To get selected by the students in my zone to win this event is a huge honour and something that has really made my year. To be able to talk and discuss ideas with young people in this kind of forum is a genuine privilege. I am proud to have taken part and I am also proud of you, the students, for doing such a good job. The questions I received were excellent: insightful, creative, bold, sometimes funny and occasionally very tricky! To be on the ‘front lines’ and see you engage with the scientific community in this way was something to behold.
It was highly flattering when students showed an interest in my topic area (sleep psychology) and I hope I did it justice. However I also loved the broader questions you asked. Some of them really made me sit up straight in my seat and put me through my paces. What would happen if we cured death? What is the meaning of life? What experiences or events have changed my life? What changes do I want to see in the world? In some instances I had to take a long walk before responding to mull things over. The fact that some of these amazing questions engaged me in this way is a testament to you, the students. You are a bright and thoughtful bunch. Thank you for inspiring me and making my last fortnight one to remember.
I also really enjoyed it when you asked me to clarify facts or information you had previously heard about psychology or science in general. Questions that began with ‘Is it true that…’ put a real smile on my face! More often than not these questions related to ‘urban myths’ which are common misconceptions about science. For example ‘Do we only use 10% of our brains?’ or ‘If we wake up a sleepwalker will they die?’ (the short answer is ‘no’ on both counts). It is truly fantastic that you are seeking out second opinions, engaging in basic fact checking and are generally demonstrating critical thinking like this. Not only is it a quality I hugely admire but it is also something the world needs more of. This is very much to your credit and something I hope you continue to do for the rest of your lives.
While I am incredibly happy to win (particularly as I get a cool mug!) I also really need to thank some of the other people involved. The scientists here in the Memory Zone gave answers that certainly taught me a few things. In particular, Paul and Nadine in the home stretch put in a lot of effort into providing coherent, interesting and engaging answers to your questions. I learned a lot from them and I hope you did too. I also think the British Psychological Society deserve credit for sponsoring our zone, I will spend their prize money wisely. Lastly, the folks at I’m a Scientist who oversee the chats, moderate questions and organise the event have done a stellar job.
In short: thank you for voting for me but even more so for the questions you asked all of us. Even if you don’t end up in a career directly involved in science, I hope you always continue to show an interest in what we do. We need people like you to make it all worthwhile.
Scientists! If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here: imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply