Category Archives: WellcomeWinner

What Jonny Brooks-Bartlett did with his prize money…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteers helping out at the science festival stand

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

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

What Jess Bean did with her prize money…

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Allan Pang did with his prize money….

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

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


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

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

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


Find out more about The Young Crystallographers Group

 

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

What Tom Lister did with his prize money…

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

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

What Daryl Jones did with his prize money…

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

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

 


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

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

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

What Euan Allen did with his prize money…

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

What Andrew Swale did with his prize money

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

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

Andrew Swale

Me and some workshop attendees on the day

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

What James Holloway did with his prize money…

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

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

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

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

What Ashley Cadby did with his prize money…

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

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

The gallery at Krebs Fest 2015

 

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

What Jennifer Stephens did with her prize money…

Jennifer was voted the winner of Agriculture Zone by students in 2014. Here she tells us what she got up to with her £500 prize money.

If you’d like the chance to win funding to for your own science outreach activities, apply to take part in I’m a Scientist at 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.

3D Cell app

On the site. there are also science experiments that can be set up at home and these have been tested by some of our work experience students.

Megan, one of our work experience students, doing the chromatography experiment using felt tip pens.

Scientists’ work is very diverse and there are lots of different careers students can go into. The Scientist Profiles on the website give an in depth look at some of these. Even in the area of Agriculture there are varied careers that students can go into if they want to help feed the world!

These profiles show students what it’s like to be different scientists

The prize money went towards creating and hosting the Sciphun website. I also spent money on flyers and T Shirts with Sciphun printed on them to give away as prizes for competitions on the site.

Since winning I’m A Scientist I have also been invited to speak at schools and Career Conventions to promote science subjects. Every year I give tours to over a hundred students and visitors that visit my lab and greenhouse. Young people are fascinated by science once they are exposed to it close up, and we need to keep that spark alive.

Posted on May 24, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Nicholas Pearce did with his prize money…

Nicholas was voted the winner of Rhenium Zone in 2015. Here he reports back on how he used his £500 prize money for his own public engagement activities.

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

Future scientists help me to make a glowstick.

The show started with chemical traffic lights – a reaction of a sugar solution that slowly changes colour from green to red to yellow but can then be shaken up to turn green again. Volunteers were then called for (lots of hands went up!) and with their help, we made a bright blue glowstick from mixing chemicals as they flowed down a clear plastic tube into a beaker.

It’s not magic, it’s science 😀

I then poured the contents of this beaker into a new tube and the light changed colour from blue to neon yellow. “It’s magic!” was called from the audience (my favourite comment of the day) so I saw a chance to explain some of the chemistry responsible (it’s not magic, it’s science). The show also contained some smells, pops and bangs, finishing with an explosion from a dry ice powered cannon.

I really enjoyed doing the show at the fair: seeing and hearing the audience’s reactions and knowing it meant people were excited about science felt like a great achievement! Afterwards, one of the parents in the audience asked if I would be interested in doing the show again at a local school, to which I hastily agreed.

A couple of months later I travelled to Awsworth Primary School for a repeat performance that happened to coincide with the March for Science day. This time the audience was much bigger, with the whole school turning up to watch one of two shows. It was fantastic being able to deliver a ‘potions’ lesson to a sea of pupils and explain to them what being a scientist is like. After hearing about the first show I did earlier in the year, one of my co-workers from the lab was keen to help with this performance, so I’ve been able to get even more real scientists involved in communication and outreach through I’m a Scientist. We were also featured on their school blog.

 

I’ve had a lot fun doing these shows and think they’ve been really effective at spreading the message that science is worthwhile, interesting and something that everyone can enjoy. Thank you to everyone in the I’m a Scientist team as well as to the funders for making it all happen. I’m sure I’ll be doing even more of these demos in the future!

Posted on May 18, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Bob Bonwick did with his prize money…

Bob was voted the winner of the Organs Zone in 2012. Since then he’s used his prize money to support his outreach efforts and here he tells us more about what he’s been up to.

