Science Insights Online 2020, Evie Tynan
Evie Tynan talks about her experience of Science Insights Online 2020.
I was introduced to the science insights online program when my biology teacher showed it to me at the start of lockdown. I knew after a little research that it would be beneficial to a keen biology student like myself who was still unsure of what to study at university so I sent in my application. I was super excited upon receiving my acceptance email, especially having spent lockdown doing lots of uni-related research. I knew this was going to be a great opportunity for me.
I had doubts knowing that it was going to be online and thought it was a shame that we wouldn’t get the practical or social aspect as other years did, but after the first day I was pleasantly surprised. After the initial introductory session where we met the organizers and our sub-groups, we took part in a webinar about where biology can take you and why science is for everyone. I loved hearing from Generation Scotland about their work and the TeenCovidLife survey where they shared the results and how they compared with adults, as it showed that lockdown impacted teenagers just as much despite being excluded from many studies outwith this one.
During the week I enjoyed speaking to different scientists about their various research projects and learning all about life as a scientist through talks and as part of ‘meet the scientist’ sessions at the end of the day. We heard from scientists working in developmental biology, cancer research, science communication, bioethics and much more and spoke about their careers and current work. I had no idea that a career in scientific research had so many travelling opportunities; it makes me very excited about my future.
Not just science
We also listened to a few talks about animal research, it’s importance and the ethics involved which sparked some very interesting questions and discussions over how you measure an animal’s sentience and why one animal is preferred for research over another. I loved hearing from Cameron Wyatt about the use of zebrafish as a model organism and the process of keeping and looking after these as well as the benefits of using them over other animals.
We also took part in other ethics discussions about multiple sclerosis and the stakeholders in a clinical trial. In small groups we talked about informed consent and the risks involved at the different stages of a trial. It was very thought provoking but difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a patient.
On one day we managed to get hands-on from home with some practice suturing using string and plastic bands. I think I speak on behalf of all SIO participants when I say it was very difficult! I managed to complete mine after a little trial and error.
On the final day we took part in a webinar about the current pandemic that spoke in depth about the science behind this virus and it’s relatives as well as simple epidemic modeling and the use of phylogenetic trees to track how the virus has spread. I loved being able to see how my knowledge from school applied to this area and others. We also heard from Martin Reijns about testing for the virus and how they get from sample collection to results. Hearing about the pandemic from experts in the field was incredible, especially how the technologies have developed in the few months since the pandemic began. It was also brilliant hearing their professional opinions on future predictions of the virus, potential for second waves and overall how we have handled it. I felt much better hearing it directly from scientists rather than rumours circulating the media.
I loved my week with Science insights and it really highlighted to me the diversity of options both in degrees and further down the line. Having previously been concerned that online I wouldn’t get the same opportunies to meet new people, the online platforms we used allowed us to connect with other participants and I’ve come out with many new friends, some of which I’ve already gotten the chance to meet and I hope to be able to meet the rest in the near future. I was heavily encouraged throughout the week to keep asking questions and I’m glad I did, I learnt so much because of it and I would ask more if I could do it again. I’m so inspired by all of the scientists I was lucky enough to meet and the week has sparked many new interests I previously knew little about.
Overall, Science Insights Online was completely worth it and I’d urge any S5 considering a science career to apply in coming years. The discussions that arose from all the talks I took part in were truly eye opening and showed me a whole new side to science. I learned so much, not just about different scientific areas but also navigating a science career, which you don’t often get at school. It was a truly amazing experience and I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to take part.
Evie Tynan, August 2020