Category Archives: Scientists

‘That was the most fun thing I’ve ever done in science’ – November 2017 Winners blog posts

After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short post to be sent to all the students who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event, taking place 5th–16th March, at


Natasha Myhill, University of Manchester, Cells Zone

The event completely exceeded my expectations. It was so exciting to be talking to so many students and to watch you all getting excited about my research, as well as seeing that we scientists are normal people too! Taking part has made me think more about what else I can do to help students understand the world of a scientist and broaden horizons.


Ryan Cutter, University of Warwick, Gravity Zone

It was real pleasure getting to talk to all the students. I’m sure all the other scientists would agree; their questions were fantastic and it’s awesome seeing how interested and engaged they all were. After meeting you all, I’m sure science in the future is going to be to amazing! Your enthusiasm and curiosity is inspiring, and it means a lot knowing there is interest in the work we are doing.


Ananthi Ramachandran, University of Leicester, Microbiology Zone

I enjoyed every second of I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here – I have never done anything like this before but I think it is a fantastic idea and a great opportunity for both students and for us scientists! I will definitely be recommending it to my friends and fellow scientists!


Georgina Hazell, University of Bristol, Stress Zone

Taking part in these events are just as important for the scientists as the students, as it allows us to take a step back from out day-to-day work and look at our research in a very different way. I was also very surprised by the quality of some of the questions – far more intelligent than I could have asked at that age! And I also enjoyed some of the ‘banterful’/amusing comments – a few had me (and colleagues) LOL-ing in the office! So again, massive thank you to the students.


Duncan McNicholl, Proteus, Uranium Zone

I’m happy to have won, but to be honest I’m more happy to have taken part; I got to answer 232 of your awesome questions outside the live chats, and I don’t even know how many inside the live chats, and I’m sure I definitely missed some others. I’m really glad too to have met (at least online) Sajid and Jayne and Anu and Katherine.


Oliver Wilson, University of Reading, Neptunium Zone

I honestly think that was the most fun thing I’ve ever done in science, and I’m gutted I won’t be having any more live chats this week. Your questions made me stop and think about the world, they made me reconsider some things I thought I already knew, and they helped me discover brand new things that I’d never come across before. I’ve come away appreciating the wonders of our planet and universe just a little bit more, and I hope you have too.


Senga Robertson, University of Dundee, Plutonium Zone

One of the very cool things your questions did was make me think about how I approach my research… I was making some things too complicated (scientists do that sometimes) but you have helped me realise I can take a far simpler approach to one of my experiments so mega thank you for that!!! It’s brilliant to see such enthusiasm from all of you, the range of your questions was way beyond what I could ever have hoped for.


If you’re up for the challenge, want to answer some downright weird questions, even learn things from students…


Apply to take part ❯


I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

Posted on November 24, 2017 modmichelle in News, Scientists | Comments Off on ‘That was the most fun thing I’ve ever done in science’ – November 2017 Winners blog posts

‘My spirit is uplifted’ – June 2017 Winners blog posts

After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short post to be sent to all the students who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event, taking place 6th–17th November, at


Sanjib Bhakta, Birkbeck University of London, Drug Resistance Zone

I never believed live-chat could be so easy and often stress-busting! My special thanks to all the students for engaging constructively and asking brilliant questions all round. I am reassured that all your intensely inquisitive minds, love, passion and extended hands will make global health emergencies like drug resistance appear trivial and under control in the near future.

Again, it was such great fun, honestly. In only two weeks of engagement with you and other scientists in the zone, Avril, Abid, Thom and Donna, my spirit has been uplifted! And chatting with you all, I even got some fresh ideas on how to deal with this emerging world health concern of drug resistance.


Liz Buckingham-Jeffery, University of Warwick, Epidemic Zone

I was asked by some students why I’ve taken part in I’m a Scientist. What is in it for me? And the honest truth is, I’ve really enjoyed it. It has made a nice change from my usual work! Some of the questions you asked were things I’ve never thought about before, so that was really interesting. And I learned new things from the other scientists’ answers, especially from Rosie and Christl.


Jermaine Ravalier, Bath Spa University, Mental Health Zone

What a great event this has been! The students have asked some great (and, honestly, some weird…) questions. So they’re the first people I’d like to thank – thank you to the students for making this event as great as it has been. It’s been really interesting taking on your questions and also getting to know the other psychologists in the chats. Carr, University of Bath, Relationships Zone

I believe that “asking questions” is by far the most critical and important part of any science. Your questions have been wonderful – and may you continue to ask interesting, challenging, outlandish, and crazy questions long, long into the future. Science really, really needs that.



Matt Lee, University of Bristol, Actinium Zone

There were some excellent questions, some downright weird questions, and some questions that made me second guess myself. But every question made me more excited to answer the next, and all the questions have given me a renewed enthusiasm for my work


Rosie Cane, University of Edinburgh, Thorium Zone

The competition definitely fell on a very busy couple of weeks; juggling experiments, conferences and festivals, but getting to talk to so many inspiring young people and answering all of your questions was so worth it and I would recommend this competition to anyone that loves science!


Dan Smith, Cardiff University, Protactinium Zone

I knew the event was going to be fun but I vastly underestimated how much fun. The questions you asked were both fun and challenging, keeping me on my toes at all times and giving me a fresh perspective and enthusiasm for my own research.


If you’re up for the challenge, want to answer some downright weird questions, even learn things from students…..

I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

Posted on June 30, 2017 modantony in News, Scientists | Comments Off on ‘My spirit is uplifted’ – June 2017 Winners blog posts

March 2017 Winner Blogs

After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short blog to be sent to all the students who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event at

Let’s take a look at what the March Winners had to say…

Carrie Ijichi, Animal Behaviour Zone

The students have blown my mind with their open, creative inquiries about animal behaviour and how much they care about the subject. To be voted the winner at the end of all that fun was such a surprise and made me feel really special. I want to thank all the students who asked questions and voted for the scientists, the great team at IAS who put it all together and the rest of my panel for all the fun I’ve had. I’m genuinely going to miss all the buzz and questions now.

