Volcano and environment specialists beat hot competition as science meets the X Factor
19 December 2013
University of Bristol PhD students James Hickey and Sarah Tesh have claimed victory in an X Factor style science competition.
It was manic but so much fun! The students were all very positive and I really hope the event actually gave them a view of science outside of school and how great it can be.
The competition aims to get school children interested in science through quizzing scientists on their work, science, and their day-to-day lives. The initiative has seven ‘zones’ or categories and lasts two weeks. During the second week scientists are voted out until only one remains.
James was crowned the winner of the Tellurium Zone and Sarah the Extreme Clean Zone. They fielded thousands of questions via quick-fire web chats during pupils’ science lessons, and were impressed by the range of queries the youngsters had.
Questions ranged from: ‘How long can you last standing in lava without dying?’, ‘Do you think that if it wasn’t for Isaac Newton we would know about gravity?’ to ‘Why do women get cravings when they are pregnant?’, ‘Why is your science revolutionary’ and ‘Do you believe in evolution or that God created the world?’
James, a volcanology specialist, was able to cope with the quick-fire challenges posed by the 11 to 19 year-olds.
He said: “My mind was blown away by the huge variety of questions. I had to work pretty hard, but I’m glad I did. Some of the questions were so imaginative, I think we start to lose that sort of mental freedom as we get older and our curiosity is constrained by sense, so it was refreshing to see it again.”
Taking part in the competition has made me realise that a science communication and outreach career is something I would very happily do when I finish my PhD.
She said “The whole experience definitely boosted my confidence when it comes to promoting science to schools, explaining my work and doing similar projects. I’ve already signed up for a Science in Broadcasting course and will definitely be doing more events like ‘I’m a Scientist’”
James plans to spend the £500 prize on ‘Volcano Days’ hosted at the University or in local schools. The days will teach pupils more about volcanoes through experiments and a role play experience of decision making in a developing volcano crisis. Sarah’s winnings will go to a school in Africa where students have no access to clean drinking water.
Both are PhD students in the University’s Faculty of Science.