Students are the judges in this web-based competition to find the best science communicators

I’m a scientist, get me out of here is the X Factor of science communication with a twist: in this competition you (the student) can be the judge. These free online events let you talk to scientists, either during live online chats or by sending in questions. You can find out exactly what it is these scientists do, how they do it and what made them choose a career in science.

Students on laptops


How does it work?

Scientists apply to take part in one of a selection of themed and general zones, some of which are sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Five scientists are chosen for each zone to battle it out over a two week period, but only one from each zone will emerge victorious to claim the £500 prize to spend on a science communication project of their choice.

Week one offers you the chance to find out about the scientists and engage in discussions about real-life science. There are two ways to do this: by sending in questions that the scientists try to answer by the next day or by participating in live text-based, Facebook-style chats. In week two the voting begins and a scientist is evicted from each zone every day until the winner of each zone is declared on the final Friday. Previous winners of RSC-sponsored zones have included:

  • Rhod Jenkins, Energy Zone, June 2013: ‘I study the stuff that microbes make to see if it can be used to fuel the cars and planes of the future, and make sure we’ll all be able to go on holiday!’
  • Roy Adkin, Colour Zone, March 2014: ‘I’m an organic chemist using fluorescent lanthanide organic ligand complexes to study organic compounds in meteorites. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is! I’m happy to explain all about it, just ask! :-)’

The RSC also sponsored the Water Zone (happening right now as this issue goes to print) and a health themed zone, which will take place in November.

Why take part?

These events let you talk to real-life chemists. You can ask them what makes them tick, how they got started in research, what they will do next, why they enjoy chemistry, as well as science-related questions.

Here are some examples of the questions that students have asked:

  • ‘Is it true that fridges in the US consume the same amount of energy as 25 large power plants produce every year?’
  • ‘Do carrots actually make you see in the dark?’
  • ‘Why do we see colours?’
  • ‘Did you always know you wanted to be a scientist?’
  • ‘Do you think you will always be involved with science?’
  • ‘What is your hope for the future of science?’
  • ‘Do you prefer skateboarding or science?’
  • ‘If you won the lottery how would you spend your money?’

Also, by getting involved in the debates and asking questions, you are in with a chance of winning a £20 gift voucher. This prize is awarded to the student that has participated the most in each zone.

Students that have been involved in previous RSC-sponsored zones have reported back that they enjoyed challenging the scientists and voting to select their winner. For example:

  • Sciencecrazy11, student: ‘I enjoyed this chat very much – thank you for time. You’re a good guy, Rhod – hope you do well!’

How can you get involved?

These events run three times a year. You can get your whole class involved by asking your chemistry teacher to sign up. Visit the website at for more information.

Originally published in The Mole