and helps us to add new features as it grows.  So far we’ve had over 2050 people visit the website from every continent in the world (except Antarctica)!

One of the most recent things we’re working on is a live show for the Manchester Science Festival.  You can check our blog for updates on that event and for all the other exciting things we get up to!  You can also follow us on Twitter: @penny_show

Posted on June 7, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Drew Rae did with his prize money…

Drew won the Calcium Zone in June 2011, here’s how he spent his prize money…

When I competed in “I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here”, I rashly promised that I would produce an website game allowing students to play around with different designs and investigate whether they increased or decreased risk. My own research moved in a direction which made this difficult-to-impossible to do, so I’m guilty of bait-and-switch.


Here’s what I did with the money instead:

DisasterCast is a podcast about Scary Things. The first episodes came out in January 2013. Each episode is 30 minutes long, and follows the formula:

1) Something old – a discussion about a famous disaster and what we can learn from it. Early episodes include: the Hindenburg Disaster, Challenger, Coal Mine Disasters, Bhopal, and the world’s biggest ever industrial accident (you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out more).

2) Something new – an easily digestible bite of knowledge about risk and safety science. This includes some real-life application of statistics, as well as things like the relationship between risk and uncertainty, why the HSE doesn’t ban the playing of conkers, and whether thunderstorms are more or less risky that Vogon Construction Fleets.

3) Something out of the blue – a scientific look at things that might kill you in the future. These include the star Gliese 710 (a real threat to humanity in 1.4 million years time), and rogue solutions to climate change (a real threat to humanity right now).

You’ll can find Disastercast at, where you can register to be notified when each episode comes out.

Posted on May 29, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ceri Thomas did with her prize money…

CeriThomasCeri won the Evolution Zone in June 2010, here’s how she spent her winnings:

I had great fun taking part in I’m a Scientist back in 2010 and I can still remember some of the questions I was asked.  My favourite was whether the characters in Twilight could actually exist from an evolutionary perspective.  I didn’t think I was going to have to declare my allegiance to Team Edward or Team Jacob during my web chats!

I was thrilled to be voted the winner and want to say thank you again, not only to everyone who voted for me, but to everyone who thought of probing questions too.

I have done (and am still doing) a number of things with my £500 prize money.  When I finished my Ph.D. I was wondering for a long time on how best to use the money and how to get the most good out of it.

The Bristol Dinosaur Project helps to teach people about Bristol's very own dinosaur

The Bristol Dinosaur Project helps to teach people about Bristol’s very own dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus

I decided to donate half of it to the Bristol Dinosaur Project, which is a great scheme run by Bristol University to educate people of all ages all about Bristol’s very own dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus. As a palaeontology student I was passionate about communicating the wonders of extinct life to anyone who would listen and I think the Bristol Dinosaur Project does a fantastic job of bringing ‘Theco’ back from the murky depths of the past.

I used some of the remaining money to take my ‘I’m a Scientist’ act on the road to talk to the Year 9 pupils at Kingsmead School in Somerset about my Ph.D. research.  The pupils took part in the Evolution Zone web chats so it was a fantastic opportunity to meet my inquisitors. We had a whole lot of fun identifying different fossils and thinking about the environments in which they once lived. The pupils also had a fascination with mass extinctions, which was seriously cool if a little disconcerting.

I have about £200 left and I want to make this really count.  Since graduating from my Ph.D. I have become a STEM Ambassador so that I can keep going around to schools to talk about science.  I would really, really like to set up a scheme where scientists can be placed with schools to answer questions about what it’s like to have a career as a scientist or what it’s really like to be a researcher. I remember feeling absolutely baffled about what jobs scientists actually did when I was a teenager and I wanted to know what I was getting in to! This idea is still brewing away, but I hope to get something off the ground in the near future and the ‘I’m a Scientist’ prize money will go a long way to helping my fuzzy idea become a brilliant reality. So thank you again and watch this space!

