CREST case study: Silver student - Jonathan
Name: Jonathan Lawson
CREST Level: Silver
Project Title: What’s in a Drink
Project Mentor / Organisation: Mrs J Morris (Biology), Helsby High School with support & input from Daresbury Laboratories, Cheshire
Jonathan undertook his CREST Silver Award back in 2003/4 at school. Having undertaken a project with friends and learning new skills and meeting real scientists, Jonathan and his team were chosen to attend the CREST Fair at the Royal Society (the forerunner to the National Science + Engineering Competition). His experiences encouraged and informed his choice to go into science and he is now undertaking a PhD in Developmental Biology at Cambridge University and heavily involved in science communication. He tells us a bit about his CREST experience here.
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What was your project about?
We utilised a variety of different tests and experiments to investigate how sensitive different people are to tastes and, more specifically, different tastes. Through this we were able to classify subjects into different ‘taster’ classes and further investigate their sensitivity to the five basic taste groups.
Who encouraged you to get involved with CREST?
Nearly ten years ago now my friends and I decided to get involved in CREST to challenge ourselves and see what we could learn about the latest scientific research. CREST is a really challenging and exciting experience for anyone with a scientific and inquisitive mind, it is a rare opportunity to push beyond the boundaries of the established curriculum and find the answers to your own questions in a way that encourages independent thought and novel approaches.
What was the best thing about doing a CREST award?
The best thing about the CREST project was being able to develop our own project and then share it with other enthusiastic young scientists. I also really enjoyed the challenge of presenting our work to experienced scientists in a way that showed clear understanding and enthusiasm for the subject.
We presented at Astra Zeneca in Cheshire, also at the North West regional finals of the competition in Manchester and in the National Finals of the competition at the Royal Society in London.
How do you think you benefited from your CREST Award experience?
CREST helps you develop new skills like experimental design and teamwork. We took this further and also used it to develop skills in data presentation and web design. It was a great opportunity to meet some fantastic experimentalists and gave us some very inspirational memories and experiences that helped to guide and form my future opinions and goals as a scientist.
CREST definitely inspired me to work harder in STEM subjects and to aim high in further education and career development.
What are your hopes for the future?
I am finishing the first year of a PhD in developmental biology funded by the Wellcome Trust at the University of Cambridge. I currently hold BA, MSci and MPhil degrees also from the same University.
My plan for the future is to become fully involved in science events planning, writing and broadcasting doing as much as possible to aid the public understanding of science and to muster public support for scientific ventures whilst repairing the damage done in recent decades by science scandals surrounding vaccinations, cloning, GM and climate. I hope to eventually be able to present for the BBC.
Any wise words to those thinking of undertaking a CREST Award now?
Think of a good project and do it. This is a great opportunity to let your imagination run wild with science to answer the questions that a keen mind is always asking and that nobody can answer. You’ll have some fantastic experiences that many more experienced scientists would gladly give their best pipettes for. Most importantly, no matter how you do in the competition or what you find out, you are sure to go away with new skills and lasting memories.