The Great and Powerful Fizz

Every year, Glasgow Science Festival’s Internship scheme gives postgraduate students the chance to develop, test and deliver a public engagement activity at one of our busy family days. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be chatting to some of the students involved, giving a flavour of what’s in store.


L to R: Amira, Charlie, Nivedha and Salma

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I am Amira Elayouty, last year Ph.D. candidate in Statistics. I am from Egypt and have been living in Glasgow for 3.5 years now. My Ph.D. focuses on developing tools and methods to analyse and extract common and peculiar patterns of environmental high-frequency (15-min) data recorded over long periods of time.

Hi, I’m Charlie Gilles and I’m a PhD student in Earth Science here at Glasgow. I’m a geologist and love all things rock related, including the music, but give me a rock, any rock, and I’ll chat to you about it for days.  My research focuses on improving our understanding of landslides, by developing a hazard assessment system using different aspects across all fields of geoscience.

I’m Nivedha, a first year PhD student researching nanowire transistors, a tiny switch (100 times smaller than a human hair!) that allows us to count the number of electrons that pass through it.

My name is Salma Islam and I’m a postgraduate researcher at the University of Glasgow in Physics & Astronomy. I spend my days running simulations on the movement of galaxies trying to figure out how the universe works, specifically trying to learn more about the mysterious invisible dark matter that makes it up and causes galaxies to move in strange ways. I blame being raised from the age of 6 on a diet of Star Trek, Star Wars and every science fiction movie under the Sun for me turning out the way I have. I have no regrets 🙂

2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?

Amira: Not really. I am keen on participating and getting involved in such a big event in Glasgow to acquire more skills in communicating and delivering science to non-science people in an easy and simple way. I believe that part of the success of research is the ability to deliver it to everyone in and out the field of research. It is also a great opportunity to enhance other skills like team working, planning, budgeting, taking responsibility… and above all it is fun. We do need to break up our work with some fun to boost our productivity.

Charlie: I’ve done some public engagement, working with one of three Geoparks in Scotland. The main focus was to share and inspire those about local geology and how important geology is to our everyday life. I was keen to get involved with the science festival to get more people engaging with science in a fun and interactive setting. I also got involved to help improve my communication, media and project management skills. It’s been great!

Nivedha: I have done the ‘3 Minute Thesis’ competition, and I am also getting involved in the Glasgow science slam. I got involved to spread my enthusiasm for science to the public. It also helped me become a more confident speaker and helps me articulate complicated concepts in simple terms.

Salma: Yes I have. I’ve always enjoyed presenting science and fun facts to younger audiences in ways that are cool and amusing. Seeing children enjoying themselves while learning something new never fails to make my day. My first time talking to kids was actually for Star Wars Day several years ago talking about the science of Star Wars … complete with lightsabers! I’ve also volunteered with the IOP ‘Lab in a Lorry’ project as it toured around Scotland trying to blow up wine glasses and have also done work with the Glasgow Science Festival in previous years. I loved every minute!

3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?

Have you ever looked at the list of ingredients on your toothpaste, shampoo or a packet of Rennie and thought: “Huh, I didn’t realise sodium bicarbonate is in this… I wonder… what else it’s used for?”

Well we all have and that’s why we decided to explore the surprisingly wide range of uses of sodium bicarbonate and have twp great activities for you and your family to com along and try!

Our activities:

‘The Cakes that Fizz’ – This experiment allows you to mould your own cake and watch it fizz. Any excuse for making the addition of glitter an educational experience.

‘The Mad Scientists’ Tea Party’ – Putting a fun and colourful twist on the classic neutralisation reaction experiment.

So come along and join us, The Great & Powerful Fizz, as we explore the wonderful uses of sodium bicarbonate.

Expect plenty of fun, fizz and fabulous facts!

4. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Amira: Internet is the best invention ever, can’t imagine my social and research life without it!!!

Charlie: I admit it: I get lost easily.

This is why I love my GPS and can’t picture not having it in my car or on my phone! Just type in an address, or even just the name and your GPS will guide you there. Stress free driving with the bonus of avoiding awkwardly asking for directions. You can get maps for all over the world, allowing you to explore new places, or find old ones, without having to open the A to Z. I’ll never get lost again!

Nivedha: I could not live without Wi-Fi. It allows for such quick and easy access from almost anywhere to a vast amount of knowledge, we call the internet. It allows us to communicate remotely via Skype/Facetime and it always keeps me entertained.

Salma: I genuinely am not sure how to answer this … there are so many things I can’t live without! I’d probably have to say electricity. We’ve become so reliant on it and everything is interconnected because of it that the whole world would go mad without it, just without the zombies 😀 . Definitely electricity 😀

5. Impress us with your favourite science joke or fact

Fun fact…

Sodium bicarbonate was a frequent source of punch lines for Groucho Marx in Marx brothers’ movies. In Duck Soup, Marx plays the leader of a nation at war. In one scene, he receives a message from the battlefield that his general is reporting a gas attack, and Groucho tells his aide: “Tell him to take a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda and a half a glass of water.”

Join Amira, Charlie, Nivedha and Salma for ‘The Great and Powerful Fizz’ at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on Sunday 19 June. The day runs from 10:00-16:00 in the Hunter Hall and is absolutely free.


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