I really didn’t think I’d win! I went into this assuming I’d have a lot of fun (I did) that it would be a way to find out what students at schools are wondering about (it really was) and that I’d be able to explain my work to people who were genuinely quite interested (and they were!).
As a PhD student, I spend most of my day surrounded by people who know so much more than me. Winning ‘I’m a Scientist!’ has made me realize that I also know some things! Not only that, but I can also communicate these complex ideas. The students were so fantastic, I only a little bit regret telling so many people to drop me ASK questions, I got about 30 in one day. However, they’re so helpful to explain concepts in more detail, outside of the absolute frenzy of the live chats.
‘Do I like snakes?’ ‘Were the moon landings faked?’ ‘Could the Earth be destroyed by a black hole?’ ‘What is your shoe size?’ ‘How big is the universe?’ ‘What is the dust around supermassive black holes made out of?’ ‘Who’s your favorite YouTube streamer?’ ‘Do you play Fortnite?’ ‘What happens if I fall into a black hole?’ ‘Aliens?’ ‘Aliens?’ ‘Aliens!’ Somehow, always aliens.
Such a wide scope of questions, fielded in such incredible detail from the other scientists: Nicolas, Laurence, Emma, Declan and Ali. Galaxy Evolution, LIGO, coronal mass ejections, space blankets and instrumentation; not to mention The Tactile Universe, fencing, an adorable dog, and discussions about skiing and firefighting. I assume the voting was very close because it’s not a decision I would have made willingly.
I’m really excited to start on my outreach project. I’ve learned that the term for people who I want to reach are those with ‘low science capital’ – people who don’t think of themselves as science minded, people who are out of school and don’t have many opportunities to engage with science themselves, people who wouldn’t come to events that we put on. We have to go and find them: science is for everyone.
It’s why I’m going to start ‘Science at the Hairdressers’ where we get scientists to go into hairdressers to discuss what it is that they do to people (absolutely no scientists giving haircuts – leave that to the professionals!). I think it’s a good way to get people to have a chat about space, science or even, yes, aliens again. Anything to get that spark of imagination going, to show them that space and science really is for everyone.
I’d just like to say thanks so much to all the students who voted for me, a personal highlight (though complete bafflement) was to find that I was listed on someone’s profile page as their favorite scientist. The students who all logged on in the last 20 minutes of the final live chat and stayed after school (!) to find out the results really made my win feel super special. The moderators and organizers were incredibly helpful and everything was run so smoothly. I’d encourage everyone to give it a shot, it takes almost no time (you can do it from your desk!).
Scientists: Up for the challenge?
Want to answer some downright weird questions? Maybe even learn things from students?
I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November.
It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!