Within the Division, I encourage academics, post docs researchers & PhD students to take part in engagement activities to talk about their research and to also listen to what the public think. Here Dr Samantha Terry, post doc from the Department of Imaging Chemistry & Biology reflects on her experience of taking part in I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here‘.
In my scientific career to date I have shied away from outreach projects and science communication other than posters and talks at conferences and the odd chat on the train with someone who asked “What do you do for a living?”. I think this is probably due to a mix of shyness, lack of the plethora of opportunities you can find at King’s, and me thinking that somebody more clever surely should do it instead of little old me.
So, having started at King’s last summer I caught the outreach bug, which ultimately led me to participate in “I am a scientist, get me out of here”. When I mention it to people I cannot help but say it like Ant and Dec do on the ITV programme “I am a celebrity, get me outta heeerrreee (echo!)”, followed by a jungle theme tune.
“I am a scientist” is a two-week free online event where school students and us scientists chat. The competition is split into 14 zones according to types of science. As my research involves using radioactivity to image and treat diseases such as cancers, I was put in the Medical Physics Zone with four other scientists who work in similar fields such as scanning patients with magnetic resonance imaging. Students can post online questions at any time they like but the schools also book a 30-minute slot to chat LIVE with us online. It is basically an X-Factor-style competition where students judge the scientists and vote to keep their favourite in the competition. The winner gets £500 to spend on further public engagement.
I would recommend every scientist out there to apply for this competition, as it was such fun. Students asked a whole range of questions, some of which I could answer. Other answers I have to admit I had to use Google for; luckily my fellow scientists in the Medical Physics Zone admitted the same. Questions included:
“What do you think science will achieve in the next 100 years?”
“In your whole lifetime, what do you wish to achieve and how will it affect the world?”
“When will cancer be cured?”
“What do you think about animal testing?”
“If someone consumed a high amount of iron and a room was magnetised, would it kill them?”
“What precautions do you take to avoid being affected by the radiation?”
“What type of puppy would you get?”
“Do you believe in God?”
“How is time structured?”
“Is Stephen Hawking alive and have you met him?”
“Have you had your teeth whitened?” – apparently my photo was a bit too overexposed…
Being a scientist I obviously could not skip the data analysis. Keywords from the live chats, with the size of the word representing its frequency, included physics, science, and work. Money, life, and animals also came up often.
As you can see from the table below, the Medical Physics Zone had the most students of all the zones and the most live chats. It was a competitive zone where all scientists contributed a similar level of answers (see below).
So, I know you are dying to know how I did – DID I WIN? NO! Unfortunately on day 9 of intense online chatting, I got the following email: The first scientist evicted is… Samantha Terry. Harsh; it is not unlike the X-Factor.
Nonetheless I would recommend this experience to everyone as it really helped me develop my communication skills and gain a completely fresh perspective on my work and on being a scientist in general. It was also truly inspiring to see so many students, be it future scientists or not, with such inquisitive minds. So, sign up now; the competition is currently open for applications from scientists for the next round in June! Do it.