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The University of Southampton

I’m a Scientist – get me out of here

Published: 14 April 2015
I’m a Scientist

Chemistry PhD student Frank Longford took on the ultimate challenge when he volunteered to answer questions from schoolchildren during daily online chat sessions. Along with fellow young scientists, he tackled dozens of questions as varied as ‘how many water particles would there be in the Atlantic Ocean?’, ‘how hot is the centre of the sun?’ and ‘who is your favourite football player?’*

The chemist enjoyed the assignment, part of I’m a Scientist – get me out of here supported by the Wellcome Trust. It is designed to enthuse pupils about science and encourage them to think about careers in the various disciplines. For half an hour a day over a fortnight, questions flooded in to the website for Frank and his colleagues Zena, Jared, Isabel and Ian to answer as accurately, clearly and swiftly as they could.


Frank Longford, Chemistry PhD

“It was a tough call but great fun,” explains Frank. “It’s good to bridge the gap between what the kids might think about science and scientists and what really happens, we don’t all spend our time in white coats in the laboratory, for example. I like teaching and enjoyed the interaction and hope everyone else got as much fun out of it as I did.”

At the end, the schoolchildren voted Frank their ‘favourite scientist’. He plans to spend the £500 prizemoney on a LEGO kit of a Watts balance they could use in outreach activities. “We use a lot of LEGO in the laboratories, for teaching purposes of course, and it’s very useful to inspire children and give them a chance to explore how much fun investigating science can be,” he adds.

Frank joined the University of Southampton after taking a Masters of Chemistry (MChem) at Sussex. He is based at the interdisciplinary Institute of Complex Systems Simulations Centre for Doctoral Training working with Professor Jeremy Frey’s team to investigate the unusual behaviour of water molecules through supercomputer simulations.

*it’s a close contest between Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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