Engage schools across the UK with your work!

‘It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I am so pleased to have been given the chance to spread the word about air pollution toxicity.’

 Liza Selley, MRC Toxicology Unit

‘I had amazing and clever questions I never expected. Everybody was super friendly and interested in my work, my life and how I got where I am… It’s an experience that everyone should do!’ 

 Sara Falcone, MRC Harwell

The MRC Festival Zone is an online public engagement event that gets researchers and technical staff like you from MRC-funded units, centres and institutes talking to school students across the UK between 3rd–28th June.

It’s part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research, taking place in the UK, The Gambia and Uganda.

You could be:

  • a PhD student researching neurodegenerative disease
  • a technician supporting health informatics research
  • a statistician mapping AMR bugs…

People from all disciplines and roles are welcome to apply and showcase the diversity of UK medical research!

Researchers and technical staff put up a profile on this site, answer students’ questions about medical science, their research, their opinions and interests, and much more. You engage directly with students in live text-based CHATs, who then vote for their favourite MRC competitor to win £500 to spend on further public engagement.

Why take part?

The online competition creates discussion around medical science in the build up to, and during, the MRC Festival of Medical Research in June.

You’ll discover the questions and concerns students have and, by talking in live CHATs, you’ll help students see that scientists are real, relatable people.

For many, you’ll be the first person in science they’ve encountered and you’ll show them that science is for people like them too. Some might start to picture themselves doing the same job as you… And, who knows, perhaps you’ll be the spark for a future Nobel Prize winner (no pressure 😉)?

The event is also a great way to practice communication skills. The format helps you hone your messages and work out the best ways to explain your work to a wide audience, all in a flexible format designed to fit around your availability.

And if that’s not enough, then whisper it, but we hear taking part is actually quite good fun:

“Love, love, loving taking part in @imascientist, so much fun, very engaging” – Scientist on Twitter

How does it work?

Competitors from the 2018 MRC Festival Zone

You log in and interact in two ways;

  • answering questions posted in the ASK section (like these posted to MRC technical manager Helen last year)
  • doing text-based live CHATs with school classes (similar to a group Whatsapp message. Watch a clip from a live chat here)

You can answer the ASK questions whenever and wherever suits you. This will be using a simple web interface, much like sending an email.

The live CHAT will be moderated, and works in a similar way to instant messaging. Each chat runs for 30 minutes and is scheduled during school hours.

Time commitment and expectations

If selected you’ll be ‘live’ on the site between 3rd–28th June.  You’ll be able to answer questions and take part in live CHATs with the schools.

We expect the average time commitment will be around 5-10 hours each week. How much time you actually put in each day is up to you.

One day you might fit in lots, for example, two half-hour CHATs and some ASK questions after work. If another day you’re stuck in meetings and can’t do anything, that’s fine.

You do, however, need to be able to answer questions in each of the four weeks. It’s important that the students who only log in that last week have as good an experience as those on the very first day.

Remember, it all happens online so you can answer questions whenever and wherever you happen to be. Be aware: if you’re in it to win it, answering questions can become pretty addictive.

Do I need any special software or equipment?

All that’s needed is a computer or phone with internet access. The live chats are text-based (no video or audio needed) and run through this site.

What’s the prize money for?

The students will VOTE for the researcher or technical expert they think should win £500 for their own science engagement ideas.

This could be school visits, science fair exhibits, videos or podcasts, blogs, arranging class visits to your lab… as long as it’s involving people outside of research, it’s a good idea. Check out how past winners in I’m a Scientist have spent their money.

How do I take part?

Applications for the 2019 zone are now closed. You can still sign up to hear about future opportunities:

Each event, there’s space for 25 researchers and technical staff and we’re looking for a broad range of people to represent the depth of MRC-funded research.

Find some advice on writing the one sentence description of your work on the general I’m a Scientist FAQ page:  Top tips for writing your one sentence description

If you’d like to know more before signing up, email antony@mangorol.la with your questions, or call us on 01225 326 892.