Posted on April 26, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Anouk Gouvras did with her prize money…

Anouk won the Genes Zone last June, here she tells us how she spent her prize money:

anoukgouvras-wHi everybody,

I want to repeat a big, massive thank you to all the students, teachers and people involved in the June 2012  ‘I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!’.  The prize money from the Genes Zone went towards teaching children and communities about schistosomiasis (kichocho in swahili) and I am happy to report that the money was extremely useful.


Children can acquire schistosomiasis by playing in infected water

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by the small parasitic worm, Schistosoma. Over 200 million people are infected (90% of which live in sub-Saharan Africa) and over 700 million people are at risk of infection. It is a disease affecting the poorest communities and most neglected, vulnerable people. Babies and children are especially in danger of becoming infected and the damage caused by these schistosome worms can lead to symptoms like blood in urine, painful urination, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, bloody stool, anaemia, stunted growth, enlarged liver and spleen, bladder and liver damage.


Children drew their understanding of the disease

In Zanzibar, we are part of an exciting and ambitious project whose aim is to eliminate schistosomiasis as a disease from the islands of Zanzibar in 5 years time. Scientists at the Natural History Museum together with the Zanzibar Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and other international partners, have set up a group called the Zanzibar Elimination of Schistosomiasis Transmission (ZEST).

We are in our second year of the schistosomiasis elimination project, in the first year we treated both children and adults on the islands of Unguja (Zanzibar main island) and Pemba (sister island) using Praziquantel, a safe effective drug that kills the adult parasitic worms. We also treated water areas for snails (that carry the parasite) and organised community-designed urinals and signs to stop children from urinating in the water.


Teachers, villagers, children and parents all took part in the awareness activities

The prize money from ‘I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!’ was used to set up special awareness events in villages, called ‘Kichocho awareness days’. These were organised for the teachers, villagers, children and parents. The £500 was used to buy teaching material for children to draw their understanding of schistosomiasis and to buy footballs, ropes etc for simple games to engage them in the ‘kichocho’ days.

The money was also used to bring Zanzibari schistosomiasis experts to train the science teachers on schistosomiasis transmission and encourage them to develop different ways of engaging the community in schistosomiasis elimination, such as: New teaching approaches, educational flipcharts, kichocho teaching tools (e.g. cassette tapes), practical demonstrations.


Kichocho awareness days help to highlight the importance of schistosomiasis prevention

These ‘kichocho awareness days’ greatly helped our engagement with the local communities and helped bring the importance of schistosomiasis prevention to the parents, teachers and village leaders.

ASANTE SANA (thank you very much in Swahili)

Anouk Gouvras @SciAnouk

Posted on April 16, 2013 in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Robin Stafford-Allen did with his prize money…

Robin won the I’m an Engineer Energy Zone in March 2012.

His plan all along was to donate it to the CCFE Charitable Fund which is “used to support science and other projects with local schools, and to support local community groups with grants for particular pieces of equipment. So far this has included both primary and secondary schools with a strong emphasis on the science teaching and support.”

Here’s how the the donation was used…

We presented the cheque for the prizemonies to the school, St Gregory The Great in Oxford.

The money is being spent on a Microwave transmitter and receiver as shown in the picture foreground. This will be very useful for the year 12 and year 13 Physics and science programs. Various aspects of wave and wave transmission and interference can be demonstrated and researched.

I am shown with three sixth formers and the Science Teacher Adam Easton

Posted on February 5, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Adam Stevens did with his prize money…

In March last year, I was delighted to win the Space Zone of I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here. The prize was £500 to spend on an engagement project.

I’ve had a plan for a long term project with a school for a while. It would involve designing space missions to give kids an idea of what the engineering process is really like. The prize money gave me a chance to put my plan into action.

The first step was to hold a “Rocket day” at the Radcliffe School in Wolverton. The prize money helped to buy materials, including a bottle rocket kit, and prizes for the end of the day. During the day, the kids went into teams to design a mission to Mars. We went through the process of creating a specification, thinking about what such a mission would need.