Read more

James, Decision Zone

Through your questions, you gave us a glimpse of how your minds are working: what’s happening in your science lessons at the moment, what’s truly important to you, and also how you’re all using science or a scientific approach to explore and investigate our world. You also gave us all the opportunity to look at questions related to our own fields from new perspectives, or tied together two different perspectives that we might not have previously considered. This is exactly how science gets better!

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Sallie, Enquiry Zone

My favourite part was the live chats with the pupils from the schools. I was so impressed by their questions. I could really tell that some of them had thought very hard about the projects that all of the scientists were proposing and they were genuinely interested in the work we do everyday. It was great to see our subjects through their eyes.

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Dan, Medical Physics Zone

Just when I thought I knew what to expect, I would get yet another really clever question. I found myself checking the website at all hours of the day, just to see if there was a new interesting question to think about! I really enjoyed explaining my work to a new audience and also hearing what the students thought in the live chats.

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Craig, Organs Zone

It was so much fun to listen to all our questions. I was super impressed by the diversity and depth of all of them as well; you really put me to work! This has also been a great opportunity for me to take a step back and approach my work with a new perspective and I’m heading back to the lab with a renewed enthusiasm.

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Hannah, Space Exploration Zone

What a great experience this has been! The I’m a Scientist competition is great fun and definitely a challenge I’d recommend to my colleagues. I really want to thank everyone who voted for me and for all the great questions you all asked. It wasn’t easy trying to answer all the questions but I hope everyone managed to get something from the online chats. It means a lot to me to have won this because outreach and working with young people is something I really enjoying doing.

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Lewis, Francium Zone

Whilst I’m happy to have won, I’m sad that it is over – at the start it felt strange being taken out of my comfort zone, but by the end I was looking forward to it! The chance to think about familiar things in a completely new perspective, as well as things that had simply never occurred to me has been invaluable. I’ve learnt a lot, and I hope you all have too!

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Alex, Radium Zone

As a scientist, it was a rewarding experience to talk with you all about my research and other scientific interests, but it was also a pleasure to talk about other aspects of my life and show that we’re all just regular humans as well as scientists! I was just as happy to answer questions about my favourite animals and video games as I was about volcanoes and black holes, so I hope you all enjoyed learning a little about the life of a scientist, as well as the topic of science itself.

Read more

Are you up for the challenge? Want to show that anyone can be a scientist? Or just want to chat about video games…

I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

Posted on March 23, 2017 modmichaela in News, Scientists | Comments Off on March 2017 Winner Blogs

November 2016 Winner Blogs

After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short blog to be sent to all the students in who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event at

Let’s take a look at what the November Winners had to say…

Joe, Brain Zone

A big thank you to all of the students with their exuberant enthusiasm, never-ending curiosity, and fantastic sense of humour. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you and discussing your questions. I was really impressed how some of you put the finger right onto the big questions that have kept scientists and philosophers busy for centuries. Other questions also made me stop and think so that I could see my own field with fresh eyes. Thank you for being brilliant!

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Steve, Drug Discovery Zone

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the students who took part. You are what made this competition what it is, and you managed to ask us such a diverse range of questions! We had everything from drug discovery and cancer to politics, philosophy and religion. Hopefully you’ve all learned something new, and now have an idea of what it’s like to be a scientist! Your curiosity is inspiring, so continue to ask questions and challenge everything you’re told.

Read more

Megan, Energy Zone

As I’m sure I told hundreds of you over the last two weeks, I really do love my job. Being a scientist is all of the amazing things you imagine- and more. Every single day is surprising and unpredictable, I am constantly learning from the incredible people around me and I feel like I’ve got a real chance to make a difference in the world. I hope that Mzamo, Ola, Olivia, Weiyi and I have helped to remind some of you that beyond the facts that we all learn at school, there is a whole world of science out there and it’s getting bigger and bigger.

Read more

Lauren, Investigation Zone

This event has been a real opportunity for me, and I have learnt so much about communicating science to students embarking on their journey of scientific learning. I really hope that I have inspired a few budding scientists of the future! There were some fantastic questions, and I was constantly challenged!

To those scientists thinking of taking part: It is a must! But beware – it is so addictive!

Read more

Zarah, Plants Zone

My main aim for entering the competition was to show students that being a scientist is an achievable goal. I myself did not flourish in science during my school years and left school early to work in the cosmetics industry. I only found my passion for science in my 20s and pushed myself to go to university. This enabled me to try different areas of science and find the subject, plant ecology, I now work in. ANYONE can be a scientist! You have to try different things, find out which bit you love and go for it!

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Laura-Anne, Sports Science Zone

It’s been a fantastic experience, one I’ve loved being part of. It was very strange coming into work on Monday morning and not having any chats or questions to answer, I wonder would the organising team and your teachers let us do it all over again?

I really wanted to take part in IASUK to show you science isn’t all about being indoors in a lab coat all day – labs can be anywhere. Scientists can help solve all sorts of different challenges, from helping someone to walk again to training an athlete to win an Olympic gold. I’m looking forward to getting started on organising the videos and visits to show you all this and more.

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Darren, Astatine Zone

I was so impressed that so many young scientists were asking questions from consciousness and AI… to robotics, the universe and beyond! I had to really dig deep to answer some of them, and I wish I had the opportunity to be involved with a platform like this when I was younger!

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Miranda, Polonium Zone

This whole experience has been incredible. When I first entered I didn’t know what to expect and was quite nervous about answering all of your questions. After the first few live chats I was completely hooked! You asked such interesting and thoughtful questions. The mad buzz of the chat room was so exciting and after each one I felt like I had run a marathon with you!  It’s been fantastic. I have enjoyed every minute and have learned so much.

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Reka, Radon Zone

First off I’d like to say thank you for taking part and being so enthusiastic, asking about our science and about us, I’ve really enjoyed talking to all of you. Being part of I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! has further reinforced my love for talking about science to audiences that come in all shapes and sizes, and winning it is proof that I must be doing something right!

