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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Get me out of here!

What a great couple of weeks it's been and finally I now have a chance to rest. My fingers are aching from typing so much and my brain hurts from puzzling over hundreds of queries. After participating in "I'm a scientist, get me out of here", was it all worthwhile?

The gloves are off

The first week started as a bit of fun, chatting to some kids and quite simply being amazed by the variation of questions that kept popping up on the screen. As the second week began however, things started to get a little more serious.

The fairly sedate pace of the first week saw 3 live chat sessions spread out over the 5 days. By comparison, at the end of the second Tuesday another 4 chat sessions were done. And the end of Tuesday meant it was time for the first eviction. It was Jon that fell at the first hurdle. He admitted that his demise was probably attributed to missing that day's chats due to work. The loss of a fellow scientist made the event suddenly all so real. Could I afford to miss a question so I had time to purify some protein? Could I afford to delay purifying some protein so I had time to answer more questions?

Get me out of hereWednesday saw the loss of Yalda. We had all been in the chats, we had all been quick to get a share of the all important (or not so) first response to questions posted online. So what had made the difference this time? No eye contact in her profile picture was the best suggestion I heard. Did the students want short, straight answers, did they want some humour? Was a question as a reply the best way to engage them, or would a detailed essay be preferred? My guess was a good mix of it all and that's what I went for, although not the easiest thing to pull off.

4 chats were scheduled for Thursday; it was going to be a busy day. The culmination was an exchange with an all girls school, that included arguments over animal testing and inquiries into how many children we all wanted. This may have been the deciding factor of why Claire was next to leave.

So, I was in the final! It was now just me and a fellow PhD student Jack. I was so relieved to have made it through to the end. But after coming so far, my only thoughts were now on the win. Jack obviously felt the same, with some (fairly light) fighting talk on Twitter.

The winner of the Drug Development zone is...

After 2 weeks of grilling the scientists, asking questions that they either never dared or never had the chance to in normal classes and actually getting to know the scientists with some (sometimes too) personal questions, the winners were undoubtedly the students. What a fantastic event it has been, with great credit of course going to the organisers and moderators who kept everything running smoothly. Hopefully I have played some small part in sparking the students' interest in science and maybe even hooking a few in for life.

The results of the all the zones were announced one by one in the "staffroom" on the website, with many of the nervous scientists then expressing their joy and congratulations to their peers. After finishing off the nails on all my fingers, the Drug Development zone was the last to be declared. Jack and I had made that final push for the student votes, there were no more questions to answer and no more opinions to sway. The votes were counted. It was a tie! Equal votes, both winners. A wonderful end to a brilliant event. We congratulated each other and now both have the chance to use the £500 prize for further outreach events. So again, the real winners are the students.

The scheme is running again in June and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to get experience explaining theories and concepts to a different audience or just wanting a break from talking to their boring old professor.

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