MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit


2 HGU Weekly Winners in I’m a Scientist, Stay at Home

During the COVID-19 Lockdown, university staff and students have been keen to help school pupils stay connected with STEM - all without leaving their homes: July 2020

I’m a Scientist, Stay at Home was a new version of this online initiative that helped school pupils, teachers, parents and carers to engage with researchers and technicians from across the UK. This included Ailith Ewing, UKRI Innovation Fellow; Anabel Martinez Lyons, Postdoctoral Research Fellow and 3 PhD students - Elena Lazarova, Lisa Backwell and Olga Stepanova – all from the MRC Human Genetics Unit.

Over 13 weeks, between 20 April and 20 July, over 2,400 scientists, engineers and mathematicians volunteered their time to chat with school pupils within 12 zones. I’m a Scientist… is an online competition between scientists, where the students are the judges. Students challenge the scientists over intense, fast-paced, online live CHATS. Then they ASK the scientists all the questions they want to, and VOTE for their favourite scientist - a series of Weekly Winners.

For the MRC-funded Medical Research Zone, on Friday, 12 June, Elena Lazarova, from Nick Gilbert’s group, was crowned the ‘Scientist of the Week’ and soon after, on Friday 26 June, Ailith Ewing from Colin Semple’s Biomedical Genomics group was crowned the ‘Scientist of the Week’.

I am delighted to have been voted Scientist of the Week in the MRC Medical Research Zone! It’s such a pleasure to chat about science with great kids and a great team of scientists!  This s a great platform for engaging with school students of all ages. Chatting to students has kept me motivated in continuing my research throughout Lockdown. It’s also a very effective way of teaching you how to describe your science to others whilst keeping in mind the aspects which are of greatest interest and have most impact.

Ailith EwingUKRI Innovation Fellow

Participating in 'I'm a Scientist' has been a fun and rewarding experience for me. The students ask fantastic questions, ranging from career paths to the ethics of genetic engineering. I also really enjoyed seeing other scientists talk about their research. I definitely recommend that scientists who haven't joined before, to join next time – it’s a fantastic way to challenge your public engagement skills!

Elena LazarovaMRC HGU PhD Student, Nick Gilbert Lab

I participated in 'I'm A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here' last year and really enjoyed the quick pace of the conversations and wide range of topics that were discussed. I was invited back for "I'm A Scientist, Stay At Home', which has been excellent and a very different experience. There was lots of interest from schools and students and some fantastic questions concerning COVID-19 and research into the development of drugs and vaccines to counter the current pandemic.

Anabel Martinez Lyons

I thought it would be great to take part as my career path isn’t that of a ‘typical’ PhD student, and I wanted to offer some reassurance that you don’t have to know what you want to do immediately after leaving school. This engagement has been so much fun! The children have asked really interesting and insightful questions that made me think about my project in a completely different way.

Lisa Backwell

It was refreshing to chat with curious pupils during the Lockdown. I think it's very important to show young people that science can be accessible and that scientists are normal people, like everyone else, if we want our society to value our research and the work we do.

Olga Stepanova

View Report


I'm a scientist - stay at home awards. Image of winners