Category Archives: RSCWinner

What Chris Blanford did with his prize money…

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

If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your science outreach work, apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply


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

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

A chocolate tester in all its glory

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

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

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

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

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

What Jesus Calvo-Castro did with his prize money

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

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply


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

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

Setting up the Gopro in the labs, hidden camera style

Setting up the GoPro in the labs, hidden camera style

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

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

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

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

What Elizabeth Cooper did with her prize money…

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


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

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

Me on the left at my first Science Club

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

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

Elizabeth chemistry day 2

Completing acid base titrations with burettes

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

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


Want to win funding for your own public engagement activities? Apply for the next I’m a Scientist event at imascientist.org.uk/scientists

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

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

What Jo Sadler did with her prize money…

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


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

LeadersinScience

Click for the scheme’s website

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

Leaders in science 2

These workshop leaders have got their hands full developing activities.

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

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

LeadersinScience4

A workshop leader taking pH to primary schools

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

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


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

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

What Jess Wade did with her prize money…

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


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

Our g4g banner signed by every girl who attended!

Our g4g banner signed by every girl who attended!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The girls take over the Black Laboratory

The girls take over the Blackett Laboratory between workshops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What Anaïs Pujol did with the prize money….

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


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

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

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

Anaïs (left) brings light into the library

Anaïs (left) brings light into the library

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

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

Anais 3

South London Press covered the event and featured Anaïs’ workshop

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

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