Category Archives: 2017

25 Genomes Zone Report

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25 Genomes was funded by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute as part of their 25th Anniversary celebrations. In 2018, the Institute is going to decode the DNA of 25 UK species for the first time, five of which have been decided by the 25 Genomes public vote.

Over five weeks, scientists and wildlife experts championed species they thought deserved to have their entire DNA decoded. They competed for votes across five Zones from school students and the public, and answered questions about everything to do with their species and genome sequencing. A variety of different scientists took part, including some working at the Sanger Institute, scientists from the Natural History Museum, PhD researchers and conservation workers. Some species were championed by teams, such as the Asian Hornet whose team consisted of experts in the UK, France and Italy.

Schools all over the UK were involved, as well as schools in Ireland, Europe and the USA. Around 2,000 students took part in nearly 120 Live Chats with the Species Champions, as well as sending them 600 questions in the ASK section. As well as students, over 3,000 members of the public logged in to have their say, and many Species Champions campaigned for their species online resulting in Zones with a high number of public users. We also ran two drop-in Live Chats open for the public. In total, there were nearly 5,000 votes.

Posted on December 21, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Sanger Institute, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Cells Zone Report – November 2017

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The Cells Zone was a themed Zone, funded by Wellcome, with six scientists for students to meet. Tom is a PhD student studying how white blood cells fight bacteria in our lungs, Paul is a research fellow studying how egg cells and embryos grow and Natasha is looking into how to use a patient’s own cells to kill their cancer. Ildiko is a lecturer in cell biology and genomics, Ester is studying how cells work together in the gut when we are healthy, and how this is altered when we get sick, and Eoin is a research fellow trying to understand how to treat our immune system when it’s not working properly.

Conversations in the Cells Zone were on topic, with students really interested in the scientists’ research areas as well working as a scientist. All of the scientists were great at explaining their work as well as the more complicated aspects of cell biology. Natasha was the winning scientist in this Zone and was also the most active, making up almost 50% of all Live Chat lines from scientists.

Posted on December 15, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Gravity Zone Report – November 2017

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The Gravity Zone was a themed zone, funded by the Institute of Physics. In this zone, students met five scientists including Scott, a PhD student researching theoretical physics and Ryan, who is studying explosions caused by black holes and neutron stars. Maggie is a researcher at the European Space Agency mapping out dark matter, Hannah is a PhD student studying gravitational waves and black holes and Daniel studies the data from gravitational wave detectors and simulations.

Students in this Zone were very engaged with theme of gravity and space in general, with a mix of both factual and conceptual questions. All of the scientists were great at explaining sometimes quite complicated topics in a way that younger students could understand, especially within the fast paced Live Chats. The topic seemed to really capture the students’ imaginations and the Chats were lively with lots of positive reactions from students about what they had learnt.

Posted on December 15, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, IOP, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Microbiology Zone Report – November 2017

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The Microbiology Zone was a themed Zone, jointly funded by the Society for Applied Microbiology and Wellcome. Lea is a PhD student researching how soil animals can help us produce environmentally friendly food, Emma is studying a particular bacteria that is infecting hospital patients with Cystic Fibrosis and Christopher works for a food safety company working to find new ways to treat diseases. Ash is a PhD student looking at the differences between the causes of Tuberculosis in humans and cows, Ananthi (the winner in this Zone) is studying alternative treatments to replace antibiotics and Aaron is working on ways to produce energy from grass using microorganisms.

This was a busy Zone, with a higher than average number of questions and Live Chats in comparison to the other Zones in November’s I’m a Scientist event. Questions in this Zone were balanced, with an even mix of interest in the theme, science in general, careers and the scientists’ personal lives. Lots of students were interested in the theme of microbiology with questions about bacteria and antibiotic resistance, as well as the research of the scientists.

Posted on December 15, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Stress Zone Report – November 2017

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The Stress Zone is a themed zone funded by the Physiological Society, with five scientists studying different areas of stress and how it affects us. Livia is studying how we can prevent and treat mental illnesses, Laura is a part-time lecturer in physiology researching the bad effects of stress in the workplace and Kirsti is a PhD student studying how stress during pregnancy can affect the development of a baby. Georgina, the winner of the Zone, is researching the hormone cortisol and why it is released into the body when we are stressed and Chris is looking at how extreme environments can affect how humans perform during exercise or cognitive tasks.

