He donated his £500 winnings to the Liverpool World Museum to facilitate setting-up the Magical World of Science, a one-off science-based workshop for the general public.
Category Archives: WellcomeWinner
James won the Wellcome Trust-funded Palladium Zone in March 2013. He used his prize money to fund visits to local primary schools to engage the students with science through hands on experiments, showing them how interesting and fun physics can be.
James’ experiments included Magic Sand and NeverWet Spray to demonstrate hydrophobic behaviour and Pyrex submerged in cooking oil to demonstrate the effect of a refractive index on the behaviour of light. As well as playing with the experiments, Westfield Primary School held an afternoon question and answer session for James to talk to the students about being a scientist.
James also took part in the Diamond Light Source open day, bringing his experiments to the general public.
Ashley was voted the winner of Molybdenum Zone in 2012. in 2015, Ashley spent his prize winnings commissioning artists to develop artwork which interpret scientific research being done at Sheffield University.
The pieces were shown at the Krebs Festival in Sheffield. Ashley is continuing the project and is still in talks with artists for future collaborations and projects, working out ways of getting the artwork more visible to the general public.
If you’d like the chance to win funding to for your own science outreach activities, apply to take part in I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
After winning I’m a Scientist I became a STEM Ambassador and started the Sciphun.com website to promote science subjects to young people with differnet resources. Some key tools that I have used in teaching are free science apps that appeal to kids of all ages as they are a fun way to learn. There is a wide range of apps to help understand biology, chemistry, physics, environment, space and there are even apps for pre-schoolers.
On the site. there are also science experiments that can be set up at home and these have been tested by some of our work experience students.
Scientists’ work is very diverse and there are lots of different careers students can go into. The Scientist Profiles on the website give an in depth look at some of these. Even in the area of Agriculture there are varied careers that students can go into if they want to help feed the world!
The prize money went towards creating and hosting the Sciphun website. I also spent money on flyers and T Shirts with Sciphun printed on them to give away as prizes for competitions on the site.
Since winning I’m A Scientist I have also been invited to speak at schools and Career Conventions to promote science subjects. Every year I give tours to over a hundred students and visitors that visit my lab and greenhouse. Young people are fascinated by science once they are exposed to it close up, and we need to keep that spark alive.
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
Since the I’m a Scientist competition is all about interacting with students, I was sure I wanted to visit schools and show these students first-hand what it’s like to be a scientist. I decided to go for what I knew best and show off some chemical reactions in front of a live audience.
My first opportunity to do this was at Nottingham’s Festival of Science and Curiosity – a week-long celebration of all kinds of science in February, where I put on two chemistry shows for families that attended.
The show started with chemical traffic lights – a reaction of a sugar solution that slowly changes colour from green to red to yellow but can then be shaken up to turn green again. Volunteers were then called for (lots of hands went up!) and with their help, we made a bright blue glowstick from mixing chemicals as they flowed down a clear plastic tube into a beaker.
I then poured the contents of this beaker into a new tube and the light changed colour from blue to neon yellow. “It’s magic!” was called from the audience (my favourite comment of the day) so I saw a chance to explain some of the chemistry responsible (it’s not magic, it’s science). The show also contained some smells, pops and bangs, finishing with an explosion from a dry ice powered cannon.
I really enjoyed doing the show at the fair: seeing and hearing the audience’s reactions and knowing it meant people were excited about science felt like a great achievement! Afterwards, one of the parents in the audience asked if I would be interested in doing the show again at a local school, to which I hastily agreed.
A couple of months later I travelled to Awsworth Primary School for a repeat performance that happened to coincide with the March for Science day. This time the audience was much bigger, with the whole school turning up to watch one of two shows. It was fantastic being able to deliver a ‘potions’ lesson to a sea of pupils and explain to them what being a scientist is like. After hearing about the first show I did earlier in the year, one of my co-workers from the lab was keen to help with this performance, so I’ve been able to get even more real scientists involved in communication and outreach through I’m a Scientist. We were also featured on their school blog.