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Are you up for the challenge? Want to show that anyone can be a scientist? Or just want to chat about the science behind Death Stars…


I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

Posted on December 5, 2016 modantony in News, Scientists | Comments Off on November 2016 Winner Blogs

June 2016 Winner Blogs

After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short blog to be sent to all the students in who took part in the zone. It’s a great way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks and thank all the students for voting for them.

Let’s take a look at what the June Winners had to say…

Jonny, Antibiotics Zone

I was super nervous in the run up to the the result because I really didn’t think I would win! Originally, I thought it was going to be difficult to juggle my time in the lab and devoting time to answering questions and participating in live chats. With some careful organisation things worked out really well and as soon as the questions started pouring in, I became addicted! I hope you all learned as much as I did!

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Laura, Catalysis Zone

The questions all the schools asked were incredible! There were so many that I was taken aback by as they were all so fantastic, everything from catalysis, chemistry, biology, physics and my views on various political and topical issues were asked; I think you all should be very proud.

The whole event was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone.

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Matt, Cells Zone

The past two weeks have been a great experience for me, and one I’ll remember for a long time!

Being able to explain your work to students of all ages is a very valuable skill and one that I am always glad for an opportunity to practise with, so I found myself booking into every live chat I could and eagerly sitting at my laptop while waiting for the questions to come. I didn’t know what to expect for my first live chat, but when the questions started coming thick and fast I knew I was in for a challenge! The questions were smart and varied and I greatly enjoyed answering them, half an hour flew by so quickly that I couldn’t wait for the next chat, and I looked forward to the rest of them over the event.

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Joanna, Ecosystems Zone

I would like to thank you for your excellent questions. Some made me rack my brains, some forced me to ask my colleagues about their thoughts, a few made me laugh – and then think quite hard. Some I still have no idea how to respond to… Which is exactly what makes them great questions, because research is all about asking, and trying to learn more about the unknown. Therefore well done everyone for having amazing and inspiring scientific mindsets!

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Koi, Parasites Zone

It would be hard to pick a favourite question but one of my favourite moments was when I was asked about the most disgusting parasite, I said what I think can be “visually” disgusting and there was a mixture of “Ewwww” and “Wowww” in the chat. Thanks moderators for not kicking me out of the chat for doing that :).

I’m humbled to have played a little part in showing how science and scientists can be like and I hope this has inspired people to find out more about science and keep asking questions!

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Angus, Mercury Zone

I’ve really enjoyed answering the questions you guys have had about science, but also about ourselves, our jobs, what we did at school, stuff like that. It’s been really fascinating to find out what YOU guys want to find out (even if we did never manage to answer where astronaut poo goes…)

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Dawn, Thallium Zone

The live chats were the most fun part of the competition for me, and I tried to sign up to as much of them as possible. I did have to rearrange some labwork to fit in the live chats, but that’s part of the beauty of being a scientist – I can be flexible with my time. And I’m so glad that I did! The live chats were hectic and chaotic and I applaud the mods for keeping everything running smoothly. The breadth of questions from the students was amazing. I forget how many burning questions kids can come up with and it reminds me to keep the same spark of curiosity alive during my career!

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Euan, Lead Zone

I was amazed by the variety of questions that the students asked during the event, and in particular with how insightful they were. I did not expect there to be any questions relating to my research that I hadn’t been asked before, but in fact there were many. It’s really changed my perspective on some aspects of my research area, and I have really learnt a lot from the questions.

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Elliot, Bismuth Zone

To the students, the passion you’ve shown and the energy with which you asked your questions was really incredible to behold. The diversity (and sometimes, just plain oddness) of your questions had me racking my brains and scratching my head. I have really enjoyed the chance to talk about what it is I do and speculate a lot on topics from the possibility of X-men powers and zombie apocalypses to the adorableness of red pandas.

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Are you up for the challenge? Want new inspiration for your research… Or just want to chat about the science behind Death Stars…


I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

Posted on July 6, 2016 Moderator - Josh in News, Scientists | Comments Off on June 2016 Winner Blogs

I’m a Scientist, Get me in there!

Of all the emails we get from prospective scientists, the most common are probably: “how will I know if I’ve been selected?”, and “how does the application process work?”.

So — in our never-ending benevolence — we wanted to give you a peek at the how we choose scientists, and what happens once you send us your application.

When do we select scientists?

I’m a Scientist runs in March, June, and November every year. We select scientists around a month before each event.

What’s the most important part of the form?

The most important part is the box that asks for a summary of your work; the part into which all your creativity and communication skills should be poured.

One sentence summary of your work

One sentence summary of your work

We email the summaries to students and teachers who’ve taken part before and they rate the scientists. They get is a survey containing only the summaries. So it’s really important that it (a) concisely says what kind of research you do, and (b) is going to be interesting to a 13 year-old student.

We read through all the summaries, seeing who fits the themes for the zones that we’re running in a given event (e.g. “I work at CERN”, won’t get you into the Animal Behaviour Zone, but might get you into the Particle Physics Zone).

Then we pick the best group of people for each zone, taking into account the students’ ratings, scientists’ summaries, as well as trying to get a good mix of institutions and research levels. (At this point, “I work at CERN” probably doesn’t get in, because someone else might have had a similar, but better description, e.g. “I use the biggest machine to search for the smallest particles of the universe”.)

Keep your summary short and to the point, but make sure it grabs the students’ attention!

If you’re selected…

If you’re selected to take part, we’ll email you asking you to confirm your place. Please reply to that email as soon as possible, whether or not you still want to take part; saves us having to chase you.

…and if not…

If you’re not chosen, we’ll email to let you know a couple of weeks after the application deadline.

Once you sign up to the list you stay there, so if you don’t get in selected for the next event you’ll be considered for the following one. If you’re not selected in November, you will be considered for the following March, June, and so on until you update your preferences to say just keep me updated. (All the emails we send out have the option to update your preferences.)

Sometimes, if we know we’re running a specific zone in a later event, we might choose not to offer you a place in the next event, but save your application for the later round of I’m a Scientist.

From time to time, we might also email you about taking part in one-off events, like the Christmas Lectures Zone, or an I’m a Scientist, Live event.

