Category Archives: Winner Reports

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

Posted on April 22, 2015 modantony in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Enda O’Connell did with his prize money…

Enda O’Connell won the Health Zone back in 2012, and won €500 to spend on public engagement with science.

Let’s take a look at how he spent his prize money!

I took part in the first ever Irish I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here in 2012, and slotted into that year’s Health Zone as I work in the National University of Ireland, Galway in the area of biomedical science, mainly in cancer research and stem cell biology. This was my first ever involvement with science outreach and engagement and I had an amazing experience, which I put down to the infectious enthusiasm shown by the students for science during the online chats.

One of the tools I use every day is an automated liquid handling system called Janus (manufactured by Perkin Elmer), which was dubbed a “cancer-fighting robot” by one of the students taking part. They seemed fascinated by Janus and wanted to know if “she” could talk and walk, had ever attacked me in the lab or whether I was, in fact, in love with her! I got a great kick out of answering their written questions too, and for two weeks I became an expert in food (eggs, fizzy drinks and healthy sweets), anatomy (tongues, tonsils and belly buttons) and superheroes (Iron Man’s elements and Spiderman’s not-so-super powers).

Students creating a ReelLife Science film

Students creating a ReelLife Science film

My idea for using the €500 I’m a Scientist prize money was to launch a video competition in secondary schools in Galway to enable students to engage with and communicate a scientific topic in less than 3 minutes.  The University liked the idea and I was able to secure extra funding through the College of Science and the Students’ Union to launch in primary schools too.

I put together a team of enthusiastic science staff and students and we launched ReelLife Science in September 2013.  The response was great, and we received videos from all parts of Galway on topics such as Astrobiology, Stem Cells, Keeping Healthy and the Environment.  We got some great coverage in the national and local press and online, and I also gave a couple of interviews promoting the competition to local radio stations.  We used social media quite a lot and engaged with the public through a blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed (@ReelLifeScience).

We announced the winning videos in November and they received thousands of views from over 60 countries on our YouTube channel.  The winning schools received a total of €1000 in prize money, to also be spent on science communication projects or events in their schools, continuing on the I’m a Scientist principle of paying-it-forward.

The winners of the primary school first prize were the 5th and 6th class students of Scoil Mhuire in Rosmuc with their video in Irish (as Gaeilge) about different methods of seed dispersal. First place at secondary school level went to Michael McAndrew of St. Enda’s College in Galway City, who wrote, produced and played the music on his animated Astrobiology video. Since winning ReelLife Science, Michael has actually started teaching his classmates how to produce animated videos! We were also able to get an extra special prize for Michael’s school, when Medical Supply Company gave them a PCR machine, enzymes pipettes and everything else they’ll need to set up a molecular biology lab!

Primary School ReelLife Science Winners: 5th and 6th Class Students of Scoil Mhuire in Rosmuc

Primary School ReelLife Science Winners: 5th and 6th Class Students of Scoil Mhuire in Rosmuc

Secondary School ReelLife Science Winner at St. Enda's College in Galway City

Secondary School ReelLife Science Winner at St. Enda’s College in Galway City

All of the winning schools attended the Galway Science and Technology Festival in November, where we held an award ceremony and all of their videos were on display to the general public.

Earlier this year, we secured significant funding from the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Science and Engineering programme, which “seeks to promote the awareness and engagement of the Irish public with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)” to launch ReelLife Science in every school in Ireland, over 4,000 primary and secondary schools!  We will be launching the competition on September 1st 2014, so watch this space!

Posted on August 7, 2014 ModJosh in Winner Reports | Leave a comment

What Paul Higgins did with his prize money…

paulhigginsPaul won the Space Zone in November 2012, find out how he spent his winnings:

I participated in the Space Zone of the 2012 Irish I’m A Scientist contest while finishing off my PhD. I was both surprised and elated to win it! (proof: I then defended my thesis, got married, and moved to California…whew. Finally, this summer I was granted a bit of free time to kick off my ‘dream’ project: My proposal is to build an interactive, story-driven, educational website to help bring astronomy and space concepts into the Irish class room.

I managed to put together a consortium of solar scientists, teacher and outreach consultants, and web/game/graphic design developers. Using the Irish school curriculum, with the help of Irish school teachers, we are designing lessons that can be used in the class room to teach concepts such as magnetism, gravity, and the planets. The lessons are made to be engaging through our use of comic book-style art work, and the linear background story is used as a vehicle. Each lesson ends with an on-line quiz about the lesson (teachers will have access to the results), followed by the student being rewarded with a web-integrated mini-game, designed to subtly teach the student a space themed concept, such as orbital mechanics (ever played Galaga?).


With the prize, I obtained some web space and the domain name, and hired a web designer to put together a nice splash page for the project. I am currently working with a graphic designer to put together a sample comic book page, introducing the background story. So, with the I’m a Scientist money we now have nice page (; work in progress!) advertising the project and its elements. Building on our I’m a Scientist-funded proof of concept, the Solar Surfer team is currently working on a proposal for a substantial outreach grant to continue the development process and engage Irish schools during 2014. Wish us luck!

Hopefully those amazing students that voted for my project in the Space Zone will see the Solar Surfer team visit their schools in a year or two!

Paul and the Solar Surfer Team

Posted on October 8, 2013 ModJosh in News, Winner Reports | Leave a comment