Category Archives: Scientists

Learning quality engagement principles in IAS Academy

Katie is a PhD student at University College Cork, Teagasc Moorepark and APC Microbiome. She signed up for the IAS Academy online course on public engagement principles offered at the same time as taking part in I’m a Scientist.

Katie believes taking the course ‘really added value’ to her experience: “The IAS Academy was of interest to me as I haven’t had the opportunity for much formal training in outreach and felt that my skills could be improved by doing it alongside the IAS activity.”

 

It was possible to bring up scenarios from the school chats and discuss them with a mentor and peers, getting new insight, feedback and ideas in return.

Enhancing the learning experience
“Taking part in both activities concurrently allowed me to engage in active, reflective learning. The learning materials were of very high quality and gave me a grounding in key concepts such as science capital and mutually beneficial research.

The lunchtime chats with Dr Hannah Little were great. It was possible to bring up various scenarios from the school chats and discuss them with a mentor and peers, getting new insight, feedback and ideas in return.”

Informing effective engagement
“In particular, learning about science capital has really changed my mindset and approach to public engagement.

I also think that the idea of science communication being mutually beneficial to the public and researchers has changed my perspective on the activities that I engage with at my research institute. I’m looking forward to putting these ideas into practice.”

I would highly recommend the Academy course to other scientists if you can secure funding and make time for the lunchtime chats and course materials.

It really helps you to reflect on the IAS experience and become more effective at engaging people of all levels of interest in science.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist activity, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Work for an institution? Find out how to build public engagement capacity and quality through Academy Training Packages for your researchers.

Posted on January 20, 2020 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Learning quality engagement principles in IAS Academy

Transforming perceptions of public engagement

Julian is an active malaria researcher. He also leads a programme of learning and engagement around genomics for scientists, healthcare professionals and public audiences.

In 2011, Julian took part in the Argon Zone of I’m a Scientist and describes it as a ‘transformative moment’ in his public engagement career:
“On my office wall I have a couple of papers that have made the covers of certain journals. Right next to them is my certificate from I’m a Scientist”

 

The creativity of the format opened me up to a real vibrancy in public engagement.

Learning new ways of engaging
“It taught me about dialogue and the importance of two-way engagement. There’s something about the online, pseudonymous format that means everyone asks questions, not just those at the front of the room.”

I love that students have power. It made me think ‘ Oh that’s interesting, how do you manage to even the playing field in engagement activities?

I learnt that people aren’t just interested in the science, the research, but also the process and the people behind it.”

Changing how things are done
“The creativity of the format opened me up to a real vibrancy in public engagement – the range of ideas that were out there, as well as the community of skilled and dedicated engagement professionals.

“We did a Sanger Institute-only zone after I took part and it was the biggest uptake of any public engagement event we’d done at that point.

This confirmed my tentative theory that most people have an interest in doing engagement, we just need to keep finding ways of making it accessible and exciting.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist activity, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Work for an institution? Find out how to fund regular places in the activity for your researchers.

Posted on December 4, 2019 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Transforming perceptions of public engagement

Highlighting technician roles in industry

Jess Leung took part in an I’m a Scientist general zone along with five other scientists from a range of industries and career stages.

School students were very interested in her work “testing flavours that go into food and drinks” and she found the whole experience rewarding, fun and flexible enough to fit in around her work schedule.

 

The activity allowed students to understand the diversity of science in relation to its job routes, industries and education.

Flexible time commitment
As a technician at Kerry Ingredients, Jess works alternating day and night shifts. “Fitting the I’m a Scientist activity around my job was fortunately quite a success,” she says, “I was able to fit the live chats around my shift pattern.”

Questions from the students were sent to Jess for her to answer as and when she found the time, and this meant that even if she couldn’t make a live chat with a class she’d still be able to answer their questions about her work.

Different entry points to science
By chatting to the students about her education and career path, Jess felt she was able to open their eyes to entry routes to science that they might not have considered previously.

“A lot of students might have thought you had to study plenty before becoming a ‘scientist’,” says Jess, “but in reality you can choose to study for a Bachelor’s degree and work your way up from there.”

“I think the activity allowed students to understand the diversity of science in relation to its job routes, industries and also education,” Jess comments. “If you’re on the fence about whether to take part in the next I’m a Scientist, just go for it!”


If you work in a technical role and want to take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/technicians, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on October 10, 2019 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Highlighting technician roles in industry

Kickstarting an award winning public engagement career

Suzi won the Brain Zone back in June 2011 as a PhD student at the University of Bristol. She wanted to put her prize money towards starting a podcast that explained the science of substance use.

