I'm a Scientist (and I'm out of there!)

Author: Iain Bethune
Posted: 26 Jun 2015 | 16:44

At the end of last week, I blogged about the I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here! event. One week on, the whirlwind of live chats, evictions and answering questions is over. Unfortunately I didn't win - but I did survive 3 eviction votes and went head-to-head with the eventual winner Hayley Clissold in the final live chat of the fortnight.

I'm told it was a close run thing between the two of us, so I can't be too disappointed - it was a great experience! I haven't seen the statistics yet for our zone, but overall there were 4500 students involved across the 11 zones who we hope to have inspired to follow their interest in Science & Technology in their future education and careers. An honourable mention also goes to Lee Margetts, a fellow computational scientist and ARCHER user, who came first in the Energy Zone. Well done Lee!

The second week of the event had quite a different flavour to the first. There were fewer scheduled live chats - only 5 compared with 12 in the first week - but this gave me time to answer a lot more of the questions that students had posted to the website. In the end I answered 200 questions, ranging from the general ("What do you enjoy most about your job?"), to thought-provoking ("How do we know if anything is real?") and downright odd "(Why do boys have nipples?").

Quite a few of the students had read my profile, and asked questions about computers - how fast they can get, when will the capabilities of AI outstrip us humans - so it was good to be able to start discussions on those topics too, and talk a bit about supercomputers and computational science. As well as that, there was the daily tenterhooks moment when the eviction results were announced at 3pm, which was suprisingly tense because we never had much of a feel for how the students were voting.

The winner of each zone was awarded a £500 prize for public outreach and engagement activities - my plan was to develop an activity involving building computers from scrap parts. I still hope to go ahead with this, in fact I should be getting a delivery of several decomissioned PCs from the School of Physics computer labs this summer. Hopefully I'll have something ready to take along to science festivals in the autumn.

Overall it's been a really interesting two weeks - variously challenging, exciting, nerve wracking and thought provoking.  If you love the idea of having to describe your work to a bunch of 13-year-olds I'd really recommend giving it a go! The next events for Scientists and Engineers will take place in November. Why not try and go one step further than I managed?