Well last week was busy! National Science and Engineering week often falls at the wrong time in the academic year – middle of semester, surrounded by marking and other catastrophes. This year I’ve been fortunate to take part in two events, I’m a Scientist and Voice of the Future.
I will freely admit that I’ve been following the I’m A Scientist event for a couple of years now. I applied last March but wasn’t picked, couldn’t apply for the June one because I was 8 hours out of synch in Canada. In the middle of a particularly busy period earlier this year I updated my details and was delighted to be selected to take part in the Germanium Zone.
So what is I’m A Scientist? Basically it’s engaging with schools from the comfort of your office (or sofa). Scientists from all disciplines are split into zones and answer questions by school students and take part in live chats using chat room style software. It is amazing! Live chats are possibly the most overwhelming yet brilliant thing I’ve done in quite some time. The questions asked are on a huge variety of topics, but popular subjects include the end of the world, the beginning of the universe, stuff to do with research, general questions about what a scientist is/does and then the odd stuff…you know, things like whether its a good idea to eat Mentos and diet coke at the same time, or why bananas are yellow, or…well go look at the zone and see what we’ve answered.
And the ‘Get Me Out Of Here’ bit? The school students vote for their favourite scientist in each zone and there are evictions each day this week starting tomorrow (nervously bites nails and looks twitchy).
I was fortunate to be invited by the Royal Society of Chemistry to attend the Voice of the Future Event at the Houses of Parliament last Wednesday. This event, for young scientists (I still qualify – yay!) and organised by the Society for Biology gave us the opportunity to quiz various MPs on issues related to science and technology in the UK. We were in Portcullis House, and while many of us were in the public gallery, some scientists were selected to sit in the seats usually reserved for the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee and ask questions of the witnesses called before the Committee. These witnesses included Rt. Hon. David Willets MP, Minister for Universities and Science; the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee; and Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Innovation and Science. It was an absolutely fantastic opportunity to watch these MPs in action and to hear their responses to a huge range of questions submitted to the event. I suspect a longer blog post on some of the issues raised will be coming soon. My thanks must go to all the organizers and the RSC for the invitation.