I’ve had a lot fun doing these shows and think they’ve been really effective at spreading the message that science is worthwhile, interesting and something that everyone can enjoy. Thank you to everyone in the I’m a Scientist team as well as to the funders for making it all happen. I’m sure I’ll be doing even more of these demos in the future!
If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your public engagement work, apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
Since winning my zone in this program, I have upped my commitment as a STEM Ambassador. To this end I have spent time in developing my visual aids which I have used not only in my STEM work but also internally when teaching as well as external outreach event.
I have spent many hours taking images of tissues with many different stains demonstrating their diagnostic utility as well as explaining my profession to people. The prize money has helped me to go from the rudimentary print outs to A3 foam boards with high quality images on them to make my explanations easier to many different groups and levels.
I have also been to a number of schools careers events that would have otherwise been difficult for me to attend. This has also used the foam boards as well as other visual aids and anatomical models I have bought with the prize money.
More recently I held workshops at the Cheltenham Science Festival fringe event held by the NHS trust I work for in Cheltenham. I delivered the same workshops 4 times on two consecutive days, with a number of colleagues helping. The workshops were entitled ‘who are you calling normal’ where we went through a number of physiological measurements to demonstrate that normal is a range, when we understand the normal range we can spot the abnormal.
I have now moved to a new hospital where in addition to clinical practice I am also an associate lecturer at the University of Bangor. I still use one set of the foam boards in my outreach here and the other set remains with my old department who continue to use them in public engagement events and STEM talks.
I continue to use my experience taking part in the’ I’m a Scientist…’ program in my daily life and encourage more of my colleagues to participate in the program.
Emily was voted the winner of Copper Zone in 2011. She used her prize money to support Bright Club Manchester , a comedy night where researchers, from all fields and backgrounds, take to the stage to perform short stand-up comedy routines about their work.
Bright Club attracts an adult audience that might not be interested in a lecture but will find that there is something they can take away from the diverse body of knowledge they are exposed to over the course of an evening. The Bright Club (www.brightclub.org/) concept started at UCL in London, with Manchester being the first off-shoot, but it has since turned up in many cities across the UK and even made it to Australia.
After plucking up the courage to do a comedy set about her own PhD research, Emily enjoyed the experience so much she joined the organising team. In her spare time she helped to organise Bright Club Manchester events and supports researchers, who may have no experience of doing stand-up comedy, by providing training and advice.
Emily says “*performing was a great experience! As an organiser I
relished the opportunity to help others share their research with a wider
If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your public engagement work, apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your public engagement project, apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
I never expected to win the Dysprosium Zone in March 2015, as that I’m a Scientist event began my hope was to make it past the first eviction, such was the competition within the zone. As for the event itself, the quality and variety of the questions asked was incredible and my typing speed very much increased over the course of two weeks of live chats!
One memory that stands out for me was that our final day coincided with the solar eclipse over the UK. It was a fittingly cloudy day over Cambridge, but one of the schools in the zone had still got outside and measured the changes in light at their school, before sharing it with myself and others in the final open chat. This, and the answers from the other scientists in the zone helped my education to expand further as well, and that was the real joy of I’m a Scientist.
I had decided to create an artificial (or “fake”) ice core to take to schools. As an Antarctic climate scientist, with an interest in past climates, ice cores are a vital part of that work, but are impractical to take anywhere, especially schools.
My initial plan was a solid bespoke plastic core, however this was unfeasible to source and potentially too heavy to use safely within schools. With help from the I’m a Scientist alumni network mailing list, a suggested new, more “Blue Peter”, design based around drain pipes, bubble wrap and, of course, some sticky back plastic was produced. After a trial using a soft drinks bottle and cling film, I decided to take on the new design. I’m not the most delicate of DIY types, more into demolition than considered construction, but a pretty smart looking core was produced.
