What Uday Bangavadi did with his prize money…

Uday was voted the winner of the Nitrogen Zone in November 2015. He started making use of his prize money straight away and here he reports back on what he’s been able to do over the last year…


It was an amazing two weeks participating in I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here. The event grabbed my attention so much that I couldn’t resist answering questions in all the sessions. There was also really tough competition from the other scientists, Ricardo, Pierre, Irene, Chloe. Being a winner of that event from Nitrogen Zone, I had to spend the prize money on an outreach activity promoting science.

Although I am an electronics engineer by profession, through my research I’ve started to know more about light and its applications. So I based my outreach activities on both of these, i.e. Electronics and Photonics.

Me demonstraiting the solar cell and its advantages

Me demonstrating the solar cell and its advantages

As a first step I purchased a few Photonics kits which can be used as a tool to explain more about light and how it works. In my original plan I had to visit individual schools to demonstrate the kits and give them hands on feel with various light related components like lasers, prisms, filters etc. But upon suggestion of the Outreach and Public Engagement office at Tyndall, we invited school students to our institute so that we could address a higher number of students.

The demonstration of solar cell was the start my outreach activity. Students were excited to do the experiments. Based on the amount of interactive questions kids asked, I can confidently conclude that the first event was awe-inspiring.


Sending secret messages with light

In our optical communication sessions, students were introduced to the basics of laser and how it can be used for communication. They also had a session of using Morse code over a length of optic fiber to code and decode a message. Students were more active in this session as they were sending out their own personal messages instead of what we had given. It was a fun filled experimental session.

Every single moment I spent on this event made me more and more interested in outreach. I will certainly use the kits to conduct more interactive sessions along with existing outreach activates in Tyndall national institute. Honestly, I believe interacting with kids allows us to know more about ourselves. The prize money from I’m a Scientist has certainly made all of this possible. I would like to thank I’m a Scientist and the Science Foundation Ireland for giving me the opportunity to pass my passion of light on to potential scientists of the future.

What Joseph Roche did with his prize money…

Joseph won the Space Zone in November 2013. Here he tells us about his experience and what he was able to do with his €500 prize money…

I signed up to take part in I’m a Scientist get me out of here to help improve my ability to answer questions. As a scientist and a lecturer I spend most of my time struggling to find answers. I heard rumours that participating in a competition like I’m a Scientist would give me a unique opportunity to answer a wide variety of questions from secondary school students. Even though I visit lots of schools each year, there is just never enough time to visit as many as I would like. I always feel guilty that I have to decline most of the invitations I receive. I hoped that by taking part in I’m a Scientist I could engage with far more schools than I could by visiting them in person.

Despite being confident about my reasons for taking part, once the competition started I was not prepared for the onslaught of questions. It was the most intense rapid-fire rounds of questioning I have ever been involved in. Connecting a scientist to an online forum where 30 students at a time can anonymously bombard them with questions sounds like madness. And it is. But in the best possible way. There were great questions and there were strange questions. There are only so many times you can try and answer “What does the fox say?” and “Bro, do you even lift?” before despairing at meme-culture.

The scientific questions were fantastic but they were questions we should be used to answering. The more unusual questions included: “Why are people so judgey?”, “Where did you get your scarf?” and “Have you got GTA5?” It seemed like some of the students decided they would test the limits of what I would be comfortable answering. Little did they know that their desire to find a question that I would not answer could not outweigh my masochistic need to reply to every single question I was asked. I am not sure why the students picked me as their winner but it is probably simply because I answered more questions than anyone else.

When I was taking part in the competition I was working on finding novel ways for underrepresented social groups to engage with science. I decided that the best way to accomplish this would be to invest in more creative approaches to teaching.

I spent the prize money on a design course to help better equip myself and my colleagues to embrace technology in our lectures. We started encouraging our students to design and record short films explaining science and to share them with each other for feedback. The highlight of this process was when we worked with the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

This Centre is a flagship initiative of the college that promotes inclusion for people with intellectual disability through education and research. We worked with a group of students that otherwise may not have had the chance to encounter higher education science. You can see the some of the students’ work in the video. The impact of this project is that it will raise awareness among people with intellectual disability that they can gain a higher-level education in science at Trinity College Dublin.

Dr Joseph Roche is an Astrophysicist and Assistant Professor in Science Education at Trinity College Dublin. His research area is the role of science in society and he is course coordinator for Trinity’s Masters in Science Education.

You can follow Joseph on Twitter: @joeboating and keep up-to-date on the science education research at Trinity College: @ScienceTCD

What James Sullivan did with his prize money…

James won the Sustainability Zone in November 2014 and here reports back on how the prize money was used for science communication.

We used the I’m a Scientist funding on various open day and open evening events hosted by the UCD school of chemistry. These included dedicated chemistry events, general science undergraduate and postgraduates events and overall university events.

