Aberdeen scientist hopes she has the X Factor

An Aberdeen scientist will be spending a lot of time online and in chat rooms this week and next … but she’s doing it with the blessing of her boss.

Dr Donna MacCallum is one of 100 scientists taking part in an educational initiative said to be like school science lessons meet the X Factor.

I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here is the name of the science dialogue event which brings school pupils and teachers together with scientists, who in turn are competing for a £500 prize.

Around 8,000 school pupils are expected to engage online with the scientists who will talk about their work, answer questions and take part in live chat.

The young students will then vote for who they think should win the prize money. Each day of the second week the scientist with the fewest votes will be voted off until just one remains in each of their groups.

Dr MacCallum, a Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen, said: “I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here should be a lot of fun and, of course, the hope is that we can enthuse the next generation to follow a career in science.

“I’ve got two English schools already booked for live chats with me this week and I’m hoping others will sign up too.

“I’ll be telling my students that science offers a fantastic career and can also take you all over the world. I’ve seen a lot of America and been to Spain, Italy, France and Japan with my work.”

Originally from Arbuthnott, near Laurencekirk, Dr MacCallum always wanted to be a scientist. The 37-year-old graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a degree in genetics before completing a PhD in microbiology.

Now Dr MacCallum is part of the University’s internationally recognised Aberdeen Fungal Group and her research involves studying how fungi cause infection, disease and even death in some people.

“The event organisers have asked us to set aside one to two hours each day for answering questions and online chat with the school students and I’m looking forward to explaining more about my work with microbes that can’t be seen by the naked eye, yet can make such a difference to our health.

“I’ll also be telling them how no two days in my work are the same. One day I will be in the lab, the next I could be teaching students or writing a paper or I could be off somewhere attending a conference. Science really offers an incredibly varied career.”

Dr MacCallum will continue to share her passion for science should she scoop the prize money.

“I already do workshops for nursery children and if I did win the money I’d use it to continue enthusing children about science,” she added.

For more information about I’m a Scientist see: http://imascientist.org.uk/