Fancy a trip to Mars, anyone?

After a very enjoyable day at the school, it was time to start a more long term activity. I worked with two small groups of kids over a full term for an hour a week on Wednesdays. We went through the design process, voting for the best ideas, and eventually the kids came up with some great designs.

I had always wanted the project to be have a conclusion that was worth the effort. The idea was for the kids to present their designs to real professionals from the space industry. So, last week, we made the journey to the National Space Centre, where academics from Leicester university chatted to them about their work. The judges had nothing but praise for the kids and their work, but awarded a special prize to The Tortoise, a colony ship with great safety features.

Thanks go to the school for being open minded, particularly Will Jakeman for setting it up and Gill Callow for supporting me through the whole thing. The UK Space Agency also provided some funding to help with the final trip, and Sarah Hill at the National Space Centre was a great help.

Posted on February 4, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

I’m a Scientist, Get my money to TASTE

TASTE for Science is a charity that gives students in rural Uganda the chance to do science experiments in lessons. It’s transforming science education in Uganda by letting students actually do science experiments, not just learn about them. A mobile science lab visits schools while also holding training camps for science teachers, demonstrating practicals to run in lessons. Jim, an I’m a Scientist winner explains a lot more about them in his post about why he donated his money to TASTE.

TASTE was only dreamed up in 2011 and the first mobile lab is venturing out around now, at the start of 2013. It’s a lovely innovative project that will really benefit students. Which is why it’s great that a number of I’m a Scientist winners have donated their winnings, or part of them, to TASTE. Here’s a list which we’ll update if more donations are made.

Jim Caryl  – he’s explained very eloquently why TASTE gets his prize money here

Dave Sproson donated £300 of his winnings

Steven Kiddle donated his winnings in December 2012

Evan Keane donated £300 of his winnings in February 2013

Deuan Jones donated all of his winnings in July 2013

As Jim says “TASTE absolutely fulfills the ethos of how I’d wish to spent the winnings from I’m a Scientist”

Posted on February 1, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Nuala Carson did with her prize money…

I was lucky enough to win the Earth Science Zone in June 2012. I loved taking part in ‘I’m a Scientist’, my favorite part was reading the range of questions asked by the students and trying to answer them!

After much deliberation I decided to use the £500 winnings to try and teach school children all about Antarctica. I had some great helpers in the form of Dr Alessandro Tagliabue, Dr Jonathan Lauderdale and two fellow PhD students Nicholas‎ Rogan and Matthew Donnelly who all work with me at the University of Liverpool.

Together we designed an interactive educational project that could be taken out to any school interested in learning about Antarctica. The aim was to try and teach the children some stuff, but also allow them to have some fun!

We each designed individual sections, I spoke about the exploration of Antarctica and brought along some polar clothing to let the kids try on. We also talked to them about the oceans surrounding Antarctica, Jonathon Lauderdale covered the ocean currents, Alessandro covered the food chain, Matthew taught them about sea ice and icebergs, and Nick showed them a range of instruments which oceanographers use to take measurements.

The money allowed us to buy a stock of equipment (cold weather clothing and oceanography instruments) and also paid for food and transport for my wonderful helpers!

Taking the Antarctica exhibit to students (that's not Nuala!)

Posted on February 1, 2013 in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Michael Cook did with his prize money…

I took part in June 2012’s Niobium Zone and was lucky enough to be picked out of a great group of scientists! My research is all about getting computers to invent and design video games without any humans getting involved.

I said I wanted to spend the money on developing mobile applications that would let more people interact with and play with the results of my research – we’ve just released the first in what I hope will be a series of free mobile apps, all thanks to I’m a Scientist and the students that took part, asked questions and voted!

