One thing I’m particularly grateful for during lockdown is that I got to take part in I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! An online SciComm competition, connecting scientists with schools across the UK.
Since March, I’ve chatted online with hundreds of high school students about medical research, academia and student media. In my last week of the competition, the students voted me ‘Scientist of the Week’!
Coronavirus dominated a lot of the conversations but, despite the ongoing pandemic, the kids were engaged and interested in our research. My main goal in taking part was to demystify what scientists do from day to day. Obviously, winning the overall prize also would’ve been nice (who doesn’t want £500 to spend on their outreach activities?). Maybe next time!
I’m a Scientist are looking for more STEM volunteers to take part in the next contest. All you need to apply is a one sentence summary of your work that a kid would understand. You can find out more about applying here.
Here are my top tips for getting voted ‘Scientist of the Week’:
- Be yourself! Some people sounded so formal, let your personality come through.
- Talk about what you do outside of work. A lot of the kids were surprised to find out that scientists are normal people with hobbies and interests not related to science.
- Be honest! The questions we got asked the most is ‘do you like your job?’ and ‘is it hard?’ Most people said something like ‘it’s really hard but I love science and I love my job‘. I think this is quite off-putting. I didn’t love my science classes at school. There are still days where I hate my PhD! Plus, I don’t think being a scientist is much harder than other professional jobs – I certainly couldn’t be a medical doctor or a lawyer.
- Talk about the challenges. There’s still a stereotype that scientists are super smart and nobody struggles because we’re all geniuses – I wish that was true! The kids couldn’t believe that we didn’t all get straight As and that our experiments still go wrong all the time.
Let me know if you want help summarising your research or if you want to know more about the ‘I’m a scientist’ application process. It was such a rewarding experience, I highly recommend taking part.