Apply now!

Find the application page here:
The application deadline for the November event is Monday 29th September 2014. We’ll be selecting scientists for the next event in March in February.

Posted on September 9, 2014 Moderator - Josh in Scientists | Comments Off on I’m a Scientist, Get me in there!

I’m a Scientist acts as a public engagement booster for scientists

Anecdotally, we’ve heard of how I’m a Scientist can be a good starting point for science communication activities. This was the case of Suzi Gage, Tom Crick or Suze Kundu, who took part in I’m a Scientist in June 2011 and are now putting a great emphasis on the communication side of their scientific careers or even fully devoting to it.

Twitter conversation about the impact of I'm a Scientist on Science Communication careers

Twitter conversation about the impact of I’m a Scientist on Science Communication careers

However, we were still curious to know to what extent we could extrapolate this to the wider community of scientists that have participated in the event during the last years. How could we know if I’m a Scientist had encouraged them to do more science outreach? Well, we decided to ask them.

We sent a survey to all the scientists that had participated in I’m a Scientist until 2012, leaving a gap of at least one year since they took part in the event. Approximately a quarter of the scientist responded to the survey, resulting in a more than decent sample of 113 scientists. The data collected in the survey show that there is a strong indication that I’m a Scientist is a real public engagement (PE) boost for scientists.

Summary of the survey's main findings

Summary of the survey’s main findings

I’m a Scientist is a good way to start doing public engagement in schools

If we look at public engagement at schools, we have recorded a significant increase, especially among those scientists that were particularly new to this form of outreach. Moreover, scientists who had never done school public engagement were encouraged to do more public engagement in general, going from none to an average of over 4 activities per year.  This was supported by some great comments gathered in the survey:

Having never done outreach with schools before, IAS gave me the chance to engage with a different audience than I would typically.” – Scientist

Scientists find the event flexible, open and inclusive

The online nature of the event was praised by different scientists that left comments in the survey:

I really liked how the online format broke down barriers and allowed the students to ask anything they wanted without having to stand up in a crowd.” – Scientist

Having all the activity online also gave me the flexibility to contribute more of my time, ad from a remote setting, compared to face-to-face school visits.” – Scientist

"Sifting the evidence" Suzy Gage blog hosted by The Guardian

“Sifting the evidence” Suzy Gage blog hosted by The Guardian

Some of the scientists had already contributed to the online scientific community with blog posts, podcasts or through social media. However, for a high proportion of them (68 out of the total 113) I’m a Scientist represented their first online public engagement event, which really pushed up their participation in general public engagement. In this case, their collaboration with public engagement activities went from zero to more than 3 general outreach events per year.

It was also interesting to find out that those who had already done lots of public engagement (4-15 activities per year) started doing more specific online outreach after participating in I’m a Scientist, at the expense of other forms of public engagement.

I’m a Scientist reveals itself as a great launchpad for budding science communicators

The majority of the scientists that filled in the survey (86%) had already taken part in some kind of public engagement activity (lectures, science festivals, interviews in traditional media, science policy making, etc.). It was a nice surprise to find out that scientists who had done very little public engagement (1-3 activities per year) increased their activity dramatically, going up to 5-8 outreach activities per year after the event. What is more, the greatest increase in overall public engagement activity (an increase of 130%) corresponded to the scientists who were just doing very little of it before the event.

Looking at the big picture, there is a general trend that I’m a Scientist enhances the participation of scientists in outreach events, except in the case of those who already did loads (more than 30 activities per year), where there is very little room for improvement. All in all, we are happy to confirm that I’m a Scientist represents a great launching platform for public engagement in science.

It remains the best public engagement event in which I have been involved.” – Scientist


Posted on January 8, 2014 modangela in Evaluation, Event News, News, Science Engagement, Scientists | Comments Off on I’m a Scientist acts as a public engagement booster for scientists

Valeria shares her I’m a Scientist experience

Photo:Last Summer Valeria Senigaglia, a researcher working with dolphins in the Philippines, took part in I’m a Scientist’s Animal Behaviour Zone. Valeria enjoyed the experience so much that she dedicated a blog post to it.

I didn’t win but I had so much fun! It was challenging to explain complicated theory in few simple words and some of questions were so advanced I had to look it up myself. However it does remind you why you enjoy this work so much, by putting the research in perspective. […] It was the perfect chance to exchange ideas and information with some peers. Especially since scientists are usually secluded in small windowless rabbit holes, also called offices, and have few chances to share experiences and opinions, even less in an informal setting as it was this event. […] I highly recommend my colleagues to participate as well. Especially because you have fun in doing it and you may find out that you actually look forward to get the chance of answering some challenging and inspiring questions.”

Read Valeria’s full post here.

Posted on March 6, 2013 in Project News, Science Engagement, Scientists | Comments Off on Valeria shares her I’m a Scientist experience

I’m a NeuroScientist, Get me out of here – LIVE

I'm a NeuroScientist Live LogoAre male and female brains different? Is the brain more like a sponge or a computer? Do we really only use 10% of our brain?

We’re taking I’m a Scientist on the road again. In March and April as part of Wonder: Art and Science on the Brain, a partnership between the Barbican and Wellcome Trust supported BNA2013: Festival of Neuroscience we are running 3 live I’m a Scientist live events. Instead of answering questions from the safety of your lab we’re asking Neuroscientists to get on stage to take questions directly from an audience.

On Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd March, comedian and geek songstress, Helen Arney will be compering the events as part of the Barbican Weekender.  Five scientists will compete for the votes of the audience to win a place in the final which takes place on the evening of Tuesday 9th April in Cinema One at the Barbican.

UPDATE: the heats will run at 3:45 on Saturday 2nd and 3:15 on Sunday 3rd March. The final on 9th April is at 7:30pm in the Barbican Cinema 1.

Take part

If you’d like to take part in the Weekender events just send a quick email to with your name, contact number, preference of day and a couple of sentences about the work you do. Please pass this information on to anyone you think would be good at taking questions from the general public.