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

Posted on April 24, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Emily Robinson did with her prize money…

Emily was voted the winner of Copper Zone in 2011. She used her prize money to support Bright Club  Manchester , a comedy night where researchers, from all fields and backgrounds, take to the stage to perform short stand-up comedy routines about their work.

Bright Club attracts an adult audience that might not be interested in a lecture but will find that there is something they can take away from the diverse body of knowledge they are exposed to over the course of an evening. The Bright Club (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
audience.”*

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

Posted on April 17, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What James Pope did with his prize money…

 James was voted the winner of the Dysprosium Zone in March 2015. Here he reports back on how he ‘s been using his £500 prize money.

If you’d like the chance to win funding to develop your public engagement project, apply for I’m a Scientist at 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.

The portable, unmeltable ice core

I had decided to create an artificial (or “fake”) ice core to take to schools.  As an Antarctic climate scientist, with an interest in past climates, ice cores are a vital part of that work, but are impractical to take anywhere, especially schools.

My initial plan was a solid bespoke plastic core, however this was unfeasible to source and potentially too heavy to use safely within schools.  With help from the I’m a Scientist alumni network mailing list, a suggested new, more “Blue Peter”, design based around drain pipes, bubble wrap and, of course, some sticky back plastic was produced.  After a trial using a soft drinks bottle and cling film, I decided to take on the new design.  I’m not the most delicate of DIY types, more into demolition than considered construction, but a pretty smart looking core was produced.

Drilling an ice core can be pretty well shown in video resources that have been produced by the British Antarctic Survey.  But actually describing how we can use those cores to reproduce past climates is a far trickier concept.  Through my artificial ice core, I have a prop that gives an idea of the size of a working piece of core.

Using the core, it is easier to visualise what is meant by “gas bubbles in the ice” and explaining some of the trickier concepts within this branch of palaeoclimate science.  The current version of the core, I still see as a prototype and I hope to refine my design as I use it more to ensure it is as useful a resource as possible.

Since I’m a Scientist, I have started to diversify my outreach, and while getting into schools remains the “core” of my outreach activities, I have also started to get involved in more events communicating my science within the local community such as through panel events in the Cambridge Science Festival.  I am also getting involved in a national outreach campaign with my funding body the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through this year that rolls out in 2018 across the UK.

Finally, there are three thank yous I would like to make.  Firstly, I want to extend my thanks to all the IAS team.  It is a great experience and one I will always champion whether my colleagues are completely new to outreach or a veteran of the school visit.  Secondly, a huge thank you to Anna, Leonie, Olivia and Joe, the other four scientists in the zone, who made the competition fierce yet immensely fun.  Finally, to the kids in all the zones, I’m a Scientist is nothing without you, your energy, interest and intrigue is the reason it’s such a success, so a huge thanks to you all.

Posted on April 12, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Frank Longford did with his prize money

Frank was voted the winner of the Holmium Zone in March 2015. Since then he’s used his £500 prize money for his own science engagement activities and here he tells us what he got up to.

If you’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply for I’m a Scientist at 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…

Our Lego Watt balance; colour design was based on the Barbarians’ rugby socks.

Since receiving the prize money, we organised a summer project for two undergraduate students to design and build a Lego Watt balance, based on the diagrams found in a journal paper published by NIST. The money went into purchasing the electronic equipment and Lego bricks, which we sourced from a variety of online companies. As a consequence, our Watt balance has a very colourful appearance.

The guys did a great job to get the project up and running, and even made us our very Lego construction manual for future reference, since they only had photos to work out how to build the model! Once complete, they also tested the programming and circuitry and made some further suggestions to improve our version for use in schools. We are currently finishing off these amendments and hope to use the Watt balance as part of our student-run university Outreach project towards the end of the academic year.

Posted on March 22, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Mark Hill did with his prize money

Mark was the winner in the Forensic Zone in March 2011. He donated his £500 prize winnings to a local school, St Lawrence CofE Primary School in Sussex. He visited the school to present the cheque in assembly, and it was spent on science equipment for the students.

