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Forensics and fairytales: Carlisle kids get lesson from award-winning scientist

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An award-winning scientist from Carlisle has been visiting schools to get more young people interested in science.

For the past two years, Sellafield chemist Rebecca Ballantyne has been working as part of the Women in Nuclear Cumbria team to attract females to the sector.

She’s now been given two awards – ‘Outstanding Contribution to Widening Participation, Diversity and Inclusion in STEM,’ and ‘Young Woman of the Future’ - for her work.

She believes it’s important to engage people in science and stem subjects at an early stage – “That’s why I like to focus my efforts of the younger children as well because I think they’re so inquisitive at that age if they can see a female role model coming into schools talking about the work they do it’s not hard to image yourself doing something similar as you grow up.

“We do have an issue within the nuclear industry where we only have around 22 percent are currently female so ‘Women in Nuclear’ was set up to challenge that gender equality, promote the industry, and encourage a wider diverse workforce within that sector.”

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Rebecca has been teaching pupils at Stanwix primary school about forensic science using one of their favourite fairytales to engage them.

Each part of the story has an associated crime scene set up in different parts of the classroom. Goldilocks has left traces in every room of the three bears’ house, and the children are tasked with finding the clues whether it’s fingerprints, footprints, or hair fibres.

“It’s based on an interactive story session so throughout the story there’s different scenes set up, so we have a table set up with bowls and spoons with hidden fingerprints so we use UV lights to show the children there’s hidden evidence there that isn’t always obvious.

"Then we move onto another scene, there’s a broken chair with footprints there and we’ve got Goldilocks’ boot to compare the tread patterns as well, we’ve also got a bed set up with fibre evidence and hair.”

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