Nominate a Neuroscientist

The April event ups the ante. Not only will the 300 strong audience include some delegates from the BNA2013: Festival of Neuroscience, but they’ll be voting on real money.

The Weekender winners will join the champion from our March I’m a Scientist Brain Zone and two Neuroscientists nominated by you. The overall winner will get to nominate a charity to receive £200 as their prize.

We want to know who you would like to see taking questions. If there someone you’ve always wanted to ask a question? Someone who’s work needs more exposure? Or perhaps someone so engaging they are simply a pleasure to listen to? Send an email to with the person’s name, where they work and one sentence telling us why they should be included.

Ask a question

Come along to the Barbican. The Weekender events are free and we’ll publicise times here soon. The April event is ticketed and we’ll post a link as soon as they go on sale.

UPDATE: Book your tickets here: .

UPDATE: We’ve two places left on the Sunday bill.

Posted on January 9, 2013 in I'm a Scientist - Live, IAS Event, News, Project News, Scientists | Comments Off on I’m a NeuroScientist, Get me out of here – LIVE

How DOES magnetism work?

He doesn't know either: Gilbert demonstrating the magnet before Queen Elizabeth /Wellcome Images

Last year I saw A C Grayling talk on happiness and it’s importance. He said that he bans his students from using the word ‘happy’, that it’s a lazy portmanteau word. He thinks that if you are forced to choose a different word – hopeful, exhilarated, content – you’ll think about what you really mean far more clearly.

I think the same can sometimes be true of jargon. Scientists taking part in I’m a Scientist have told us before that explaining yourself without using jargon is hard work, but unexpectedly rewarding. It means you have to think through what you mean and it exposes your mental shortcuts.

We saw a great example of this in Imaging Zone. A fairly innocuous-seeming question (Why do magnets attract and repel?) pretty much lead to the scientists realising that they don’t actually know how magnets worked. Not really. Not when they tried to actually explain it to other people, without using jargon.

Now these scientists include a man who spends many of his days working with an fMRI scanner, containing a magnet so powerful that you have to remove any ferrous object from your person before entering the room. But still, magnetism turned out to be one of those things that he learned about years ago, and sort of assumed he understood.

I’m expecting that some of you have the same feeling I did when reading that Q+A – ‘OMG, I don’t REALLY understand how magnets work either. How did I not notice that before?’ I think the thing is, most of us rarely discuss how magnets work. And when we do, we use technical words (‘dipole’, ‘electromagnetic’, ‘electron shell’) which we and our listeners all know, which can obscure the fact that you don’t truly understand the underlying mechanism.

By all accounts this question, and the attempts to answer it, lead to an awful lot of magnetism-related discussions at scientific breakfast tables and coffee machines around the country. So, one outcome, of just this question, has been much thinking about and discussing the mysteries of physics, by scientists, with colleagues, and others, about a subject they all thought they understood, but actually it turns out they’ve got lots of questions about it.

If the essence of science is asking questions and taking nothing for granted, then I’d call this a result.

This post started life as part of a mammoth post I’ve been writing about how June’s I’m a Scientist event went. The post has taken about three days so far and we’re up to 3,000 words. So I thought I should really break it into bits and start bunging some up now.

Posted on July 13, 2010 in Evaluation, IAS Event, Scientists | 2 Comments

Don't Panic! More advice for our scientists…

OK, judging from Twitter you are all getting worried about what you’ve let yourselves in for and fretting about getting evicted. I’m writing this to reassure you, although, I’m afraid most of you are going to get evicted and there’s not much I can do about it. Sorry!

The moderators and I do hate the evictions. It’s excruciating having to say goodbye to people who’ve put in lots of effort and been great contestants. But evictions are a big part of what makes the event exciting for young people, they create a buzz and a tension. And I guess we should all remember that it’s the taking part that counts (tell that to my Dad on pub quiz night…).

However, these are my top tips on surviving evictions, based on running events in this format over 6 years. I think the things that make students vote for someone are:-

1. How worthwhile they think your work is – in IAS terms curing cancer scores high. As does stopping people starving in the developing world. It’s not only heroic lifesaving scientists who have won the event in the past though – but it is worth thinking about how you explain to teenagers what benefit your work brings to the world.

2. How much they’ve interacted with you and how they felt about that interaction. Common comments when we ask students why they voted for a particular scientist or councillor are ‘They answered our questions’, ‘They weren’t patronising’, ‘They listened to us’, ‘They seemed nice’.

3. Smiley photo. In my exp, kids don’t vote for the best looking person,  but they do vote for the one who looks genuinely friendly. We actually did a test of this once with I’m a Councillor by getting friends to rate the attractiveness and smileyness of councillor photos then comparing to who won. It was only a small sample but attractiveness did not correlate with winning, smiley photos did. But of course we can’t rule out the fact that perhaps a person with a smiley photo does much better at number 2.

There is a discussion of what made students vote for particular scientists in the I’m a Scientist evaluation report, in section 1.1.7, if you are that keen!

Posted on May 18, 2010 in IAS Event, Scientists | Comments Off on Don't Panic! More advice for our scientists…

Advice to our scientists

We’ve had a lot of emails asking practical questions about taking part in June, and I think the best thing is to put the answers here for everyone to see. I suspect many of you who haven’t written would still like to know the answers!


There will be 20 zones on June. The last event in March only had 5 zones, so this time is a lot bigger! In each zone there are 5 scientists, competing for a prize of £500. There are 20 classes of students per zone, usually this will mean about 400 students. Only those students can ask questions, have live chats and vote in that zone, although everyone can read the questions and answers and so on.

Themed zones

10 of the zones are themed. The themed zones are:-

Are we too clean?
Cancer research
Sports Science
Drugs Development
Use of chemicals in everyday life

One or two of you worried that you aren’t expert enough in the zone topic. Please bear in mind that the students you will be talking to are mainly 13/14 years old. Of course as academic scientists you have exacting standards of what constitutes expertise in an area, but in terms of the students level of knowledge and what’s in their curriculum you really are an expert!

