David McAfee, Australian Science and Mathematics School, 2013

As a student it’s not everyday that you get to speak to scientists, however with this second rotation of the I’m a Scientist get me out here LEO, it is certainly becoming a more frequent occurrence. This open online forum allowed me to easily ask questions to five scientists working in the field of microbiology, DNA and genomics. The questions asked were open ended and the scientists generally responded within just a matter of hours, making the experience just as interactive and enjoyable as the first.

Responses from the scientists were very informative and presented a range of opinions and ideas across those involved. The connections between bacterial genetic engineering and food technology genetic engineering allowed me to expand my overall view on the subject of genetic engineering and understand the societal misconceptions behind this new scientific field.

My involvement also led to my second ‘I’m a Scientist Highly Commended” certificate.

Like the first time, there were some unique debates between the scientists and some very interesting perspectives. It was a great learning opportunity and I, personally, felt as though I learnt a great deal about the way the scientists work, their views for the future and what it is like to be in such a profession. And, in the process, I also learnt a lot about microbiology and some of the fundamental ideas behind the field.

The questions I asked in this rotation were; “how big are cells?”, “what is the strangest microorganism you have come across?” and “what do you see as the applications of microbiology in the future?”

At the end of the two weeks, the scientist who was the most engaged in the program, as voted by the students, won an award to continue working and to fuel their research grants. This allows students to interact with the program on a deeper level, and was something that provoked scientists to give the detailed answers that secondary school students wanted to read.

The competition is run twice a year and I would strongly recommend it to those who are interested in tertiary career pathways in science.