4th July 2011
Are worms ticklish? A Bristol PhD student has the answer!
Bristol student Suzi Gage is one of the winners of I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!, an X Factor-style competition for scientists, where school children aged 13 to 18 are the judges.
To win, Suzi, a first-year PhD student at the University of Bristol, had to answer over 650 questions on subjects ranging from whether worms are ticklish to how the universe began. The questions came from schoolchildren across the UK through live web chats in their science lessons.
Suzi competed with four other scientists in the 'brain zone' for two weeks and during the second week the students evicted one scientist each day until Suzi emerged victorious.
In total there were 23 ‘zones’, each involving five scientists and around 400 students from eight schools, including St Mary Redcliffe & Temple School (Bristol), Mangotsfield School (Bristol) and Broadoak Maths and Computing College (Weston). The zones covered topics ranging from evolution and genes to forensics and sports.
Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the project gets teenagers talking to real scientists online and learning about real science. Students have fun, but also get beyond stereotypes, learn how science relates to real life, develop their thinking and discussion skills and make connections with real scientists.
Suzi, whose background is in psychology, is using data from the Children of the 90s study to explore whether there is a connection between smoking cannabis and mental-health problems including psychosis and depression.
She plans to use her £500 prize money to travel the country and interview people for podcasts about recreational drugs and their effects.
Suzi said: "It means so much to me to have won – it was such an eye-opening event. The kids asked such brilliant questions.
"Not only do I feel I've taught them something, but I've learnt a whole lot myself – and even have a better understanding of my own research after taking the time to explain it to others.
"I thoroughly recommend any scientist to take part, it's one of the best public-engagement science schemes I've ever seen. I wish it had been around when I was at school!"