Also, the zones were suggested by teachers and scientists, and then voted for by the teachers taking part (there’s nothing you can teach us about two-way engagement!). They reflect what teachers want to cover in their classes. It wouldn’t always be possible to provide five scientists whose work epitomised the topic, but we’ve tried to make sure they all overlap with the topic in some way and that each scientist brings a different perspective to the topic.

General zones

The other zones are all general zones – meaning they have a diverse collection of scientists from completely different areas and no overall theme. These zones are named after elements. The general zones are:-


What do we need from you right now?

At the moment, just your postal address (apart from scientists outside the UK – we will send you electronic versions of everything instead). And a photo. You can change the photo later if you decide you don’t like it, but we need something this week in order to create your profile pages.

What is involved in taking part?

Before the event starts you need to put up some information about yourself and answer some profile questions. It’s very helpful if you can do this by 1st June so that teachers can start doing background work with students. You can have a look at the profiles of the scientists from March, to see what the questions are.

During the event scientists usually spend 1-2 hours a day participating, for the ten weekdays that the event is on. This will vary according to how busy your zone is and how much detail you go into with your answers. Don’t worry if work is taking you abroad during the event, you can easily take part from there, as long as you have access to the internet and some free time. In fact several of our scientists are permanently based outside the UK.


About half of this time is spent answering questions submitted on the website – you can do this at whatever time is convenient for you. They will include questions about your work, general science questions, questions about you as a person and about what you plan to do with the prize money.

Some of the general science questions will be about topics well outside your area of expertise (for example rainbows, or chameleons…) but please don’t just ignore them! Many of the students have never had the chance to speak to a real scientist before and it is a big deal to them. If we just ignore their question then it’s not very encouraging for them. If you feel you don’t have the expertise to comment, please answer by saying that, and perhaps suggesting where they might find out, or what area of science it is.

Part of the point of the event is that students come to realise that real scientists are not like in the movies – they don’t know about everything! But also that they have conversations with you and feel they are engaging with real scientists – whatever you have to say in response to their question is a valid way to start that conversation!

Live chats

The other half of the time is spent having live chats with students. Everybody loves this part of the event – scientists, teachers and students all give chats the highest rating in feedback. The chats are text only, a bit like MSN or google chat. You don’t need any special software or anything, just your computer and access to the internet.

Chats are are booked by the teacher, to coincide with their science lesson, so the time is fixed, but we don’t expect all the scientists to make each one as we know you all have other commitments. We do explain this to teachers and students.

As long as a couple of scientists attend each chat the students will get a lot out of it. Although, be warned, students are most likely to vote for scientists they have chatted too! Maybe you think it’s the taking part and not the winning that counts, but you might change your mind when the first eviction is looming:-)

We don’t know when the chats will be yet, but as bookings are made you will be sent an email with the details. There will also be an online calendar you can consult telling you of all the chats in your zone.

I hope this answers all your questions for the moment. Do get back to us if you want to know more. We are here to help! But also feel free to use the comments section below to ask questions or make comments, as many people will have the same questions as you.

Posted on May 17, 2010 in IAS Event, Scientists | 1 Comment

Government Science Minister engages debate on twitter

Some people love twitter, some think it’s a load of pointless old nonsense. I confess, I’ve got into it and think it’s very handy (my feed is @imascientist, if you’re interested). But this afternoon I’ve seen about the best thing I’ve ever seen on it.

Various sciencey type people had been expressing their worries about the new cabinet arrangements, specifically that Lord Drayson was now joint Minister for Science and Minister for Defence Procurement.

Some people felt that science wasn’t being taken seriously enough, with only ‘half a minister’. Some people were concerned by the ‘synergy’ of science and defence technology. Pretty straightforward gossip about the situation, which in other circumstances might have been around the watercooler and gone no further…

But then something amazing happened. Lord Drayson sent the following message in his twitter feed:-

“Please explain specifically what it is you are worried about. I’m listening…”

PD_Smith, in particular, took up the baton, and Lord Drayson actually engaged in a conversation about it! I’ve editted together most of the conversation below, so those who weren’t watching it can see it. I’ve not included everything, and I’ve not put things in strictly chronological order, where it would be confusing (sometimes it seemed obvious that delays meant that remarks which should go together were separated). Apologies to people I’ve missed out and if I’ve changed the sense of what anyone meant.

