IAS logo PNGIn order for the UK life science industry to grow and thrive, it must continue to engage the next generation of scientists. In today’s blog, Antony Poveda from outreach programme I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! explains more about the project and how you can get involved, inspiring the biotech scientists of the future.

Explain your research in one sentence. Can you manage it? If you’ve ever been asked by your grandparents, cousins, or other family members over Christmas dinner ‘What is it you’re doing again?’ you may know it’s not as easy as it sounds. Over time, you may have even constructed a ready-made soundbite for these joyous social occasions. Now, instead of the politely interested relative you barely see, imagine your audience is a curious 13-year old school student and give it another try. If you can do it this time, you’re ready to inspire the next generation of biotech scientists by taking part in I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!

It is widely acknowledged that we need to encourage today’s school students to consider choosing careers in our growing biotechnology sector. In order to achieve this, we need to have science outreach that more accurately reflects the range of careers available to scientists after studying. It’s important to show what life as a scientist is actually like, in all its possibilities – industry and academia. Think back to when you were 13 years old: did anyone make you aware of the biotechnology role that you’re currently in? Thanks to the Internet, you have the opportunity to be that person for school students across the UK.

I’m a Scientist is an online science outreach activity – an X-Factor style competition for scientists, where students are the judges. Five scientists each set up a profile on our website, have live online text-based chats and answer questions from school students all over the UK. Following the chats, students vote for their favourite scientist, with the winner receiving £500 to spend on public engagement and science outreach. It’s a simple format that changes the way students view science and scientists for the better. As one school student recently described it: ‘#bestsciencelessonever!

It’s crucial that today’s students have access to more role models working in bioscience companies across the industry. Taking part in I’m a Scientist is an accessible and enjoyable way to achieve this. By engaging with hundreds of bright, inquisitive school students all over the country, you can have a real, positive impact on their attitudes towards careers in biotech.

The benefits to researchers who take part are many. It’s a unique, fun way of taking your first steps in science outreach and developing communication skills. You can gain a fresh perspective on your research, connect with new networks, discover what young people think about science and the role of scientists, and remember why you fell in love with science in the first place. As Jo Sadler of GlaxoSmithKline, winner of the most recent I’m a Scientist in March, puts it “The questions really made me stop and think about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it – and most of all about how other people think about scientists and what we do”.

Accessibility is the strength of the competition. Everything in I’m a Scientist happens on the web, so you can take part without leaving your desk. Every event is a mix of themed zones (focusing on a specific topic, eg Hormones Zone, Health Zone) and general science zones (involving scientists from a variety of fields), so there is room for every kind of biotech scientist!

For the application all you need is that one sentence summary you came up with at the start of this blog, so get into the mindset of a school student and think: what would be interesting and understandable for that audience? If nothing else, you now have a new line ready for your next festive inquisition.

To find out more visit imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or email Antony on the I’m a Scientist team at antony@gallomanor.com.

You can apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply.