James has the X Factor as he lifts top science award

James Munro came out top in vote-off competition
James Munro came out top in vote-off competition
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AN Edinburgh Napier science technician has come out on top in a UK-wide online competition in which school students vote for their favourite scientist.

James Munro – a psychology technician within the University’s School of Applied Sciences – defeated five other scientists in the Relationships subject zone of the I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here competition.

The X Factor-style competition saw students challenge the scientists over fast-paced online text-based live chats.

After voting for the scientist who they felt answered their questions the best, scientists were voted off day-by-day, with James coming out the overall winner of his zone.

James answered nearly 75 forum questions and 500 live chat questions during his pursuit of victory, with 12-17 year-old pupils from 10-20 schools taking part in his zone’s competition.

The topics of the questions varied, from questions about life – “Do you enjoy what you do?”, and “How did you get where you are?” – to questions about science such as, “How do mirror neurons work?”, and, “How well do thriller movies represent psychological research?”

For James, the chance to get involved with outreach to a younger generation interested in science was one that he simply couldn’t refuse. He said: “I loved every part of this competition. I would do it as a full-time job if possible.

“The live chat questions were manic and chaotic and wonderful. I told the I’m a Scientist team that if I could do the live chats full-time as a job, I would. Imagine 30 minutes with 20-30 pupils who fire questions at you, followed up by polite responses and further questions.

“Imagine one pupil asking you if you would do things different in another life, followed by a pupil asking you what part of the brain deals with emotions. Then yet another asking you something more sensitive about sexuality or suicide. It was thrilling and I’m sad it is over. If I could design classes at university to work in the same way, I would.”

James’s £500 prize money was put towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education outreach.

He said: “With the prize money in mind, I’m currently approaching organisations that make science accessible and entertaining to adults all around Edinburgh with the hope that they might be persuaded to put on some school-pupil focused events – Edinburgh Napier is not short of excellent science communicators. The most important thing is to put the money towards encouraging everyone to have a go at STEM if they want to – not just the usual suspects.

“Opportunities to assist, engage and share knowledge with others is a big part of what drives us to do what we do. I think that is something worthy of recognition. So cheers to I’m a Scientist, and for all those at Edinburgh Napier who encourage opportunities like this.”