lorddrayson: @joergheber Please explain specifically what it is you are worried about. I’m listening… @rowanNS @skyponderer @PD_Smith
PD_Smith: @lorddrayson 1. why does Science not deserve its own minister? 2. Are there not ethical issues re unifying sci + military under 1 minister?
skyponderer: @lorddrayson Justify why we need a shared role Don’t we have enough talent to go round that we need to spread it thinly @ science’s expense?
lorddrayson: @PD_Smith In my view the more the sci minister is connected to wider roles in govt the more influence science has to the whole agenda
2020science: @skyponderer One up to @lorddrayson I think 🙂 Round two…
PD_Smith: @lorddrayson The logic of that is that you’ll soon be taking on more portfolios? Sounds to me like a reduction in the import of sci.
lorddrayson: @PD_Smith Science deserves a minister at the cabinet table. Thats key. Tick. Sci desrves a cabinet committee. Thats key too. Tick.
lorddrayson: @PD_Smith But, many ministers have dual roles.. it really helps departments work together better. Silos in whitehall are not helpful.
lorddrayson: @PD_Smith Many science issues are cross-departmental. Take GMES as an example. MOD / DECC / BERR / DIUS all had a view on earth observation
2020science: @lorddrayson Dedication to strategic value of science & technology encouraging. But also need to translate intentions into action.
PD_Smith: @lorddrayson And what about combining sci + defence procurement? Does it send out the right message in an age of nuclear proliferation?
lorddrayson: @PD_Smith Re ethical issues. You have a point. I have to be absolutely clear on the separation between the 2 roles. Civil service r key.
lorddrayson: @PD_Smith However, many science breakthroughs originated in defence research: ultrasound, radar to mention 2
joergheber: @lorddrayson worried abt role of science and thinking behind reorg. Why talk of ring fence? Are these threats to budget? Sounds defensive?
imascientist: @lorddrayson @PD_Smith But is there a risk sci gets ‘pulled’ in a military direction? Potential crossovers w othr depts instead, e.g. health
PD_Smith: .@lorddrayson That’s undeniable. But science should, and can be, about so much more than military hardware.
PD_Smith: @lorddrayson I’m v glad to hear you accept there has to be separation. But I still say it sends out a mixed message to the rest of the world
alicebell: @lorddrayson. Er, isn’t that the point? People aren’t sure that science and defence are the departments they want working together
skyponderer: @lorddrayson Does science not have enough value on its own to be at heart of govt, why does it have to piggy-back in on defence’s shoulders?
lorddrayson: @skyponderer Its not at science’s expense- v. imp to be integrated into heart of govt- gives mores influence & impact 2 sci agenda
lorddrayson: @PD_Smith I agree. Defence is but a small part of the whole. “Science so what; So everything”….will continue from BIS… @sciencesowhat
dr_david_w: @lorddrayson @PD_Smith @skyponderer Gordon Brown wanted a debate on the role of science in service of humanity. His actions speak volumes.
lorddrayson: @imascientist the spinoffs in health are key – which is why I head the Office for Life Sciences too.
imascientist: @lorddrayson But as @alicebell suggests, it seems to send an odd message – as if defence apps are the *main point* of science.
lorddrayson: @imascientist @alicebell Not the main point. Just one of many, many , applications of sci. MoD R&D budget is one of the largest tho…
PD_Smith: Intrigued to hear that @lorddrayson heads the Office for Life Sciences & Defence Procurement. That seems almost oxymoronic…
joergheber: @lorddrayson yet Andy Grove’s quote works both ways as we can see 🙂 Deeds speak louder than words so look forward to the former. Good luck!
lorddrayson: I really believe science agenda is stronger now in govt than ever. Its up to me to prove it though in the future. @tim_harper @joergheber
joergheber: @tim_harper @lorddrayson that’s exactly my concern- science seems a fragile commodity in the scheme of gov. Shouldn’t be on the defensive!
lorddrayson: @joergheber Pure research is safe.. read my speech at FST
2020science: @lorddrayson Internal multiple roles for ministers seems pragmatic. But it does lead to mixed/confusing messages to those outside govt.
skyponderer: @lorddrayson Hats off for the chance for dialogue. Very impressed we can all chat to the Minister for Science about such key issues
imascientist: @lorddrayson I don’t want to sound like we’re all ganging up on you. Kudos for discussing it!
imascientist: @lorddrayson Maybe I’m an old hippy, but I try to engage kids in science, hoping they’ll cure cancer or save planet. Weapons, not so much…
PD_Smith: @lorddrayson @imascientist @alicebell Indeed – what would Michael Foot think of that? Great pity…
timeshighered: @lorddrayson – Your new role seems to be getting a few queries…would you like to write an opinion article for us defending your new brief?
lorddrayson: @timeshighered Delighted… thanks for the offer. Lets do it.
PD_Smith: I have to say, chatting w/ the Minister for Sci & Defence Procurement is one of the most intriguing Twitter experiences I have had to date.

I don’t think that Lord Drayson has completely answered his critics, but I think it’s extremely admirable that he entered the conversation and was so game about it. And I’m truly impressed at such government openness. Is this the first time that a serving government minister has debated his role and the organisation of government, with random interested parties, on twitter?

It ends with a cheeky request for Lord Drayson to write an article for the Times Higher Education supplement, which he agrees to. So you can read all about it there soon!

Posted on June 9, 2009 in General, Scientists | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Guest blogger: IAS March 2009 winner Gillian Hamilton

Normally young people don’t get much say in science funding, but in I’m a Scientist they choose which scientist they think should get a prize of £500 to communicate their work. March 2009 winner Gillian Hamilton has very kindly agreed to be our guest blogger this week and tell everyone about what she did with the money.

Winner of I'm a Scientist March 2009

Winner of I'm a Scientist March 2009

I decided to take part in the I’m a Scientist project because I liked the idea of chatting to high school students and telling them more about what a career in science entails, something I didn’t know much about when I was at school. From the feedback it sounds like the majority of students enjoyed the experience which is a great result. Winning was completely unexpected, and I’m still thrilled about it!

I have used the prize money to attend the annual Alzheimer’s Research Trust conference which was held this year at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. Conferences are great places for scientists working in the same field to come together and present their work, and this year was no different.

The conference was held over two days and scientists from all levels had a chance to present their work, from PhD students just beginning their careers, to the high up Professors in charge of million pound budgets. The talks were wide ranging also, from molecular work being carried out in fruit flies to discussing the effect of diet on risk of disease and the development of new drug treatments.

Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent

However, we try not to forget the reason we’re carrying out our research and there was also an emphasis on the human aspect of Alzheimer’s disease. This year, the actor Jim Broadbent gave a fabulous talk on the first day. Jim’s mother had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and so he shared some of his experiences with us.

On the second day, we had a very unusual start to the conference. The Opera Group is a small team of singers and musicians who are putting on an opera, based on a patient with Alzheimer’s disease and his experiences, next summer (

The Opera Group

The Opera Group

We were treated to snippets from their, as yet, unfinished opera. It was an amazing and very moving experience. As a lab based scientist I very rarely meet people who are affected by this awful disease but the portrayal in the opera was excellent and I look forward to seeing the final piece when it goes on tour next summer.

Following the conference, I am now back in the lab working away on my projects, with a renewed enthusiasm about my work and some new ideas too! So thanks to I’m a Scientist and all the high school students who were involved!


Posted on May 1, 2009 in How Science Works, Scientists | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Guest blogger: IAS March 2009 winner Gillian Hamilton

Open the Floodgates!*

Our next I’m a Scientist event is about to start on Monday and we’re all very excited/tired. The site is up and running,  and next week the scientists and the students start talking (and the students start voting).

Teachers have been introducing their classes to the event this week, and doing some of the preparatory lessons to get the students thinking. The IVF debate (teachers can download lesson materials from here for free) is still a big favourite, ‘my 6th form did the IVF debate today … their response….. can we do another …. just as successful as least year! I love it … it is so simple to use and the kids love the role play.’