Drilling an ice core can be pretty well shown in video resources that have been produced by the British Antarctic Survey. But actually describing how we can use those cores to reproduce past climates is a far trickier concept. Through my artificial ice core, I have a prop that gives an idea of the size of a working piece of core.
Using the core, it is easier to visualise what is meant by “gas bubbles in the ice” and explaining some of the trickier concepts within this branch of palaeoclimate science. The current version of the core, I still see as a prototype and I hope to refine my design as I use it more to ensure it is as useful a resource as possible.
Since I’m a Scientist, I have started to diversify my outreach, and while getting into schools remains the “core” of my outreach activities, I have also started to get involved in more events communicating my science within the local community such as through panel events in the Cambridge Science Festival. I am also getting involved in a national outreach campaign with my funding body the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through this year that rolls out in 2018 across the UK.
Finally, there are three thank yous I would like to make. Firstly, I want to extend my thanks to all the IAS team. It is a great experience and one I will always champion whether my colleagues are completely new to outreach or a veteran of the school visit. Secondly, a huge thank you to Anna, Leonie, Olivia and Joe, the other four scientists in the zone, who made the competition fierce yet immensely fun. Finally, to the kids in all the zones, I’m a Scientist is nothing without you, your energy, interest and intrigue is the reason it’s such a success, so a huge thanks to you all.
If you’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply.
I had a great two weeks taking part in I’m a Scientist, and was thoroughly honoured to be voted first place by the students involved. The Holmium zone group were some of the most funny, intelligent and enthusiastic scientists I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
Our research group contains a mixture of experimental and theoretical chemists, physicists and computer scientists, so what better way to celebrate this mixture of disciplines than a programmable physics experiment that measures a fundamental chemical constant? And it’s also made out of Lego…
Since receiving the prize money, we organised a summer project for two undergraduate students to design and build a Lego Watt balance, based on the diagrams found in a journal paper published by NIST. The money went into purchasing the electronic equipment and Lego bricks, which we sourced from a variety of online companies. As a consequence, our Watt balance has a very colourful appearance.
The guys did a great job to get the project up and running, and even made us our very Lego construction manual for future reference, since they only had photos to work out how to build the model! Once complete, they also tested the programming and circuitry and made some further suggestions to improve our version for use in schools. We are currently finishing off these amendments and hope to use the Watt balance as part of our student-run university Outreach project towards the end of the academic year.
Mark was the winner in the Forensic Zone in March 2011. He donated his £500 prize winnings to a local school, St Lawrence CofE Primary School in Sussex. He visited the school to present the cheque in assembly, and it was spent on science equipment for the students.
Mark now works for Transport Research Laboratory where he specialises in the human factors associated with road collision. He continues to take part in engagement and outreach activities through lecturing at universities and forensics departments.
If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to kickstart your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
Ditte won the Genomics Zone in June 2014. She donated £200 to The African Science Truck Experience (TASTE), to help promote science in schools in Africa. The remaining prize money was used to develop a stem cell workshop at the Thinktank Science Museum, Birmingham. Ditte tells us more about it here.
If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply to take part in I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
When I won the competition, I was working on a virus genomics project. I have since then changed research field to stem cell therapy in liver diseases, so wanted to develop an activity which would explain where stem cells are found and why they potentially will be a good form of therapy for patients with poor livers.
The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body and plays a vital role in digestion, production of proteins and cleaning the blood. It is very important that we look after our liver, since we can’t survive without it. There are however over 100 different liver diseases, which together effect more than 2 million people in the UK. Many of these diseases have no treatment and it is therefore important that we develop new treatments, such as stem cell therapy.
It was very important to me that the children and adults understood that unlike donating a heart or liver, a stem cell donation is relatively simple and more or less pain free. We have so many stem cells to spare that it is important that we donate our cells when someone else desperately needs them.
The reason why stem cells have become such a popular therapy, is because they are able to change their function when they are moved from one place to another in the human body. If you put them into a broken bone then they will start acting like a bone cell and start healing the bone and the same is possible with the central nerve system and muscles.