 

I’m a Scientist was the catalyst to me starting a blog and applying for a BSA Media Fellowship… I doubt any of that would have happened without it.

“I think it would be good for kids to be able to find out about drugs from the scientists who are researching them,” said Suzi on her profile in 2011. “What do you think of this idea? I’d love to hear your ideas too, this is just to get the ball rolling!”

After winning, Suzi did use the £500 to start her podcast, Say Why to Drugs. “I bought a microphone and some train tickets to travel the country interviewing addiction and recreational drugs researchers. In these interviews, we talk about what is currently known about the effects of various recreational drugs.”

I’m a Scientist really inspired me to get involved with more public outreach!” says Suzi. “It was the catalyst to me starting a blog and applying for a BSA Media Fellowship.”

Suzi was awarded the Media Fellowship with BBC Science in 2013, and her podcast has grown to over 1 million listeners. In 2016, she won the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science for her podcast. “I doubt any of these things would have happened without I’m a Scientist,” she says.


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on July 24, 2019 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Kickstarting an award winning public engagement career

Improving communication skills and finding phrases that work

 

Aileen remembers taking part in I’m a Scientist when at school. Now a PhD student in Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods, Aileen participated as a scientist in the Climate Zone.

Aileen had had experience communicating her work to visitors at her research institute and at one off events like Big Bang Fair. However, she believes taking part helped her develop short ‘quick-fire’ explanations of her research.

 

If you suddenly clam up, it’s a lot easier to get past that if you’re behind a screen. It was a good format to practise and prepare for the unexpected.

Impressing a tough crowd
The need to regularly get across information ‘succinctly’ in live chats particularly helped Aileen develop her shorter explanations. She felt that because students could easily switch their interest to someone else, without worrying about her feelings, she was forced to explain herself as clearly and quickly as possible.

“Because you’re not in person, there’s not that level of politeness. It’s just ‘I’m not interested any more, bye, I’m going to speak to someone else’… I kind of think it makes you have to get better.”

Becoming comfortable with the unexpected
The computer-based, text only nature of the activity also meant she was comfortable taking a moment to compose answers to unexpected questions.

“It’s preparing you for the unexpected… you’re behind the screen so if you suddenly have 30 seconds when you clam up, it’s a lot easier. Rather than, ‘oh god there’s a major investor stood in front of me and I really need to answer them now’.”

Aileen says her elevator pitch has since helped her in professional contexts. “In terms of turning up to conferences and that kind of thing, rather than going in to the whole ‘I do this this and this and I’m a PhD student…’ being able to explain what I do in a very short speech is helpful.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 25, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Improving communication skills and finding phrases that work

Long lasting benefits for employees and employers

 

Before taking part in I’m an Engineer, Emma Ryan felt the engagement events she was involved in weren’t reaching those who would benefit most. “Talking to girls about engineering is a big push for what I do,” she says, “but we were going to speak to women at university who know they’re doing engineering… I think it’s more important to go back to primary school.”

In I’m an Engineer, Emma was able to directly reach this audience. Winning the zone then gave her £500 towards her own engagement activities, which she used to leverage support from her employer.

 

The workshop is now becoming a permanent part of our outreach activities.

“Lockheed paid for half of the 3D printer, which is used to run workshops in primary schools,” says Emma, “and the workshop is now becoming a permanent part of our outreach activities.”

Emma plans to continue developing the workshop and is bringing her colleagues with her on school visits. ‘I’ve done five local schools and other teachers are requesting it. Lockheed are continuing to support and pay people to come and give me a hand. I’m still seeing what works and what doesn’t, but I’ve got feedback saying it’s good to see engineers are normal people, which is always a good message to spread!”

Emma has also gained on a personal and a professional level as a result of taking part. “My public profile was heightened from doing I’m an Engineer, and then the university invited me to do Bright Club and perform on BBC radio,” she says. “It’s also part of my doctoral portfolio, and the feedback I’ve had from my school visits will be part of my application to be a chartered engineer.


To take part in a future event, apply now. Scientists see imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information. Engineers, take a look at imanengineer.org.uk/engineers/, or contact admin@imanengineer.org.uk.

Posted on June 17, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Long lasting benefits for employees and employers

Two-way engagement: immediate feedback on communication

 

Before taking part in I’m a Scientist, Max Jamily’s previous outreach experience was mainly blog posts and summer camps. “That definitely sets I’m a Scientist aside, where the main focus was me and my work,” he says.

 

Two-way engagement where you’re having a scientific discussion at the right level is so much more productive.

