About the Case Study
New Zealand, Samoa and Italy are just some of the places around the world that have seen Roxanne El-Hady inspiring other students, observing cutting-edge conservation work and meeting trailblazers in research and space travel, including Helen Sharman. “The first British astronaut, who’s a shining example of women who succeed and excel in science,” says Roxanne.
And the planets might just be a future stop, given how much she rates the advice from a space scientist she met at the Big Bang Fair: “There was a geologist who became an astronaut and showed me you don’t need to know what you’re doing twenty years down the line.”
Science applied in a real-life context inspires and motivates students. For Roxanne it was working alongside a professor and researcher ─ an expert in their field ─ while investigating her experiments. The four-week placement at a university research laboratory fired her imagination so much that she didn’t want the project to end.
And that’s where the Big Bang Competition came in.
“I invested so much time in the project, really learning to love the subject content, and didn’t want to say goodbye to it. I applied for the Competition online with a summary of my research.”
The invitation to the finals was an unexpected surprise and before long Roxanne was enjoying the Big Bang Fair. “It was incredible,” she says. “I loved wandering around and getting lost in the science and technology, all the companies and their employees, the stands, exhibits, talks, big bubbles, Lego robots…”
And that was before her project made the final shortlist. “It didn’t feel real. I was sure that it would be that girl who was so confident when explaining her project to me, or that guy who pretty much found a cure for malaria.”
Being judged by a celebrity panel sounds daunting but Roxanne found it was more of an intellectual discussion about the science she loved, and went on to be named Young Scientist of the Year 2016.
“I was so surprised that I dropped my trophy on stage. Looking back, I can say each stage of the process has been more incredible than the last, and I’m so grateful for every minute of it.”
Next stop was the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Brussels, where her prize was a trip to the Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy. A family holiday in New Zealand turned into a short tour speaking at high schools around the country and at the Royal Society of New Zealand. “I was sharing the science behind my project, how exciting it felt to be contributing towards cutting-edge scientific research, and encouraging students still uncertain about what they might do in the future.”
This led to a trip to Samoa, where highlights included an invite from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to tour their campus and meet research and conservation scientists working in the Pacific Ocean and Islands. Not to mention interviews for papers, TV and radio.
There’ll be a pause in the scientific whirlwind while Roxanne takes a gap year to work on a local community project, but she’ll continue to study Geology at the University of Bristol next autumn.