This Zone was relatively quiet compared to the other Zones in November’s I’m a Scientist, although it was very on topic with some interesting and well thought out questions from students. There were lots of conversations about how stress can affect the students during exam times, for example, and all the scientists were good at dealing with sensitive subjects such as wellbeing and mental health, often relating their own experiences.

Posted on December 15, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Uranium Zone Report – November 2017

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The Uranium Zone was a general science Zone supported by Wellcome, with five scientists working in a variety of areas. Sajid works at QIAGEN developing a test to help HIV patients manage their treatment routines, Katherine uses computer modelling to help the Home Office solve problems affecting our society and Jayne is a Hazard Management Scientist who researches decontaminants for toxic and illicit chemicals. Duncan, the winner of this Zone, is developing better ways of taking pictures inside people’s lungs with fibre optics and Anu is a PhD student researching ways to improve the way we generate energy from renewable sources.

This was a busy Zone with 93% of students active in ASK, CHAT or VOTE and there was a huge variety of questions due to the range of areas the scientists work in and it being a general science Zone. Duncan and Sajid, who came in first and second place respectively, were the most active scientists and between them made up an impressive 84% of all Live Chat lines by scientists.

Posted on December 15, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Neptunium Zone Report – November 2017

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The Neptunium Zone was a general science Zone supported by Wellcome. In this zone students met six scientists, all working in different areas. Yo is a software developer who writes code for experiments within biology and Theo works for a company that makes breath chemical detectors as a scientific writer, explaining to scientists and doctors how to use the technology in their research. Oli, the winner of this Zone, is a PhD student in environmental science studying fossils to work out the history of a threatened forest in Brazil. Nina is a geologist who has studied volcanoes and now researches materials different buildings are made from, Kerrianne is a PhD student making and testing optical fibres and Edward is a research associate in neuroscience looking at how our brain is wired up.

Chats in this Zone were lively with lots of back and forth conversations. The scientists were good at building a rapport with the students and engaging them with their subject areas. For example, after hearing about Oli’s work with plants in a chat a student said ‘I honestly didn’t think plants could be interesting until 10 minutes ago’ and that they had been inspired to study plants in the future.

Posted on December 15, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Plutonium Zone Report – November 2017

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The Plutonium Zone was a themed Zone supported by Wellcome, specifically for Primary School students. Simonne is a biomedical scientist who tests patients’ blood to help doctors work out which medicine to give them and Senga, the winner of this Zone, is a PhD student researching ways to make plants grow better using DNA from bacteria. Pete works for a drugs company using bacteria to improve their products, James is an archaeologist studying how human brains have evolved and Jake is an applied mathematician looking into why fluid or gasses can change from being smooth to chaotic.

This Zone had a high number of questions from students in Ask about a variety of science topics, as well as the scientists’ work. All the scientists were great at explaining things in simple terms and building up a relationship with the students. Senga often talked about her ‘fake poo’ experiment as which the students found hilarious and were very interested in, and Senga often shared the experiment with teachers after the chat so students could carry it out. Senga also visited one of the schools – Doonfoot Primary – the week after the event to do the experiment with the students.

Posted on December 15, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Drug Resistance Zone Report – June 2017

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The Drug Resistance Zone was a themed zone funded by Wellcome. Thom is a PhD student researching how bacteria produce drugs and how we can discover new ones, Sanjib is a course director in infectious diseases and also researches tuberculosis and Donna is a lecturer looking at how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Avril is an antimicrobial pharmacist and Abid is a microbiologist doctor who treats patients with antibiotics.

This zone had the highest number of students logged in out of all the zones in June’s I’m a Scientist (539), 91% of whom were active in ASK, CHAT or VOTE. Scientists in this zone were extremely positive and encouraging towards students which made for some sociable and engaging chats. One chat in particular inspired Avril to change her twitter handle to a name the students had made up for her – ‘Avrilbiotic’.

Students in this zone engaged well with the theme, although often asked questions about illegal drugs, addiction and side effects. The scientists were still happy to answer these questions outside of their research areas as best they could, which was appreciated by the students.