Mark now works for Transport Research Laboratory where he specialises in the human factors associated with road collision. He continues to take part in engagement and outreach activities through lecturing at universities and forensics departments.

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

Posted on January 11, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Ditte Hedegaard did with her prize money

Ditte won the Genomics Zone in June 2014. She donated £200 to The African Science Truck Experience (TASTE), to help promote science in schools in Africa. The remaining prize money was used to develop a stem cell workshop at the Thinktank Science Museum, Birmingham. Ditte tells us more about it here.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply to take part in I’m a Scientist at 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.

Ditte Hedegaard develops stem cell outreach workshop for engagement

The materials for my workshop. The stem cells had to be removed from the model bone using real surgical instruments.

The reason why they can do this is because they are thought of as “young cells”, which have not yet decided what they want to be. We all have millions of stem cells, which in theory can be taken out and transferred to somewhere else in our body, which needs some assistance in recovering, or to another person who is poorly. It is almost like we walk around with our own personal medicine cabinet inside us.

Stem cells can be found in many different places in the human body, but the best known ones are found inside our large bones. It can be very tricky to isolate them and to tell them apart from all the other types of cells, which are also found in the bone. For my workshop I had therefore made a large “bone” out of jelly, which contained many different “cells” (small beads), some were stem cells, with magical powers of changing themselves when they were put into a new place (in this experiment it was the “liver”) and others were normal cells which wouldn’t change.

The workshop participants had to remove the “cells” with surgical equipment, without breaking the bone and then transferring them to a container representing the poorly liver. If the transferred cell changed colour and tried to look like the other “liver cells”, then the participant had found a stem cell and won a small price.

All in all the event was highly successful and I really enjoyed watching future surgeons and scientists enthusiastically identifying “bone stem cells”. All of the items bought can be reused, so I’m looking forward to performing the activity again in the near future.

Posted on January 4, 2017 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Zach Dixon did with his prize money…

Zach was voted the winner of Xenon Zone in 2014. Here he reports back on what he was able to do using his prize money.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply for to take part in I’m a Scientist at 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!

Zach Dixon school science public engagement 2

Using beads to help explain DNA base pairs

After speaking to a number of people at ‘I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here’ and at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, I was put in touch with Louise who works with the North Tyneside Learning Trust. This fantastic organisation carries out excellent genetics workshops for schools, amongst many other scientific engagement activities.

The money was donated to the North Tyneside Learning Trust and spent on running half day genetics workshops in primary schools in the North East. These workshops involve fun experiments and activities which help to explain the concepts of DNA and genes and how they impact on health and disease.  I was able to join in with one of the workshops at a local primary school. My job was to answer questions on what it is like to work as a scientist, and I got some great questions ranging from ‘What was your favourite experiment’ to ‘How do you blow things up?’. The workshop was very well received by all involved and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!”

The children get to create their own bead DNA strands.

The children get to create their own bead DNA strands.

 

From Louise at North Tyneside Learning Trust…..

“The money has been used to buy the equipment and materials for these workshops; including a lot of kiwi fruit!  Feedback from pupils and teachers has been fantastic.  The participation of Zach and other scientists at the workshops has been a huge success; children have been fascinated and asked lots of questions such as ‘whether they get to blow things up on a daily basis’.  One Year 6 child enthusiastically told his teacher ‘We’ve had a real scientist in all morning, it’s been the best day ever!’”


Posted on December 14, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Jen Todd Jones did with her prize money…

Jenna Todd Jones won the Brain Zone in March 2013. Here she updates us on what she was able to use the £500 prize for, and her outreach activities since taking part.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities, apply for I’m a Scientist at 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!

Me receiving the STEM Network Award for my outreach efforts

Me on the left receiving the STEM Network Award for my outreach efforts

I also used the funds to get a mobile EEG headset (that stands for ElectroEncephaloGraphy) that shows your brain waves in real time! I used this in classrooms and in big events so that people could practice concentrating hard and watch how their brain waves changed. It also shows when you’re feeling sleepy and not paying attention which was really useful!

