Seeing science differently

07 September 2015

Interview with 

Amy O'Toole, Blackawton School

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Iniatives that get students doing real research can clearly alter perceptions of what scientific research actually involves. But what sort of impact is it having? Amy O'Toole is one of the youngest people to have authored a peer reviewed paper when she published a school project, aged ten. She told Graihagh Jackson a bit more about how it changed her perceptions of science...

Graihagh - It’s interesting to think this, ‘are we short of scientists or not’ debate isn't quite as clear-cut as you might have thought. But one thing that really came out in my conversation with Amy, the 16-year-old girl that we heard from earlier in the programme was that these initiatives that get kids doing actual research do give them a clearer perception of what's really involved in science and ultimately, that’s probably just as important. Amy is one of the youngest people to have published a peer reviewed paper, aged 10 and she told me a bit more about the study.

Amy - So basically, we asked, what if bees could think like humans which was extraordinary because they only have something like 3 million brain cells compared to our 300 billion. So, we set them a simple puzzle. And so, we just did this a few times and tested our results and everything.

Graihagh - And do bees think like humans?

Amy - We came to the conclusion that they did especially when solving puzzles.

Graihagh - And you got this work published. You were only 10 years old. How did that feel?

Amy - It was pretty surreal mostly because I didn’t realise the importance of our findings until I was told that I was one of the world’s youngest probably, scientist. The paper itself was downloaded 30,000 times just on its first day. But most importantly, it’s the most read paper biology letters. It’s pretty amazing that not many people can say that they have a published paper in the Royal Society journal, let alone that they're one of the world’s youngest probably scientists.

Graihagh - Yeah. I'm a whole 26 and I can't put any papers behind my name. How did it change how you felt about science?

Amy - Science has definitely changed a lot after doing the bee project. But now that I can see that science is all around us and it’s in every aspect of our lives.

Graihagh - And has it affected what you want to do with your life and your career?

Amy - Yeah, definitely. I want to sort of inspire more kids into science and give them the opportunity that I had because it’s definitely changed my life so much. I was very lucky and I'm very grateful to for giving me that opportunity. I also sort of want to pursue a career in science and technology. So, a robotics engineer or a neuroscientist, which I’d never dreamed of a few years ago.

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