Through participating in I’m a Scientist, Max developed a “better arsenal of metaphors and analogies” for describing what he does, and feels he has more confidence and a much better understanding of what public audiences find interesting about his work

Learning from your audience
For Max, the ‘two-way’ nature of I’m a Scientist was key to the impacts on his communication skills. Responses and feedback from students directly helped him develop new analogies, and told him when he wasn’t explaining himself well enough.

“The whole thing was very two-way — you’re giving answers to the questions people are directly asking you, and then you get their responses as to whether or not they like the answers, both immediately because they’d say ‘that makes sense’ or they’d ask another question, and also long term because of the voting.”

A new culture of communication
Since taking part, Max has found himself talking much more with colleagues in the lab about their work and his own, and in a way that is more meaningful than technical.

“I think the amount that I chatted with my colleagues when I had these inventive questions from students in I’m a Scientist, made me see that if I had that same level of discussion with them about my work it could be really productive. In general I’ve been trying to see the wood for the trees a bit more and actually talk about the concepts, rather than just the finer details, which as technical scientists we always get bogged down in.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 6, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Two-way engagement: immediate feedback on communication

Improving communication skills through text-only conversations

 

Euan Allen took part in I’m a Scientist during the second year of his PhD at the Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training. Answering questions through the text-based format allowed him to ‘recalibrate’ his language to suit his audience.

 

Now when you go to do face to face outreach, you feel more equipped.

Euan had done some in-person engagement previously but does not think of it as the best way to develop communication skills.

“When you are face to face, you don’t hear what you have said afterwards, there isn’t that self assessment,” he says.

The text-only format of I’m a Scientist was a more useful environment to test his skills.

“When answering a student’s question, you are trying not to use jargon and technical language. It is much easier to spot that when you’re writing it down. It was a good training lesson in recalibrating yourself to remember that type of language isn’t useful… That was one of the biggest things I got out of the experience.”

Euan says he now has more confidence talking about his work to public audiences. “The students were really comfortable online, you received lots more probing questions… Now when you go to do face to face outreach, you feel more equipped.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 4, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Improving communication skills through text-only conversations

STEM engagement for scientists’ busy schedules

 

Hayley Pincott took part in I’m a Scientist in June 2018, spending two weeks chatting with school students about her role as an Associate Practitioner Healthcare Scientist at a University Dental Hospital. Hayley found the experience flexible enough to fit around the workload of a public sector scientist, and it gave her the skills and confidence to do further public engagement.

Accessible to those with busy working lives

Hayley was recommended the I’m a Scientist activity by a friend who’d previously taken part, but admits she was initially “slightly dubious about how easy it seemed to fit in around work.”

It didn’t take long for her to “completely fall in love” with the experience, though. “You don’t have to go out to visit, and it can all be done as and when you have time.”

This flexibility throughout the two weeks helped her balance the activity with her day job, and even when her availability changed she was still able to engage with students at a time that suited her.

“I could sign up to as many live chats as I wanted, and if my workload meant I could no longer attend a live chat then there was no pressure… there is always ASK [questions from students], which can be done at any time.”

Introducing students to biomedical science

Before taking part, Hayley had visited a few primary schools to talk about her role in biomedical science and pathology. Through I’m a Scientist, she hoped to “reach a different audience and give pupils another possible career choice that they might not have even heard of previously.”

Talking with students in the live chatroom and answering their questions through the I’m a Scientist website offered Hayley “a really simple but effective way to engage young people in a scientific career they might never have heard about.

“My main goal was to try and explain that to be good at my job doesn’t need me to be highly intelligent – it needs me to have a specific skill set… I just wanted pupils to take away the message that science, and a scientific career, needn’t be unachievable.”

The confidence for further engagement

Following “some amazing chats with great students”, Hayley felt she’d gained the confidence to do more public engagement with a range of audiences, not just the primary age students she’d previously had experience with.

“Having this new confidence in reaching out to this age group has meant that I’ve written an article aimed at teenage girls, and have tried to organise a few events that targets a wider variety of people.”

Hayley is also continuing to engage with students in I’m a Scientist through the Careers Zone, answering questions about her career path, what it’s like working in a University Dental Hospital and the wider world of biomedical science.


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on April 3, 2019 in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on STEM engagement for scientists’ busy schedules

‘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 imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply

 

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 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 imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply

 

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.

 

 

https://relationshipsj17.imascientist.org.uk/profile/carrsamSam 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 imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply

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!

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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!

Read more

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 imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply

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!

Read more

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!

Read more

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…

APPLY NOW 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 July 6, 2016 modjosh 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: imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
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 modjosh 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, Scientist Benefits, 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 IASLive@gallomanor.com 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 IASLiveNom@gallomanor.com 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: www.barbican.org.uk/education/event-detail.asp?ID=14614 .

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…