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Jennifer Stephens: Making science fun for youngsters and inspiring the next generation

Jennifer Stephens, winner at I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!
"It is definitely one of the best things I’ve done as a scientist, and reminded me how much fun science can be

After winning at the UK’s largest online science engagement event, a researcher from the James Hutton Institute has embarked on a mission to inspire the next generation of scientists, becoming at the same time an ambassador for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In spite of competition from four other brilliant scientists, Dr Jennifer Stephens was declared winner of the Agriculture Zone at I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here. The contest featured the participation of 209 students from Doha College (Qatar), Mary Webb School, Dover Grammar School for Boys, The Royal School Dungannon and Lathallan School. More than 450 questions were asked, particularly on topics such as genetics, breeding, photosynthesis and scientific methods.

“For two weeks I was part of a panel of agricultural scientists communicating science with young students from schools throughout the UK and overseas. The communications took place via live web chats and online questions. The breadth of questions was astonishing, and not only about science. It is definitely one of the best things I’ve done as a scientist, and reminded me how much fun science can be.

“Since the competition I’ve been looking for more ways to continue this interaction with youngsters to encourage them to continue on the road to science careers. In particular, women currently make up only 13% of the UK STEM workforce which is such as shame. A career in science can be deeply rewarding for both males and females,” Dr Stephens said.

Dr Stephens’ passion for inspiring young minds didn’t end with her victory at I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here. With the prize money, she has created a website to make science fun for youngsters: The website is aimed at children of all ages, and features a series of experiments related to agricultural science, including How Do Plants Get Water, Germinating Seeds, Separating Colours, Popping Candy Cookies, and Jelly Worms. It also includes a list of iPad apps designed to entice young minds to find the science behind our environment.

“I also plan to develop closer links with local schools by starting ‘Shadow a Scientist Day’ where students can come, put on a white lab coat, and spend a day in the lab with a real scientist. Maybe that will spark an interest in some of them to follow a scientific career. My own interest in agriculture came about following a visit to an Open Day at the James Hutton Institute many years ago,” Dr Stephens said.

Notes to editors

‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here’ is a free online event where school students get to meet and interact with scientists. It’s a free X Factor-style competition between scientists, where the students are the judges. Students challenge the scientists over intense, fast-paced, online live chats. Then they ask the scientists all the questions they want to, and vote for their favourite scientist to win a prize of £500 to communicate their work with the public.

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Printed from /news/jennifer-stephens-making-science-fun-youngsters-and-inspiring-next-generation on 07/12/23 03:24:18 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.