After June, I worked on some brand new features for my research project, ANGELINA, and realised they’d be perfect as a tiny mobile game. So we used our IAS grant to help purchase a development machine to work on – a very shiny Android tablet – found an artist who wanted to help us design some of our artwork, and signed up as official Android mobile developers. It was very tiring – much harder than I thought it would be – but just two weeks before Christmas we managed to release our very first official app, A Puzzling Present. You can download it for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android devices here:

Santa's puzzled by the present

Now that I’ve got my first app under my belt, I’m hoping to work on a second one in 2013. The students who talked to me about my research might remember that I said ANGELINA uses a special kind of computer ‘evolution’ to make bits of the games. I’ve got plans for a special app that will let you take control of an evolutionary program, watch it work, change bits and fiddle with it, and learn more about the awesome idea that makes ANGELINA work.

A Puzzling Present was mentioned on the New Scientist website, and others and so far we’ve had over 10,000 people download and play the game! There’s information about how we made the game on there, links to ANGELINA’s website, and even a mention for I’m a Scientist!

The best part is that as people play the game they can rate the levels and tell us if they like them or not. We’re going to use all the data to make ANGELINA even better in the future – so far we’ve had thousands of responses. If you took part in asking me questions last June, and want to let me ask YOU a question, download the game and take the surveys!

Thanks to everyone who asked questions, and who helped me out during that fortnight. I am still telling people I work with about the questions I got asked, and I probably always will – they really were very interesting and I hope you all had as much fun as I did! I’ll be sure to let you know when the next app is out, but I hope you enjoy A Puzzling Present in the meantime! Thanks for making it possible.

Posted on January 8, 2013 in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Julian Rayner did with his prize money…

Julian won the Argon Zone in March 2011, here’s how he spent his prize money….

I work on malaria, and specifically how the parasites that cause malaria recognise and get inside our red blood cells. Malaria parasites have incredibly complicated life cycles, passing back and forth between humans and mosquitoes, but it is when they infect our red blood cells that they cause all the symptoms of malaria, including death – nearly a million children die from malaria every year. Our idea is that if we understand how they invade our red blood cells, we can come up with vaccines or drugs to try to block invasion, and so prevent malaria infection.

The actual process of invasion is fascinating – it is literally one cell forcing it’s way inside another, with the parasite almost dragging the surface of the red blood cell around itself until it winds up inside, where it is protected from the human immune system and surrounded by lovely haemoglobin. We use haemoglobin to transport oxygen, but the parasite uses it as food to grow and multiply.

But frankly, so many things about malaria are fascinating. Did you know that before antibiotics, people were deliberately infected with malaria as a treatment for syphilis? It worked, as long as you cured the malaria in time… Or that malaria is not just a human problem? There are different malaria parasite species that infect birds and rats and lizards and snakes and monkeys and apes. Humans originally caught malaria from apes (presumably from a mosquito that had recently bit a gorilla, then bit one of our ancestors), and even today, there is one species of malaria parasite that regularly transfers malaria from monkeys into humans.

So malaria is an incredibly fascinating subject, but when trying to communicate that to non-scientists, I have found lots of people get put off by the life-cycle of the parasite. It’s actually not all that complicated, but seems intimidating in part because parasitologists have given lots of different names to all the different stages, and draw complex charts with loads of arrows.

To try to solve that problem, I have been helping the Public Engagement team at the institute where I work, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, to build a web tool to help explain the malaria life-cycle. The team animated some stages of the life cycle, I persuaded colleagues to be interviewed on camera to discuss some of the biggest problems in malaria, like drug resistance and vaccine development, got interviewed myself, and it all got packaged together in one big interactive tool called Malaria Challenge. We’re really proud of the results, and it’s all free online at the Sanger Institute’s ‘Your Genome’ website. There are even teacher tools, to help teachers plan lessons using the resource. Hopefully it will introduce lots of people to the fascinating world of malaria research, and since the malaria life-cycle is on some A-level syllabuses, it might help some people pass a few exams as well!