The scientists taking part this month are:-

Gillian Hamilton
University of Edinburgh
I am looking at the genetic differences between people and whether these can result in a person developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Mark Roberts
University of Oxford, Lincoln College
I work on the bacterial sense of smell.

Christine Cooper
University of Bath
Research into catalysts to force molecules to take a highly specific 3D structure.

Nizar Drou
John Innes Centre
I am a Bioinformatician working on the B.rapa genome sequencing project , which is an international genome sequencing effort.

Scott Grandison
University of East Anglia
I am interested in thinking about living organisms as if they were mechanical devices and studying the changes that they go through as they grow and develop.

Caroline Grainger
University of Bristol
I’m an organic chemist. We work out the recipes to make new medicines.

Check out the site over the next couple of weeks to see how the conversations develop and which scientists impress the students with why they should get the money. We hope you find it entertaining, and even, sometimes, thought-provoking.

(You can get full access to the site by clicking on the ‘GUEST ACCESS’ button, you just can’t post messages, as that power is only for young people.)

*Actually, we don’t make jokes about floodgates here in Bradford on Avon. The town rumour has it that we always flood because the people in Bath close their floodgates to protect all their posh buildings. We last flooded a couple of weeks ago and the sandwich shop is still closed. Damn those pesky Bathonians!

Posted on February 27, 2009 in General, IAS Event, Scientists | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Scientific hotties

I was at a book launch at the Science Museum on Monday night. An old lecturer of mine, Graham Farmelo, has written a fascinating biography of Paul Dirac, a somewhat forgotten hero of quantum physics.

I’ve never been to a book launch before (before you all start thinking I’m attending a constant round of glamorous parties) so it was all very exciting. Apparently what I should have worn to fit in was a black suit and a beard, but hey, I’ll know next time. The canapés on sticks were good.

Anyway, I ended up getting chatting to a guy called Tim, who was very funny, and his similarly scurrilous friend (whose name I typically failed to transfer to long term storage). I discovered afterwards that Tim was Prof Tim Molloy, Head of Creative Direction for the Science Museum. Not quite sure what that means, but it sounds very sweeping. I guess I’d have been less cheeky if I’d known that at the time.

Tim was bemoaning the lack of glamour in science. Apparently he had this idea to produce a Science Museum calendar, but none of the curators could suggest a single good-looking scientist (any sexy scientists reading this should take it up with the curators, I’m just the messenger here guys). You’d think just by the law of averages some scientists would have to be cute, wouldn’t you? Unless science somehow drives the babes away, which can’t be right. We’re all here, aren’t we?

Anyway, I have taken up Tim’s challenge to find 12 ravishing scientists (of either gender), because, dammit, geeks can be sexy too!

So far I have suggested many candidates, but only 9 has Tim judged to be ‘Hot as hell’:-

Brian Cox (suggested by everyone, including his lovely wife Gia)

Kevin Fong (who apparently has a sexy voice too)

Adam Rutherford (who I’m told is also funny. But I thought good-looking people didn’t need to bother having a nice personality?)

Alice Roberts (‘of course!’, I was told)

Laura Grant (‘the Nigella of science‘, sorry Laura!)

And, from EPSRC‘s NOISEmakers programme:-

Sima Adhya

Daniel Espino

Tim Gabriel

Laurie Winkless

Now I do feel that Tim has passed over some worthy contenders, but again, don’t blame me for your non-inclusion. I guess if I was fussier on the aesthetic front, I might be SM’s Head of Creative Direction too.

I’d also suggested Charlotte Uhlenbroek (worthy of inclusion for that photo alone, I thought) but apparently they can’t be zoologists (I guess they’d have to go on the NHM calendar).

If anyone can think of any other scorchingly sexy scientists, then let me know. We’ve only October, November and December to go. Which gorgeous geeks can cheers us during those winter months?

Posted on January 28, 2009 in General, Scientists | Tagged , | 19 Comments

The students decided. And the scientists spent the money.


Ian at the International Conference on Traffic and Transport Psychology in Washington DC. Note the bags!

During I’m a Scientist students voted and decided which scientist they wanted to give £500 to. It’s very powerful that the event gives young people a real say about something: it makes the whole thing much more real and vivid and makes them feel important. As one student said, “[I liked best] how it was totally up to us and not influenced by adults.”

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Posted on December 4, 2008 in IAS Event, Scientists | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on The students decided. And the scientists spent the money.

Trendy IAS mugs are here (photos updated!)


A crateload of very stylish “I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here” mugs just arrived at Gallomanor HQ. Mugs are on the way, as a small thank you present, to scientists, teachers, and friends of IAS. More info (and pictures) after the cut.

In other news, the final evaluation report is nearly finished and will be available soon.

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Posted on August 14, 2008 in General, Scientists | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trendy IAS mugs are here (photos updated!)

Listen to Liv Hibbitt on BBC Radio Oxford

BBC Radio Oxford interviewed Dr. Liv Hibbitt this week. You can listen to the interview, hear all about Liv’s experience of I’m a Scientist, her gene therapy research, who could beat Chuck Norris in a fight, and find out why Marmite is better in New Zealand.

Cheers, Liv!

If you can’t listen to MP3s on your computer, drop me an email ( and I will send you a written transcript of the interview.

Audio courtesy of BBC Oxford 95.2FM. Their website is

Click here to listen

(apologies for last week’s broken link… it works now, honest!)

Posted on July 4, 2008 in General, IAS Event, Scientists | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Listen to Liv Hibbitt on BBC Radio Oxford

The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Moderator

Moderating I’m a Scientist was like driving through a terrific summer storm. Now the chatrooms have cleared, and emails have slowed to a patter, it’s time to venture out and take stock. Goodbye, question and answer sessions; hello, feedback forms! My favourite feedback response so far: “The scientists SEEM like normal people but I can’t be quite sure…” – thanks to imwithstupid for that comment.

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Posted on July 2, 2008 in General, IAS Event, Science Education, Scientists | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment