Neuroscientist Jen wins pupils’ votes as science meets the X Factor
Press release issued: 28 March 2013
A neuroscientist from the University of Bristol has emerged victorious in a competition which gives science lessons an X Factor makeover. Jen Todd Jones, a PhD student in the School of Experimental Psychology, won the science world’s equivalent of the popular music talent show by answering over 200 questions from inquisitive pupils as part of ‘I’m a Scientist: In the Zone’, an online education event part-funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Hundreds of pupils took part via live quick-fire web chats during their science lessons, asking thousands of questions before voting for their favourite scientists to win a prize of £500 to communicate their work with the public.
The ‘I’m a Scientist’ initiative has 11 categories and lasted two weeks, involving 55 scientists, 3,700 students, 178 live chats and nearly 4,000 questions.
It’s the third year in a row that a student or staff member from the University has been voted as one of the competition’s winners, with Jen following in the footsteps of Dr Pete Etchells and Suzi Gage.
Jen, aged 26 and living in Cotham, took part in 20 live questioning sessions, during which youngsters had 30 minutes to ask as many questions as possible about the brain and how it works.
Questions included ‘What’s an adrenaline rush?’, ‘Why do we get brain freeze?’ and ‘Do superheroes have super-powered brains?’. Being an expert in the brain, psychology and language, Jen was able to cope with the quick-fire challenges posed by 11 to 19-year-olds, eventually being voted the overall winner out of the five shortlisted scientists.
She said: “The students asked some really interesting and sometimes unexpected questions. I'm glad they thought my answers were up to scratch and I'm very proud to have been voted the winner. All of the scientists in the Brain Zone gave great answers and I enjoyed talking with them as much as answering the questions from the students.
“The ‘I'm a Scientist’ project is an excellent way to bring science straight into the classroom and I've really enjoyed working through this medium. I was thrilled to see that so many students were really starting to think about science as more than just a subject at school and maybe considering it as a job in the future.”
Jen’s PhD is in psycholinguistics - the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use and understand language. She’s looking at how the brain is different for someone who speaks one language compared to someone who speaks two or more languages, and even how people with brain damage use language.
She plans to use her £500 prize money to create and distribute posters and videos based on some of the facts pupils found most interesting and intriguing about the brain.
Jen will also be taking part in ‘I'm a neuroscientist get me out of here – Live’ at the Barbican in London on 9 April where she’ll compete against four other neuroscientists to win the audience’s vote and money for a charity of their choice.