The reason why they can do this is because they are thought of as “young cells”, which have not yet decided what they want to be. We all have millions of stem cells, which in theory can be taken out and transferred to somewhere else in our body, which needs some assistance in recovering, or to another person who is poorly. It is almost like we walk around with our own personal medicine cabinet inside us.
Stem cells can be found in many different places in the human body, but the best known ones are found inside our large bones. It can be very tricky to isolate them and to tell them apart from all the other types of cells, which are also found in the bone. For my workshop I had therefore made a large “bone” out of jelly, which contained many different “cells” (small beads), some were stem cells, with magical powers of changing themselves when they were put into a new place (in this experiment it was the “liver”) and others were normal cells which wouldn’t change.
The workshop participants had to remove the “cells” with surgical equipment, without breaking the bone and then transferring them to a container representing the poorly liver. If the transferred cell changed colour and tried to look like the other “liver cells”, then the participant had found a stem cell and won a small price.
All in all the event was highly successful and I really enjoyed watching future surgeons and scientists enthusiastically identifying “bone stem cells”. All of the items bought can be reused, so I’m looking forward to performing the activity again in the near future.
If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply for to take part in I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
My project had a bit of a rocky start, but with a bit of perseverance and help from some lovely people, the money got to the right place and helped with the communication of science! I had originally planned to construct and distribute experiment kits to schools. The idea was that they could carry out fun experiments which would explain some important principles of health and disease. I eventually realised that these kits would be difficult to make (with safety concerns about some of the reagents), and that they might not be easy to organise and supervise for teachers!
After speaking to a number of people at ‘I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here’ and at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, I was put in touch with Louise who works with the North Tyneside Learning Trust. This fantastic organisation carries out excellent genetics workshops for schools, amongst many other scientific engagement activities.
The money was donated to the North Tyneside Learning Trust and spent on running half day genetics workshops in primary schools in the North East. These workshops involve fun experiments and activities which help to explain the concepts of DNA and genes and how they impact on health and disease. I was able to join in with one of the workshops at a local primary school. My job was to answer questions on what it is like to work as a scientist, and I got some great questions ranging from ‘What was your favourite experiment’ to ‘How do you blow things up?’. The workshop was very well received by all involved and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!”
From Louise at North Tyneside Learning Trust…..
“The money has been used to buy the equipment and materials for these workshops; including a lot of kiwi fruit! Feedback from pupils and teachers has been fantastic. The participation of Zach and other scientists at the workshops has been a huge success; children have been fascinated and asked lots of questions such as ‘whether they get to blow things up on a daily basis’. One Year 6 child enthusiastically told his teacher ‘We’ve had a real scientist in all morning, it’s been the best day ever!’”
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
I decided to use the funds to reach as many people as possible, having it contribute to my work across many projects, as I wanted to get as many people as possible excited about the brain and psychology.
I used some of the funds to purchase large, hardy posters that will last a long time and can be seen by many people. The posters showed cognitive illusions and fun psychological experiments like the Stroop test, the Ebbinghaus illusion, and lots of others. These were great to use with individual people and with groups. I also used it to help others learn how to talk about the brain and psychology so that many others could use them in their outreach activities too!
I also used the funds to get a mobile EEG headset (that stands for ElectroEncephaloGraphy) that shows your brain waves in real time! I used this in classrooms and in big events so that people could practice concentrating hard and watch how their brain waves changed. It also shows when you’re feeling sleepy and not paying attention which was really useful!
With the prize money I was able to reach at least 400 children and adults and will continue to reach many more. I have used the resources I produced with the funds in all of the projects I have participated in since winning I’m a Scientist – get me out of here!
While at Bristol I continued to be involved in the Brain Box Challenge visiting primary schools in and around Bristol. I also continued to participate in Brain Awareness Week each year in Bristol, as well as the University of Bristol Festival of Science and the Future Brunels schools project.
I also took part in the Midwich Cuckoos project in collaboration with the British Film Institute and CineLive, taking a bespoke outreach program to schools in hard-to-reach areas around the UK – including my home town in South Wales!
