My first steps to inspiring the new generation of scientists.

PhDs are full of amazing opportunities and memorable moments – but this one I didnt expect to have. The opportunity to teach high school students about me, my lab life and my research!

I have always said that I could NEVER be a teacher – but after today I feel like maybe I could. So Ive also shown you as part of my blog certain ‘days in the life of a PhD’ which so far have only shown different days in the lab – so although this post isnt the same format I wanted to show that some of my days can be soent at training courses – so today I spent my day at a ‘Meet the Scientist’ training day with the LifeLab at the Univeristy of Southampton and started my journey to become a STEM ambassador.

The LifeLab in Southampton opens their doors to Year 9 students (13-14 years old) and is a fully functional lab that allows the students to carry out a variety of experiments from taking their own blood pressure to gel electrophoresis!! But the part of their day they find the most interesting is the ‘Meet the Scientist’ session where they have an opportunity to meet two scientists and discuss their research with them.

So as part of my blog is to try and inspire the younger generation and future generation of scientists I jumped at the chance to sign up to these opportunities and complete this training to boost my confidence about carrying out a ‘Meet the Scientist’ session by myself with a bunch of teenagers – a thought that at the start of the day made me feel incredibly anxious.

It was a training day I thoroughly enjoyed – not something you often hear from someones who has spent their whole day on a course – but it was great!

But there was one aspect I want to share with you! We were challenged to perform a 2 minute elevator pitch to tell the students who we all were, why we got into science, what we actually do and why they should be interested! Luckily I managed to pull on my 3 minute thesis training for this so I felt quietly confident. But next we had to condense that into just 30 seconds for a competition! Everyone in the session stood up and shared their 39 second introduction and everyone else in the session wrote down on sticky notes a question they would ask from that 3o second intro! Here are some of the questions I got:

I loved doing the 3 minute thesis challenge but really enjoyed doing it in 30 seconds so I thought I would extend the challenge to you my readers. I will write what my 30 second intro was and I want you to ask questions that you would ask from that. I want to say at this point thay there are NO stupid questions. Just get involved and ask a question!


‘Hi. Im Sophie and Im a PhD student here in Southampton. I work with some cells called embryonic stem cells. These cells are really really special and unique because they can make any cell type that you find in your body! Think of them like the blank tiles you use in scrabble – you can use them as any letter of the alphabet. This makes these stem cells incredibly powerful for future medicine because we could make skin cells to treat burns patients or even brain cells to treat Alzheimers and dementia. In fact, we could make any type of cell that we want or are missing’.


Above are some of the more interesting questions I received back from the rest of the group to help you with your questions. But now its over to you – what would you ask me??

So Ive taken the first steps towards doing some teaching and getting hands on with inspiring younger students to choose science. All I need to do now is wait for a session with a school and prepare all the crazy prop ideas I thought up today to help with my session. Im talking paper mache blastocysts and outfits for stem cells!!


6 thoughts on “My first steps to inspiring the new generation of scientists.

  1. How do you ‘gather’ these embryonic cells?Do we have these ‘neutral’ cells already in our bodies?!?! Fascinating work Soph x


  2. So, these embryonic stem cells come from a group of cells called the INNER CELL MASS that is found in an early embryo called the BLASTOCYST. We do all have stem cells in our body, but not the type I am using. There are other types of stem cells called adult stem cells which you can find in your body that can become a variety of different cell types, but they cannot become all cell types. For example, stem cells can be found in your bone marrow – but they can only make bone cells or blood cells for example, they cannot make heart cells or lung cells. Thank you Joyce. Hope that might answer your questions. x


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