From Madrid to classrooms in Texas and Sweden – Skype a Scientist

Computer showing presentation "Your smartphone knows how you feel"

Recently, MLFPM fellow Emese Sükei from University Carlos III de Madrid was able to talk to school kids from Texas and Sweden about her research and to inspire them to become scientists. Read her report below.

Emese Sukei portrait picture
Emese Sükei

“During the Covid-19 lockdown last year, I discovered Skype a Scientist, a program that matches scientists with classrooms worldwide. They aim to connect the general public with researchers from different scientific disciplines, allowing students to meet a scientist and get answers to their questions straight from the source. 

It sounded like a fun activity, so I decided to sign up, and I was enthusiastically waiting to be matched with a classroom. When I was least expecting it at the beginning of December, I was assigned to Kelly Miller’s 5th, 4th, 3rd-grade class from Petersburg Elementary in Petersburg, Texas, USA. Kelly had recently started introducing some of her students to computer science, robotics, and coding and wanted to enhance their interest by setting up an opportunity to talk to a real-world computer scientist. When we connected for the video call, all of a sudden, I found myself in front of a group of eager youngsters asking questions about me, my work, science, programming. It was a truly rewarding experience. 

Skype a scientist graphic.
(c) Skype a scientist

When I got the email to sign up for another year, I did not hesitate. This time I was quickly matched with Nellie Mildh’s 2nd-year high-school class in the technical program from Pauliskolan in Malmö, Sweden. Nellie is an English teacher who was planning to focus on the theme of technology and society in March, discussing the relationship between culture and technology, and the negative and positive aspects of innovation. She invited me to talk about my work and have an open Q&A session with the students about machine learning and the opportunities and dangers it poses for the future. Since the age group was higher this time, and the students had a technical background, I could go a little more into detail about digital phenotyping and the possibilities machine learning has to offer in the psychological care of patients. 

It was highly inspiring to participate in these calls. I often find it challenging to explain my work to others outside my field. Participating in “Skype a Scientist” was a great exercise in distilling my work to the absolute basics. Furthermore, this provided an excellent opportunity to inform kids, get them excited about machine learning, and perhaps even develop a desire to pursue a career in science.”