Posted on July 17, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Epidemic Zone Report – June 2017

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The Epidemic Zone was a themed zone funded by Wellcome. Rosie is a Consultant Microbiologist who advises other healthcare professionals about infectious diseases, Liz is a researcher who uses maths to understand more about norovirus and Christl is a Professor of Statistical Epidemiology who uses maths to study the spread of disease. Kevin is a Senior Epidemiologist working on cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine and Beccy is a PhD Student researching how to eradicate whiteflies to prevent the destruction of crops.

Lots of conversations in the zone focussed on the theme, with students showing a strong interest in infectious diseases and how they can be cured.

The scientists were great at interacting with students and a good rapport was built up, with friendly chats and conversations involving multiple scientists and students. The scientists in the zone also built up a good relationship with each other, which reflected positively in the chats. Notably, Rosie and Beccy continued to engage lots with the event even after they had been evicted. Liz, the winner of this zone, attended every single live chat.

Posted on July 17, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Mental Health Zone Report – June 2017

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The Mental Health Zone was a psychology themed zone funded by the British Psychological Society. Steve is researching how cancer medications affect people to help develop better treatments with less side-effects, Michelle is a postgraduate research student studying the beliefs of people with psychosis and Jermaine, the winner in this zone, is a lecturer of psychology who also researches how working in the public sector can cause mental health problems. Jack is a PhD student studying how sleep disturbances might put people at rise of experiences associated with schizophrenia and Gem works for Cancer Research trying to find the best ways to help people stop smoking.

There were around 16 A Level psychology classes taking part in this zone, so many students had a strong interest and understanding in the subject. This meant many of the live chats were incredibly focussed with informed questions about the psychologists’ research and psychology in general. These smaller A Level class sizes meant that the number of students logged into this zone was lower than the average for this event.

The theme of mental health meant that students often drew upon their own experiences, or those of friends and family, when talking to the psychologists in both ASK and the Live Chats. Michelle also spoke openly about her own experiences with mental health issues, which seemed to aid students’ understanding of the topic and help to diminish negative stigma.

Posted on July 17, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, BPS, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Relationships Zone Report – June 2017

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The Relationships Zone was a themed psychology zone funded by the British Psychological Society. Sam – the winner in this zone – is studying how the relationships we have with friends and family affect us, Rose researches how reading stories and watching stories on TV can help us understand and interact with people in real life and Maggi is a PhD student studying whether technology influences the relationships children with autism have with other people. Kirsty is studying how teenagers’ social relationships can affect their health and behaviour and Ben is looking at what children think about right or wrong actions.

Around 17 classes in this zone were A Level psychology students, and these smaller class sizes often meant that within Live Chats psychologists were able to spend time writing lengthy answers for students and engaging in really good discussions. The smaller class numbers resulted in a lower than average number of questions asked and students logged in, compared to the other zones in June’s event.

Students in this zone were focussed on the theme of relationships, and psychology in general. Questions were informed and thoughtful, with students asking about the psychologists’ research areas as well as wider discussions about relationships. The psychologists were great at giving detailed answers and looking up things they weren’t sure about to further the discussion, such as in this ASK question, where Rose researches and explains the psychology behind the love triangle in the Twilight books.

Posted on July 17, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, BPS, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Actinium Zone Report – June 2017

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The Actinium Zone was a themed zone funded by Wellcome. Samantha is an Educational Data Scientist analysing data to try and find out how students learn, Matt – the winner of this zone – is a Research Technician studying colorectal cancer and Deborah is working with robots to teach school students healthcare skills. Adele works for an engineering company working out how future buildings and developments could affect the environment and Adam is a postdoctoral research fellow currently studying venomous snakes to make new anti-venoms.

This zone was busy, with a higher than average percentage of active students and questions asked. Chats were often lively and fun, due to the scientists’ ability to easily engage with students. Matt and Adam were especially good at finding common ground with students, sharing jokes and building a rapport. They also made up nearly 75% of all activity by scientists in ASK and the Live Chats.

Students engaged with the work of all five scientists, with Matt, Adam and Deborah’s work being easy to relate to and attracting the most attention.

Posted on July 17, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Protactinium Zone Report – June 2017

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The Protactinium Zone was a general science zone funded by Wellcome. Thorrun is a community pharmacist working for Sykes Chemist, Nicolas is a Senior Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy who is studying the sun, and Helen is a science communicator for a biotechnology company that produces medicine for children. Dan, the winner of this zone, is a PhD student in chemistry studying tests for kidney disease and Amy is a research scientist looking at why people develop rare blood and bone marrow cancers.