We are now trying to spread the word about this fantastic science communication tool to as many schools as we can, by talking to teachers and spreading the word on the web. To help with this, I used the money that I won on I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! to get loads of CDs burned with the full Malaria Challenge on them. We are going to mail copies out to all the schools that participated in Argon Zone (thanks everyone for your support!), and distribute the rest for free as widely as possible to schools all over the country.

I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! was a fantastic experience, and really rewarding for me as a scientist. I am totally enthused by the format as a tool for science communication, and we have since run a mini-version at the Sanger Institute, connecting a whole range of scientists here to schools in our local area. The fact that taking part in I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! also gave me prize money to help explain the wonders of malaria to as many people as possible was just the icing on the cake!


Posted on December 17, 2012 in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Fiona Hatch did with her prize money…

Fiona won the Sports Zone back in March 2012. Here’s what she’s been up to with her prize money…

I’m so glad I took part in I’m a Scientist in March 2012; it was a lot of fun and really rewarding. Thank you to everyone who voted for me, and also to the other scientists who took part and helped with answering so many awesome questions!

Fiona finding out what the students know about the heart

When I was 15 years old I remember my biology teacher brought in a pig’s eye. It was disgusting but awesome, and I remember that lesson even 9 years later!

My £500 was spent on getting sheep’s heart for a biology lesson at school in Hull and dissection kits for them to cut open the heart and study it. I also spent some on the hiring of a camera and help to film the lesson.

"You can see me putting my finger through the aorta and it comes out through the ventricle - many found that really disgusting!"

The lesson started off with me explaining about the heart, trying to find out what young pupils aged 13 knew. I then cut up the heart and showed them the different regions, of which there is a video hopefully available on the web soon.

The best part of the lesson was that each group of young pupils were given a heart to dissect and the teachers and myself went round to talk about each region.

In the future I will create a website with a load of information and a dissection film free for everyone to use. And hopefully teachers will become more interested in making biology more practical in schools.

I hope to use the film and pictures to help teachers in other schools to buy a heart from the butchers (it’s cheap – around £6) and make a biology lesson more practical.

Students dissecting a sheep's heart!

Textbooks are easy to use, they have all the pictures and the information, but to be honest I think they can be quite boring. To make a lesson more interesting and more fun, why not bring something practical to the biology lesson? Suggest this to your teacher  and direct them to this page, they’re welcome to contact me for help or further information!

Posted on December 17, 2012 in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Gemma Sharp did with her prize money…

Gemma won the Sulfur Zone back in June 2011. Here’s what she’s been up to with her prize money…

I loved taking part in I’m a Scientist in June 2011 and want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who voted for me.

Racing some sperm with a couple of festival goers who had managed to get up before the bands started.

Racing some sperm with a couple of festival goers who had managed to get up before the bands started.

As promised, I ran off to Green Man music festival in Wales with my prize money and I’m pleased to report I had a great time. Cheers!

Of course I was tempted to spend the £500 on designer wellies and a personal Porta-loo, but my conscience got the better of me and I put it towards our science communication stall instead.

It’s called the Egg and Sperm Race and it’s the only place in the world EVER that you can race toy trains disguised as sperm around a giant race track disguised as the female reproductive tract. It’s pretty fun and you learn about all the obstacles sperm face on their way to meet the egg.

Team Egg and Sperm on our final day at Green Man.

Team Egg and Sperm on our final day at Green Man.

My £500 went towards making sure our three lovely volunteers (Tammy, Lawrence and Fiona) were suitably fed and watered over the course of the festival. This helped to keep them alive while they did a LOT of hard work for us… Basically I spent the £500 on pizza, breakfast baguettes and buckets of tea.

You can find out more about the Egg and Sperm Race and how we got on at Green Man 2011 on our blog ( For the less patient of you, I can cut a long story short: IT WENT REALLY WELL! In fact, it went so well that Green Man let us come back in 2012!

Posted on November 28, 2012 in Winner Reports | Leave a comment