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
With the prize money I bought a go-pro camera which I intended to use to make films to show to school children what it was actually like living and working in the rainforest. I thought that this would be an engaging way to approach science communication, and move from dry facts in a book to a living experience.
This approach was scuppered somewhat when the camera itself was stolen whilst I was working out in Berbak national park. However, I did manage to get some useful footage, and have made the best of this by using it in my science communication work.
As such I think that the prize money from IAS has supported my science communication development over the past five years. In particular I would highlight the work I have been doing as the Environmental Scientist in Residence at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland since 2015.
This is largely a science communication position. In this post, I use my experience at clips from Berbak national park to engage the public and students with forest research. Specifically, I have:
- Held workshops for school pupils on forest science (240 children attending my workshops over two days, see photographs below)
- Run an event called Science Night at the Zoo, running a stall with three PhD students on deforestation and forest science (photographs below)
- Am doing a talk in November on rainforest science at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo
- planned to take University of Edinburgh PhD students and staff in February 2017 to Dynamic Earth Edinburgh to present forest science work to school children visiting on school break. This will include video and photographs taken in Berbak national park, Sumatra, using the equipment I bought with the prize money.
During these talks and science events, I use the video clips in order to show people what it is like in the forest, and try to engage them with the issues of deforestation, carbon storage and biodiversity.
In particular it is really useful to be able to show people the muddy pools in Berbak national park which support an incredible array of ichthyological diversity, specifically the stenotopic acidophyllic icthyofauna (highly specialised fish which are adapted to live in the acidic water of peat swamp forest). I have included some photographs of these fish below, as I do in my science communication work.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Wellcome Trust and IAS for supporting my work in science communication and will keep you updated about how my work develops over time.
You can see Murray talk about his research in the video above at Edinburgh Zoo on 9th November: From muddy boots to adventures in space: monitoring the world’s forests.
If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
After being fortunate enough to be crowned the winner of the Gold Zone in March, I was adamant that I would fulfil my proposal of working with school pupils in my community in Cardiff. The schools I particularly wanted to work with were located in areas that were nearly gentrifying and had future prospects of expansion, socially, economically as a community and financially. I wanted to at least impact upon these children’s education in a way that was memorable and hopefully inspiring!
To be able to portray what I do day-to-day to the pupils in a fun, imaginative and engaging manner was difficult and needed a lot of exploration before we could go into the schools. Fortunately, at Cardiff University we have a well established and innovative scheme called ‘Community Gateway’. This scheme particularly works with families in Grangetown, aiming to develop long-term, equal and mutually beneficial partnerships between the residents and the services which surround them. Cardiff University aims to develop world-class research and development opportunities meeting the needs of the community.
My project was devised alongside Community Gateway to go into schools and promote sleep as a science of great importance, need, focus and current opportunity! The significance of sleep in our daily routines is under-represented and misinterpreted as an excuse to laze around. The fundamental need and dependence of sleep is something I believe wholeheartedly needs to be reinforced in the minds and lives of children internationally. The essential health benefits, academic, social and occupational benefits associated with sleep cannot be disregarded. To be able to convey this perception, I needed to devise a strategy: Why not make sleep fun!
We started by devising postcards that were delivered to schools to enable the pupils to ask me a question regarding sleep. I also wanted to know what they dream about to plant the proverbial seed in their minds (maybe it should be sheep in their minds, relating to sleep!). This ensured that I had an open path into discussing sleep. Making dreamcatchers, designing pillow cases and class dream-bed sheets sounded like a pretty reasonable route into discussing sleep with 9-10 year olds after that!