All the scientists took an active role within the event and students showed an interest in getting to know them as people, with the highest percentage of personal-themed questions out of all the zones in June’s event. The scientists were all really friendly and good at engaging at conversations with students, within both Live Chats and the ASK section. There were a higher number of comments than the average of June’s zones, and many of these were scientists and students continuing a conversation, with other students joining in

 

Posted on July 17, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Thorium Zone Report – June 2017

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The Thorium Zone was a general science zone specifically for primary schools, and was funded by Wellcome. Wajiha is a PhD student researching ways to make MRI scans faster, Tom is a PhD student in nuclear fusion – working out how to make a star in a box – and Rosie, the winner in this zone, is a PhD student studying how life can survive in extreme environments like inside a volcano or at the bottom of the ocean. Phil is a landscape ecologist researching ways to observe bees in flight and Chris studies wheat plants to help us grow stronger plants without disease.

This was a really busy zone with nearly 390 questions sent to scientists in the ASK section, and the highest percentage of active students out of all the zones in June’s event (96%). All the scientists were great at answering directly and tailoring their language to suit younger students. Rosie and Chris were the most active scientists, providing nearly 80% of all answers by scientists and attending lots of live chats. This meant a lot of questions were related to their work, with students asking all about space and plants.

Posted on July 17, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Animal Behaviour Zone Report – March 2017

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The Animal Behaviour Zone was a themed zone funded by The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB). Rupert is a lecturer teaching animal behaviour and studying why birds sing, Ines is an ecologist studying how a particular species of fish is being affected by its environment and Ellen is a PhD student looking at how elephants interact with each other. Cedric is a conservation biologist looking at the behaviour of the Malaysian clouded leopard and Carrie, the winner of the zone, is a senior lecturer teaching animal behaviour and welfare.

The Animal Behaviour Zone was one of the busiest zones in March’s event, with a higher than average number of questions asked, comments and lines of live chat. All five scientists were active within the ASK section and live chats, between them providing over 1,200 answers.

The zone theme was very popular, with students interested in the facts and the science behind animal behaviour as well as the day to day work of the scientists. The topic as a whole was clearly easily understood and highly engaging for the students.

Posted on April 7, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, ASAB, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Decision Zone Report – March 2017

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The Decision Zone was a themed psychology zone funded by The British Psychological Society. Wil is a PhD student looking at emotions in language and bilingualism, Mary is a psychology lecturer studying how our senses work together to perceive the world and James, the winner of the zone, is a Strategist and Consumer Psychologist who advises brands how their design can influence consumers’ decision making. Diana is an Emeritus Professor studying how people weigh up evidence to make important decisions and Andy is a lecturer looking at how people can lose control, leading to drunkenness and eating bad foods.

The Decision Zone centred on investigations into psychological research, and also involved three A-Level psychology classes. Some students seemed unsure what psychology was, and the psychologists were all good at explaining their research areas, as well as a more broad definition of psychology, in clear and relatable terms.

Posted on April 7, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, BPS, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Enquiry Zone Report – March 2017

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The Enquiry Zone was funded by Wellcome. It was a general science zone for primary schools focusing on the development of a citizen science project. The scientists involved each suggested a research idea which they refined with the students in the live chats and ASK section and students then voted for the project they would most like to carry out at their school. With the help of the winning scientist, schools will carry out the research in June 2017, recording and sharing their results using the nQuire-it online platform developed by the Open University.

Sallie, the winner of this zone, is a neuropsychologist who suggested an experiment looking at whether what you know about people before you meet them influences how attractive you think they are. Cathal specialises in diagnosing heart problems and his project idea was for students to develop an application that checks the pulse, to help detect whether someone needs first aid. Jade is an analytical scientist, who wanted students to test whether there’s a link between how much air you can breathe and how far you can shoot a blow dart. Hannah is an ecological researcher, whose idea was for students to pick an animal and study its behaviour, and Anthony is a conservation biologist who wanted students to study birds in their school and find out what they like to eat.

