If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here: imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
In June 2015 I experienced one of the most hectic 2 weeks of my life: I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here. It was eye opening as well as exhausting but I loved every second. The early mornings and late nights answering the full spectrum of questions and being asked to think outside the box was very mentally stimulating. Winning it was such an amazing feeling!
I already knew what I wanted to do with the prize money: I wanted to have school students experience interdisciplinary research, to show them that sciences like physics, biology and chemistry aren’t as separate as they seem at school. I would do this whilst getting them to experience my field of research, X-ray crystallography.
To that end I teamed up with Professor Simon Coles and Lucy Mapp from the University of Southampton and last year we organised for a group of 9 AS chemistry students from Richard Taunton College to visit the University of Southampton for a day of crystallography. Throughout the day the students grew their own crystals of one of the biological building blocks, glycine. They experienced how difficult it is to manipulate a crystal and even mounted the crystals and fired X-rays at them to collect data.
All of this was done with the additional aim of relating the content to the A-level chemistry syllabus. We have an additional 6 schools around the Southampton area that have expressed interest in visiting the University to do the same thing and we hope to secure more funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry to do more of these events.
Not all of the money was spent on the crystallography day so we managed to do slightly more. The Oxfordshire Science Festival was held from 23rd June – 3rd July and over the weekend of the 25th and 26th I managed to team up with several academics to prepare a stand with lots of practical activities based around X-ray crystallography and Protein structure.
Our activities included growing protein crystals, making crystal structures with jelly babies and cocktail sticks, manipulating protein structures and learning how we can use the knowledge of the protein structure to fight against malaria.
We had people of all ages visit the stand but of all the activities, it was the jelly babies that went down the best. The kids loved making the structures (and then eating them) and we probably got through about 12kg of jelly babies over the weekend. It was incredibly fun.
A huge thanks has to go out to I’m A Scientist Get Me Out Of Here because they made all of this possible. I would also like to thank everyone else that has made this possible. It’s been such a great experience and I’m so glad to have had it.