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The University of Southampton

Chatty chemist voted winner of ‘I’m a Scientist’ Drug Discovery Zone

Published: 6 June 2019
Picture of Lee Steinberg

Doctoral researcher Lee Steinberg from the University of Southampton has been named the winner of an online X-Factor-style competition connecting schoolchildren with scientists.

He was voted top in the I’m a Scientist Get Me Out Of Here competition’s Drug Discovery Zone after impressing in a series of fast-paced web chats with aspiring scientists.

Lee is completing a PhD in Computational Chemistry at Southampton that is using new techniques to analyse chemical data.

He has pledged to invest his competition prize money in the ongoing development of a new outreach app that acts as a virtual chemistry laboratory.

“I hope that I’ve been able to show pupils that chemistry is about more than lab coats and that anyone can be a scientist,” Lee says. “Both of these things are important so we have more scientists in future, who can help us solve the challenges the world will face.”

Lee took part in two weeks of web chats with 11 to 18 year olds alongside rival scientists. Students were able to ask the scientists anything they wanted and voted in daily evictions that whittled the entrants down to a final three who went head to head to complete the competition.

“I was asked a wide variety of questions, the most common being how I use computers to help do chemistry,” Lee explains. “They were also very interested in what it was like to be a scientist more generally, and comparing it to other jobs.”

Lee is part of the Theory and Modelling in Chemical Sciences Centre for Doctoral Training and is using topological data analysis to help find new data-driven insights that enable researchers to design molecules with desirable properties. 

He is using the winnings to purchase new equipment, including a VR headset, for his team’s Argon outreach app. The particle sandbox enables users to see how changes to macroscopic properties, such as temperature and pressure, influence the behaviour of atoms and molecules. The tool is currently available on Mac and Windows, as well as on the App Store.


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