14 July 2012
By Blanka Sengerová
It's now a week since my stint in this year's take of "I'm a Scientist, get me out of here" ended, so here are some of my reflections. For those of you who don't know what the event involves, read my previous article.
Overall feeling: absolutely exhilirating to take part, with some fantastic and thoughtful questions from the students. Yes, some were rather predictable with things such as 'why do we have bogeys and why do we pick our noses?' or 'why do we fart?' (but as an aside, do any of you know the answer?), but we also got to discuss some astrophysics, quantum theory, the ethics of animal experimentations, the reasons for why we sleep and dream, the importance of our own research and many many other topics.
Best bit: the live chats. The event is partly about answering the questions that are submitted by students via the website in your own time (which gives you a bit more time to answer them in more detail), but I think the best bit was doing the chats where a classful of students is online at the same time as you (and some of the other scientist) and you try to answer questions in real-time.
A few points that became clear:
- don't be afraid to say "I don't know", because we aren't experts at everything
- don't worry about answering every question and don't be a perfectionist - it is OK to misspell the odd word in live chats (particularly when you're typing with one hand) and you don't have to answer every question with a long explanation, a short one sentence answer might well be enough
- it's important to just be yourself, because students need to see that being a scientist doesn't mean that we're totally out of touch with the real world
- need to be prepared to answer personal question - eg. age and salary, but then again you're fully entitled to say "I'd rather not say"
- it takes quite a bit of time during the intense two week period but you can give it as much as you want - I could have spent a lot more time answering some questions but needed the odd bit of sleep occasionally!
And on the eviction front? I made it halfway through, with two people being evicted before me and the two finalists being left after I went.
It was a great experience and crucially a worthwhile one - many of the students we'd talked to had no idea what a scientist does and if each of them learnt at least one new thing, then it was worth it. I would certainly recommend taking part to anyone who might be vaguely interested, just register here.
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