The money was spent on printing periodic tables for distribution to visiting students and also in organizing guided tours of the school’s undergraduate and postgraduate facilities which were facilitated by PhD students in the school.

The school has an active outreach programme that includes participation in university and college events as well as organising events of our own. We also visit a large number of primary and secondary schools and also actively organize for visits of secondary school students on internships.

What Shane McGuinness did with his prize money…

Shane won the Helium Zone in 2013. Here he reports back on what he’s been able to do with his €500 prize money…

Partaking in the I’m A Scientist Get Me Out Here competition during the Autumn of 2013 was an exhilarating experience to say the least. During that period, I found myself warrened away in a darken library, attempting to write up my PhD. The IAS competition was exactly what I needed to frame the “why” of all my hard-worn successes (and failures) of the PhD process.

My goal for the past decade has been to inspire younger generations in the wonders of the world; its biological wonders, its chemical complexities and its physical enigmas. IAS provided exactly that outlet and, as the below use of my prize money attests to, has resulted in my being firmly embedded in science education for Ireland.

Although at times quite frantic (especially the live chats with entire classrooms!), the experience really stretched my depth and breadth of knowledge about the world we live in. It also tested my ability to research topics as fast as possible; being in a general science zone like the Helium Zone meant that questions spanned a wide spectrum, from cancer research to lasers and plate tectonics!

A BioDiversity Jungle event gets underway

A Biodversity Jungle event gets underway

Since winning the outreach bursary, I have put the grant to wide use. This involved three distinct endeavours. Firstly, through our pre-existing group, Biodiversity In Our Lives we used half of the money to stage the Biodiversity Jungle of Knowledge in the EU Commission building in Dublin, in October 2014.

This event, aimed at primary school classes, involved an interactive poster design session, where the youngsters were challenged to “sell biodiversity” to the public. You can find some great photos of this event on our Facebook page (above) or from the EU Commission website. The event was a roaring success and has paved the way for science communication work at the BT Young Scientists Fair and in the Midlands Science Festival.

Shane McGuiness2

Primary school students thinking of examples of biodiversity

The second half of the bursary was used for personal development in science communication. This was achieved by first applying to, and being successfully given a place on, the Sense About Science; Voice of Young Science media engagement workshop in London, in September 2015.

This event, aimed at informing early career researchers on the benefits of engaging with media-reported science and having the confidence to speak out for potentially misleading interpretations of research, was hugely valuable to my personal development as a science communicator. Secondly, the final portion of the bursary from IAS was used to attend a media engagement workshop held by the Irish Environmental Network on how to effectively promote environmentally-aware research and better practice environmental advocacy using media leverage.

May I take this opportunity to thank all at IAS for allowing me to partake in such a stimulating process. Competing alone provided such fantastic opportunities for growth and has greatly built my confidence in communicating science. In addition to this, the winning bursary has provided immeasurable support in developing my skills at science communication and has led to some very creative ideas for biodiversity marketing (from 10 year olds)! Since winning this competition, and owing to the training and experience it has afforded me, I have become the Education and Outreach Officer of Dublin Zoo, a role with enormous potential for inspiring the researchers of tomorrow.

Inspired by Shane’s experience? Apply now for the next I’m a Scientist, taking place 7th–18th November!

Farming Zone – Project Wrangler required

geograph-2642110-by-James-AllanAs part of this year’s activity we are running a non-school zone similar to our Learning Zone – just with farmers instead of teachers.

We are looking to run the zone in November and we now need to recruit someone to run the project with us.

Ideally we’ll find someone who understands the research in the area and knows the irish farming community. We have a full job specification.

It’s could be a full time role or something part-time depending on the applicant. Please get in touch via email or on the phone – +44 1225 326892 – if you are interested.


Demand vs. Capacity for I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer Ireland

In the I’m a Scientist Ireland project pilot in 2012 we ran three zones, since then we have run four zones every year. While we were under capacity in the pilot, the demand for the activity from teachers has remained relatively consistent and looks to be increasing.

I’m a Scientist IE class requests and capacity by academic year — November 2012 – November 2015

I’m a Scientist IE class requests and capacity by academic year — November 2012 – November 2015

Assuming the trend carries on, we would easily be able to run a fifth or even sixth zone in November this year.

The story in I’m an Engineer is a little different.

I’m an Engineer IE class requests and capacity by academic year — November 2014 – February 2016

I’m an Engineer IE class requests and capacity by academic year — November 2014 – February 2016

For the past couple of years we have run two I’m an Engineer events each year; one with the I’m a Scientist event in November, and one in February to coincide with Engineers Week Ireland.

In the first year, we saw teachers favouring the November event albeit only slightly, in 2015/16 though we saw a huge shift towards February, with demand being almost twice what was expected.