Posted on April 7, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Medical Physics Zone Report – March 2017

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The Medical Physics Zone was a themed zone funded by The Institute of Physics and The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. Sarah is a trainee medical physicist specialising in radiotherapy physics, Mohan is a clinical scientist helping put radioactive drugs inside patients for diagnosis and treatment and Jen is also a clinical scientist who focuses on processing images of patients who have taken radioactive drugs. Dan, the winner of the zone, is a postdoctoral researcher using sound waves to detect diseases like cancer and Christopher is a PhD student looking at how to design more advanced MRI scanners.

Students connected with the topic and discussed some of the issues rising from using the technology needed in medical physics. There were some personal conversations on how medical physics relates to cancer and cancer patients, including members of the students or scientists’ families. Students were also curious about the career path the scientists followed, some of the decision making behind it and the nature of their current professions.

Posted on April 7, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, IOP, IPEM, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Organs Zone Report – March 2017

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The Organs Zone was a themed zone funded by Wellcome. Nicholas is a PhD student looking at the changes in the DNA that causes liver cancer by growing mini-organs in the lab, Natalie is a neuroscientist looking at how brain cells connect to each other and Marta is a postdoctoral researcher using a computer model of the heart to understand heart disease. Devon is a PhD student looking at proteins in the kidney to understand how they are important to healthy kidneys and Craig, the winner of the Organs Zone, is a PhD student studying how the immune system fights viruses.

The scientists were all enthusiastic and met the questions in the chats and in the ASK section with interest even when they were outside of their own subject areas. The chats were lively and enjoyable, with all the scientists sharing a good rapport with one another and with the students.

Posted on April 7, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Space Exploration Zone Report – March 2017

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The Space Exploration Zone was a themed zone funded by the UK Space Agency. Stephen is a Principal Mechanical Architect designing, manufacturing and testing spacecraft such as the Mars Rover, Rochelle is a medical doctor who monitors the physiology of people doing space missions and working in microgravity and Phil is studying planetary rings using computer models. Lucy is a PhD student creating models of Martian geological processes to help determine what the climate was like in the past and Hannah, the winner of the zone, is a PhD student looking at ways to get water and oxygen from the Moon to help humans to live there in the future.

The Space Exploration Zone was incredibly on topic, with students showing a real curiosity about the theme and wanting to know about a huge variety of space-related areas. They also showed a genuine interest in the scientists’ own research areas, engaging well in chats and asking specific questions. Off topic questions focussed on career paths and working as a scientist, with very few unrelated to theme or the scientists in some way.

Posted on April 7, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, UKSA, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Francium Zone Report – March 2017

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The Francium Zone was a general science zone funded by Wellcome. Sandra is a molecular biologist working on making new proteins to help track cancer cells and Lewis, the winner of the zone, is a PhD student studying materials that absorb light and how this can be converted to electricity. James is a geophysicist that uses sound recordings to find layers in the Earth that are likely to contain oil, Humayra is a gastrointestinal scientist working for the NHS and Dakshat is a PhD student studying how men from different ethnic backgrounds age.

The questions in the ASK section covered all the topics the scientists work in, and many others on top. Live chats were mostly fast-paced with questions on lots of different topics. Lewis answered nearly 50% of all the questions in ASK and together with Sandra, wrote nearly 90% of all the live chat lines.

Posted on April 7, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment

Radium Zone Report – March 2017

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The Radium Zone was a general science zone funded by Wellcome, specifically for Primary Schools. Sha is a PhD student looking at ageing in plants, Olivia is a PhD student studying how to make wastewater from households useful again and Marco is a PhD student looking at how to protect the lungs from the radiation used to treat lung cancer. Amanda is a biological scientist studying how we can use cells to repair the body when it is damaged and Alex, the winner of zone, is a PhD student looking at how birds use energy to fly.

The Radium Zone was a busy zone with the highest number of questions in the ASK section and of votes in March’s I’m a Scientist. The scientists in the zone were mainly PhD students or early career researchers and the questions often related to the scientist’s interests and work. For example, students asked Alex a lot of questions about birds and Amanda about cells. There were also many general questions which tended to focus on the body, natural world and observable phenomena, with a few direct, more personal questions to the scientists.

Posted on April 7, 2017 modmichaela in 2017, Wellcome Trust, Zone Reports | Leave a comment