Friday, 27 June 2008

I am a scientist...

I've spent the past two weeks taking part in an event called I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here. This was funded by the Wellcome Trust and was all about forging links between professional scientists and school students to further the students' understanding of science and remove a lot of the mystique that surrounds the area.

I was in a knockout contest against four other scientists - two cancer researchers, a chemist and a cosmetics researcher. Over the fortnight students from around the country bombarded us with questions about our work (and ourselves!), and we took part in many frantic live chat sessions where we were grilled mercilessly and made to defend our work in short snippets of text. They voted somebody out every few days.

And the result of all this is that after a week of eliminations, yours truly has been chosen by the students as the winning scientist. I win £500 for science communication - woo-hoo! I'm very surprised: I really thought one of the cancer researchers would get it (not only did the students clearly see cancer research as really worthy, but they were both much nicer than me in the chat sessions!).

But tempting as it is to gloat about winning, I see this as a victory for psychology rather than me. From the questions I was asked (which you can read if you look at the website - log in as a guest and choose GCSE 2 from the menu at the top), it was clear this was an area that the school-aged students simply hadn't been exposed to, and which they found really interesting. School science teaching is rooted in the 'big three' of physics, biology and chemistry, and these are massively important subjects. But there is clearly an appetite for psychology amongst the students too. Already hugely popular as an A-level, it's time for a lot more schools to start offering psychology at GCSE too. If nothing else, it surely would act as a powerful way of keeping girls interested in the more scientific end of education.

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