The increased demand is too big to come only from existing teachers opting to take part during Engineers Week instead of earlier in the year. More investigation is needed to say how much, but a lot of the demand must have come from new teachers signing up.

In November 2016 there will be no I’m an Engineer event. Our plan is to move the Engineer activity to February alone, keeping the Scientist activity in November.

What is clear — clearer still where we combine the data sets— is that the school demand for our online STEM engagement activities is growing. We need to find ways to increase capacity and offer more students in Ireland the opportunity to take part.

I’m a Scientist and I'm an Engineer IE combined class requests and capacity by academic year — November 2012 – February 2016

I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer IE combined class requests and capacity by academic year — November 2012 – February 2016

Update: 3 June 2016

Requests by country

Graphs of class requests by country for I'm a Scientist and I'm an Engineer Ireland

Class requests by country for I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer Ireland — Click for larger view

We had a quick look at how many of the class requests discussed above came from schools in different countries.

As the graphs show, the majority of requests are coming from schools in the Republic of Ireland, with far fewer coming from Northern Ireland, and the occasional request from a couple of international schools.

Schools in Northern Ireland have always been invited to take part in the Irish events as well as the UK events.

Moving forward, Northern Irish schools will be invited to take part in the UK events only. The occasional international school taking part will now be asked to pay a small charge to do so, this cost to the school will go towards running additional zones in the future.

What Claire O’Connell did with her prize money…

Claire was voted the winner of the Nanoscience Zone in November 2015. She got straight to work making the most of her €500 and here she tells us all about what she’s been able to do with it…

Initially before taking part in the I’m A Scientist competition I had decided that I would make some short animated videos that would help students with understanding complicated ideas. However during the online chats while I was talking with a few students it became clear that they would prefer a visit to the research labs where I am doing my PhD.

When I won, I got planning with the Education and Outreach Officer, Aoife MacCormac, in the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (this is the research centre where I carry out my work). I extended the invitation to as many schools as possible that were able to visit and in the end I had 26 students over two days from three different schools; Inver College Carrickmacross, Beaufort College Navan and St. Mary’s CBS Portlaoise.


The visit started with some chromatography experiments where the students investigated what colours were in the coatings of different types of sweets. Following this I conducted a lab tour of the BDI where the students got to visit the different research labs and see some scientists who were conducting their research and using different pieces of equipment.

After this I explained to the students more about my own research on detecting cancer. We carried out a small experiment where all the students looked at different slides of tissue with one or two slides of cancerous tissue. They came to the conclusion that we can’t just rely on using a normal light microscope to identify cancer cells as they’re very hard to differentiate from normal cells.


The students also got a chance to use the fluorescent microscopes with real cancer cells that I had prepared beforehand with fluorescent tags and the nanoparticles that I test in my PhD. This allowed them to see different parts of the cells (nucleus, membrane, and cancer proteins) and an opportunity for them to realise that fluorescence tags can be one way of identifying cancer amongst many others.

At the end the students were presented with certificates of attendance and they had the opportunity to ask any questions they liked about how to become a scientist or the equipment/research that was ongoing in the tour. I think they all enjoyed taking part in the lab visit and getting to visit the labs. Some of the students had some great questions and I hope I helped to convince a few of them that science can be a difficult but very rewarding career path should they so choose.


I had another school that wanted to come and visit, Boyne Community College Trim, however there were too many students interested that I couldn’t have them all at the same time in BDI for health and safety reasons. I went to visit the 30 enthusiastic students and they carried out the same experiments with the chromatography and microscopy. As they couldn’t visit I thought it was only fair that they should be able to see what the labs were like in BDI so I made a video of the different labs (see above) and showed them the labs they would have seen had they been to visit.

Again I would like to thank all the students that voted for me to allow me to conduct this education and outreach day and to thank the team at I’m A Scientist for the money to do this. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the students that had participated in the I’m A Scientist competition, those that I visited or came to visit me and wish them the best of luck in whatever they chose to do in the future!

Inspired by Claire’s experience? Apply now for the next I’m a Scientist, taking place 7th–18th November!

Want to know more about Claire’s work at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute? Watch this great short animation Claire made last year about her fluorescent nanoparticles research.

I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer – 2015 Report

SFI cover

Click here to download the full report.

In 2015, we ran six zones: Three I’m a Scientist themed zones (Nanoscience, Drug Synthesis and Food Science), one I’m a Scientist general zone (Nitrogen Zone) with a mix of scientists from different areas, one I’m an Engineer themed zone around computing (Boole Zone) and one general engineering zone (Metre Zone).