With the prize money I was able to reach at least 400 children and adults and will continue to reach many more. I have used the resources I produced with the funds in all of the projects I have participated in since winning I’m a Scientist – get me out of here!

While at Bristol I continued to be involved in the Brain Box Challenge visiting primary schools in and around Bristol. I also continued to participate in Brain Awareness Week each year in Bristol, as well as the University of Bristol Festival of Science and the Future Brunels schools project.

I’ve participated in Soapbox Science, an annual event aimed at increasing the involvement of girls in STEM subjects. I even wrote an article about this for the Guardian Online.

I also took part in the Midwich Cuckoos project in collaboration with the British Film Institute and CineLive, taking a bespoke outreach program to schools in hard-to-reach areas around the UK – including my home town in South Wales!

Posted on October 26, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Murray Collins did with his prize money…

Murray Collins won the Chlorine Zone in 2011. Here he reports back on how the £500 prize money has helped his outreach activities since then.

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

 

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Screenshot from my films created with the Go Pro Camera. Here I was walking through intact forest.

This approach was scuppered somewhat when the camera itself was stolen whilst I was working out in Berbak national park. However, I did manage to get some useful footage, and have made the best of this by using it in my science communication work.

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Showing videos, photographs, satellite maps and wood samples to the public at the Science Night at the Zoo

As such I think that the prize money from IAS has supported my science communication development over the past five years. In particular I would highlight the work I have been doing as the Environmental Scientist in Residence at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland since 2015.

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Science communication workshops at RZSS

This is largely a science communication position. In this post, I use my experience at clips from Berbak national park to engage the public and students with forest research. Specifically, I have:

  • Held workshops for school pupils on forest science (240 children attending my workshops over two days, see photographs below)
  • Run an event called Science Night at the Zoo, running a stall with three PhD students on deforestation and forest science (photographs below)
  • Am doing a talk in November on rainforest science at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo
  • planned to take University of Edinburgh PhD students and staff in February 2017 to Dynamic Earth Edinburgh to present forest science work to school children visiting on school break. This will include video and photographs taken in Berbak national park, Sumatra, using the equipment I bought with the prize money.

During these talks and science events, I use the video clips in order to show people what it is like in the forest, and try to engage them with the issues of deforestation, carbon storage and biodiversity.

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Sunset over Berbak National Park.

In particular it is really useful to be able to show people the muddy pools in Berbak national park which support an incredible array of ichthyological diversity, specifically the stenotopic acidophyllic icthyofauna (highly specialised fish which are adapted to live in the acidic water of peat swamp forest). I have included some photographs of these fish below, as I do in my science communication work.

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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

Posted on October 19, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Hayley Moulding did with her prize money…

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


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

Children at Grangetown Primary making dreamcatchers!

Children at Grangetown Primary making dreamcatchers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children at Grangetown Primary designing their dream bed-sheets!

Children at Grangetown Primary designing their dream bed-sheets!

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

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


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

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

What Andy Scott did with his prize money…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Want to get hooked on engaging with schools and a chance to win £500 for your own project? Apply now for the next I’m a Scientist event at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply.

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

What Cristina Villa Del Campo did with her prize money…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Barbara Shih did with her prize money…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

What James Bell did with his prize money

James was voted the winner of the Animal Behaviour Zone in 2014. We asked him to update us on how he’d used his £500 prize money and here is what he said….


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.

Almost cute!

Meet my Open ROV. Almost cute, ain’t he!

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.

A ROV's eye view. Not in a lake at this point.

A ROV’s eye view. Not in a lake at this point.

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).

What monsters are lurking in a lake in north Leeds? Genuinely worried for the ROV here

Testing the ROV in an exotic lake in north Leeds. What mysterious monsters/shopping trolleys are lurking in the gloom?

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.

Posted on March 2, 2016 modantony in WellcomeWinner, Winner Reports | Leave a comment