Having the option of hands-on crafts (painting and colouring) alongside brain hat-making and cuddly toys around to ‘talk’ about their sleep made for a child friendly and engaging activity. The school were amazingly accommodating, with heavy teacher involvement and interaction with both myself, my colleague Katie and the pupils too. Katie is an undergraduate at the University of Bristol (where I did my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry.) I was fortunate enough to have her facilitate the session. These are some of her thoughts on the session:
‘As an undergraduate at the University of Bristol, we are constantly encouraged to get involved with science communication. Despite this, I have never actually done so. This experience opened my eyes to how important it is to get children talking about science – specifically sleep. Many of the children we spoke to were surprised to learn how important sleep is, and how aspects of their lives can impact their quality of sleep (like watching a scary film then having nightmares about it). Many of the children particularly enjoyed colouring in different parts of the brain which was made into a hat, and they learnt which parts of the brain are responsible for different actions. There were also very excited to learn about how different animals sleep by means of using cuddly toys!
I am now aware of the competition ‘I’m a Scientist Get Me out of Here’, and think it’s a really useful platform to get young people interested in science. It has inspired me to get more involved in public engagement and education about science. Particularly with children as they can often be put off the subject at a very young age, which they then carry through life.’
Not only did the sessions create an open forum for discussion with the teachers, the pupils and Katie and myself regarding sleep and particularly dreaming, it has opened the possibility of expanding the project and taking this into more schools and events. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience even with the challenges of talking to 30 9-10 year olds about a topic so rarely touched upon. I already plan to run more activities in Sleep Awareness Week in March next year.
Being granted a rare opportunity like this by I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here has inspired me to deliver my project in more contexts, to focus on public engagement as an inherent part of my work and PhD, and to never stop being excited by and interested in the minds of children! From wanting to know how giraffe’s sleep to whether I could read their dreams – the future of science is in their hands. I have an obligation to aid their journeys along this path, and if I can do that with dream-catchers, pillow cases, brains and cuddly dolphins, then sign me up – I will be along for the ride!
If you’d like the chance to win £500 for your own public engagement activities, apply now to take part in the next I’m a Scientist event at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply.
Last June, I’m a Scientist… took over my life for 2 weeks. I was hooked. I answered questions at breakfast, at work, lunchtime and late into the evening. During the live chats I achieved typing speeds I never imagined that I could. And while winning isn’t everything, it did feel like a great achievement. In fact, one of my colleagues, Matthew Round was inspired (by the answers I wrote that he didn’t agree with) to enter I’m an Engineer… this March and win it!
With the prize money and enthusiasm from the win I worked with our research public involvement coordinator, Julia Coffey, and Chelsea Academy school to develop a program we called project_D (‘D’ for the diffusion of water we measure with an MRI scanner in my research).
The idea was that 12 Year 10 students would take part in all the steps involved in a research project. I visited the school to present my research to the year group and introduced the project. Students who were interested applied to take part, just as we would apply for a job or for a grant to fund some research.
We decided to run six workshops for the 12 successful students. We started with the basic science, so the students initially looked at the structure of the heart with a colleague from pathology and some real animal hearts and thought about how water might diffuse through muscle tissue.
We then ran workshops at the Royal Brompton Hospital with one of our heart research doctors. The students learnt about and used the MRI scanner to scan everyday objects and a healthy volunteer – translating the ideas from the basic science session.
Back at the school, the students processed their MRI data and planned a pirate themed stand, based on how water helps us look at the heart, to communicate the science they’d worked on to younger students. They have run their stand within the school, at the Imperial Festival School’s Day and will finish up with a stand at the Royal Brompton Hospital research open day in July.
It was fantastic to see the students develop their understanding over the course of the project and then communicate the science to their peers, just as we might do at a conference. The school are keen to run a similar project next year and we are investigating the possibility of getting other research groups within the hospital involved too.
Want to get hooked on engaging with schools and a chance to win £500 for your own project? Apply now for the next I’m a Scientist event at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply.
Cristina was voted the winner by students in the Heart Zone of the November 2015 event. She got straight to work using her £500 prize money to fund her own outreach activities and here she reports back on what she did…
Hi! I am Cristina, the winner of the Heart Zone in November 2015. I loved participating in I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! and despite the tough competition, I ended up winning! I knew I wanted to use the money to give back to the students so the first thing I did with the prize was visit some schools in person and get to know the students. They still had so many questions!!
