If you also think that sharing your research with a bunch of enthusiastic high school students is one of the best things about being a scientist, you will be interested in this London-based online outreach program: “I am a Scientist, Get me out of here! (IAS)”
Here is how it works: About three or four times a year, IAS admins announce the application deadline for the interested candidates (aka graduate students and postdocs). If you are selected, the next step is to assign you to a zone based on your research/background. (For instance, I was in the Evolution Zone with 4 other folks). Yes that’s right, there are other fellows in your zone and you COMPETE with them! Everyday, for a 1-2 hour window you get to real-time chat and answer the questions of these really smart and ambitious high school students. (The questions you receive may be about your project, or even your morning routine). After a week of Q & A sessions, one scientist gets evicted every day (which can be very traumatic!). And yes you guessed it right, the high school students do the voting/elimination! The winner, aka the fittest, receives 5000 Pounds to be spent on an outreach/education project and gets to walk around as the coolest of the cool (wasn’t me).
For an example on how the eliminations actually work, see this on-going competition: IAS Zinc Zone
Also see this post by Mark Fogg: Getting IAS Therapy?
The next application window for IAS will open in January 2012. I think a science field such as astrobiology would highly benefit from an outreach program like this. I can’t wait for the day that we recruit a similar program! And who knows, maybe that day is closer than you think? (Oh no I am not giving any spoilers just yet, wait for a few weeks and you will see it yourself!!)
So, what’s left to say? If you are a scientist, get out there!