Our key findings in 2015:

  • We have improved I’m an Engineer audience numbers since last year. In 2014 we ran I’m an Engineer for the first time in Ireland and we got an average of 208 students logged in per zone. In 2015, we have even exceeded our target of 330 students per zone, with 377 students in the Boole Zone, and 350 in the Metre Zone.
  • We have improved the diversity of the scientists and engineers taking part. 10% of the participants were from a black or minority ethnic background, and we got a perfect gender balance in both I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer.
  • 90% of students think they know more about the skills required to be an engineer, the type of people who work as engineers, and engineers’ role in society after taking part in I’m an Engineer.

Download the full report here (PDF).

“Being able to reflect on my choices with you has been pretty inspirational!”

After every event we ask the zone winners to write a short blog post to be sent to all the students in who took part in the zone. It’s a great way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks and thank all the students for voting for them.

Let’s take a look the winners from I’m a Scientist Ireland 2015 had to say…

Sinead, Drug Synthesis Zone

I didn’t realise at the time I signed up just how much I would be waiting in expectation of the next chat, or for new questions to appear in the ASK section. Talking about science with you guys, on your terms and with your questions, was enjoyable and an honour. Being able to share my love of science with you filled me with a sense of pride and really reminded me what science is for: to learn and to pass on your knowledge.

Not just questions about science either, I was happy to answer questions about my own experiences of being a scientist and about what it means to me; honestly, it was the first time I had ever really thought about those questions, and being able to reflect on my choices with you has been pretty inspirational! I think you students, with your honest curiosity, humour, and enthusiasm were really what made the event something to remember.

Emma, Food Science Zone

Who would have thought that being asked questions on a screen could make you literally laugh out loud? But it did! (Much to the disturbance of my office-mates).

The questions you asked were brilliant. Some were a bit odd! But most of them were really thought-provoking. Like, how DOES a cow make milk? Or, how can cheese made with moulds be good for us? You certainly got me thinking.

Claire, Nanoscience Zone

I was expecting questions from students of course but I didn’t think they would be so insightful as to make me stop and think about why I like being a scientist and the challenges that I face on a daily bases.The live chats were hectic but this was only a sign that you guys were really interested in what we scientists do and that was our aim!

Uday, Nitrogen Zone

All of the sessions were fascinating… I remember the saying “Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.” Interacting with these kids and answering their questions made me to understand about myself and my communication skills. When a few kids asked me “How laser works” I was in dilemma. Even though I work with lasers I paused for a moment before answering to think easiest way to make them understand.

Thanks a million.

If you want to share your love of science… Or want to literally laugh out loud… Or just want to learn how cows make milk…

Apply now to take part in the next event

I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here Ireland runs every year in November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

What Sive Finlay did with her prize money…

Sive Finlay won the Lithium Zone back in November 2013, and won €500 to spend on public engagement with science. Here she tells us what she got up to with it…

sivefinlayI thoroughly enjoyed taking part in I’m a Scientist and winning the prize money was an unexpected bonus of a great experience. I donated the money to the Trinity College Dublin Zoological Museum: a beautiful, unusual collection of animals which forms an important part of the Zoology department’s public outreach activities.

Great Auk. Credit: Dr. Martyn Linnie

Great Auk. Credit: Dr. Martyn Linnie

Founded in 1777, the museum houses a collection of over 25,000 unusual specimens, some of which date back to the voyages of Captain Cook. It is an important teaching resource for the college and contains many examples of extinct and endangered species including a Tasmanian wolf, passenger pigeon, kakapo and Giant Irish Deer remains. The museum is in the midst of major refurbishment while we welcome more public visitors and school groups than ever before.

My prize money is being used to make the museum more accessible and appealing to wider audiences. To complement the stories and expertise of our museum guides, the museum’s curator, Dr. Martyn Linnie, is investing the prize money into new, interactive digital information platforms. We are using Intuiface software to create visually appealing, informative content about the exhibits including images and text about the specimens as well as external links to further information about the species. These multimedia packages will enrich the visitor experience as well as highlighting the educational value of the museum as a public resource.

Me and Prince Tom!

Me and Prince Tom!

Many of the specimens have fascinating stories to tell. For example, the Indian elephant skeleton belonged to Prince Tom: a celebrity of the Victorian age who was the first elephant to visit New Zealand, a notorious alcoholic and a star of Dublin Zoo where he quickly learned to buy his own treats with money that visitors placed in his trunk. Another prized specimen is Ireland’s last Great Auk (killed in 1834), a sad reminder of the fate of many species which fall victim to human over exploitation and one of only 20 surviving museum specimens of this beautiful aquatic bird.

Thank you to the I’m a Scientist team for helping us to spread the word about the weird and wonderful stories to be discovered at the TCD Zoological Museum.

The Trinity College museum.

The Trinity College Dublin Zoological Museum.

Close up of the Auk's head. Credit: Dr. Martyn Linnie

Close up of the Auk’s head. Credit: Dr. Martyn Linnie