Votes, science & cheese | University of Oxford
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OSB archive

Votes, science & cheese

Pete Wilton

Congratulations to Oxford's Mark Roberts who was runner-up in the latest I'm a Scientist: Get me out of Here!

The online competition enables school pupils to quiz six scientists about their work and life as a researcher. Pupils vote off a scientist one-by-one until the group is whittled down to the last two and then vote for a winner.

Mark's specialist subject was bacteria: in particular the soil bacterium R. sphaeroides [it forms the orange writing in the petri dish above]. This bacterium is ideal for studying bacteria signalling as it's non-pathogenic, so its DNA is safe to chop and change.

Mark told me: 'The event was great fun and I got lots of different questions: everything from what my favourite and worst parts of my job are, how much I get paid, to questions about my science - so how bacteria sense and live.'

'I had one really interesting question about how viruses can jump species (like avian flu!) and then completely random questions like what music do I like or what is your favourite cheese!'

'My favourite question was - what would you rather cure AIDS or cancer? - which was a tough one to answer. I went for AIDS as, given there is one target, that should be easier.'

Although Mark didn't win the £500 first prize (to be spent on science communication) he is still looking to get involved in more work with schools as well as develop a website for pupils with information on how bacteria live.

Mark Roberts is a postdoctoral researcher in Oxford's Department of Biochemistry and a tutor at Lincoln College.