After talking a lot about different experiments with the students, I knew that they would love to see science in “real life” so I planned a visit for a group of primary school pupils to my own lab, the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) Centre of Regenerative Medicine at Oxford University. I arranged for them to come and prepared experiments for them so they could feel like real scientists for a day.
Armed with lab coats, name tags, goggles and gloves, together we saw zebra fish embryos with green hearts, used microscopes to look at heart cells beating in a plate and we even tested what was growing around our lab by collecting bacteria from different places.
I enjoyed every second of the day, and it was amazing to share some of my daily life with the students and hopefully get them interested in science. Thank you to I’m a Scientist for giving us all the opportunity to share and learn from this day in the lab. It was such a great experience that now that I am in contact with this school. I have planned to repeat the visit every year!
On top of these projects this year I have also become a STEM ambassador so hopefully I can contribute to that as well and I have become a member of BIG, the community for STEM communication to the public. I have also set up a new Twitter account (@Cris_Villa_dC) to have the kids communicating with me, asking questions and requesting images and videos from my work in the lab.
I was fortunate to come out to be the winner for the Gene Zone for I’m a Scientist in March 2015, and I did the following two things with my prize money.
Firstly, I visited Whitdale Primary School. During one of the chat sessions in I’m a Scientist, they asked if I would come and visit them, and they were so excited about it I simply could not refuse! I used some of the prize money to make a couple of self-made genetic-related activities to bring with me that explain basic building blocks, mutation, and dominant and recessive inheritance. To make the activities more hands on, I used beads with different shapes, Lego, coin flips and paper cut-outs to make a variety of aliens.
The whole day flew past with an overwhelming amount of energy in the classroom with 52 Primary students, 2 teachers and 26 aliens. It was great fun; the students were not only super enthusiastic and welcoming, but also very good at picking up all the concepts, which was satisfying.
The remaining part of my prize money was spent on an ongoing project, which is making a comic-based science blog, The Runaway Lab Book, together with Dr Jonathan Higham. We wanted to blend science into web-comic to make it a bit of fun, although the attempt to be make a joke at the same time as explaining science can be proven to be a little tough. The money has gone into funding the sites hosting and kit to create the comics.
Another concept we are currently exploring is the idea that science is all around us; carrying out day-to-day experiments including testing the pH of household items, measuring the speed tea cools with and without milk, how coffee affects heart rate and blood pressure, and more.
In addition to the activities mentioned above, I have also helped out on the public engagement activities held by the Roslin Institute on the Doors Open Days and at the Royal Highland Show.
I did I’m a Scientist in June in 2014 in the Animal Behaviour zone. Between Shaylon, Anthony, Catherine and Natalie and me, we had a great couple weeks and answered loads of great questions. I was lucky enough to win, despite stiff competition from the other scientists and here’s what I did with my money.
I’m a marine ecologist, which means I spend my time studying where animals live in the oceans and why, particularly in the deep-sea. With that in mind, I decided to buy a remotely operated submersible (called OpenROV http://www.openrov.com). This is basically a camera, attached to some propellers and a long cable (called a tether), which you can drive around underwater using your laptop and an XBOX controller. It’s a great, very portable tool for studying the oceans, especially because there are so many areas of the sea we know very little about. OpenROV is a really fascinating, community-led project that encourages anyone, expert or not, to get involved in marine science and/ or robotics.
It took a few days to build and I had to brush up on a lot of skills like soldering (hadn’t done that in years and years but you never know when these skills can come in handy).
So far it’s had a few test runs, in a swimming pool, a lake near where I live but also in a Norwegian fjord. In the future I’m hoping to get out with some local SCUBA diving clubs in the summer to film the biodiversity on some local wrecks. There’s more investigations planned for the summer hopefully so watch this space.
For updates on his ROVing exploits, follow James on Twitter, @James_chesso.