Josh Wolstenholme


Flood researcher scoops UK prize for inspiring pupils through science

University of Hull researcher Josh Wolstenholme has won a national prize for his work in delivering online science sessions for pupils during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Energy & Environment Institute PhD candidate and Research Assistant signed up to the ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!’ project, supported by UK Research & Innovation.

The project provided a unique online platform which enabled pupils to ask Josh and other scientists questions, and engage with STEM research, during school closures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Josh, whose current research at Hull explores flood risk, attended a series of virtual science sessions with school-age children, who went on to vote for the Hull researcher as the best scientist in the country for the Blue Zone group.

The prize was £500, which Josh said would help him create interactive 3D flood models, free and available for all to use.

Josh said: “The impact of COVID-19 on school children has been well documented, with schools forced to close and pupils having to study and learn at home.

“This project provided a way for pupils to continue to be inspired by science throughout the pandemic, and for scientists across the country to engage with young people.

“It was a privilege to be able to play a small part in the project, and to answer some of the questions pupils had about my research into flood risk and the bioeconomy.

“To be named Blue Zone winner, voted by the children themselves, is a huge honour. The prize money will support my continued work around flooding, and hopefully enable and inspire the next generation of scientists in the field.”

The ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!’ project aimed to reach 150,000 school students in over 1,200 schools and involve over 1,000 researchers across the UK.

With limited opportunities for practical science classes and engagement with research, the project provides a unique opportunity for classes to reconvene and explore cutting-edge scientific research together.

Taking part in ‘I’m a Scientist’ has been shown to help students get a better understanding of research and gain confidence in asking questions about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

It also supports researchers to improve their communication skills and enables them to engage with young people from regions across the UK.

Josh’s success builds on the University of Hull’s credentials and expertise around flood risk and resilience.

Experts at the University have been researching the impacts of both the 2007 and 2013 floods in Hull, giving many residents the chance to share their experiences for the first time.

A major new study, commissioned by the Living with Water Partnership and led by the University of Hull, found over a third of households surveyed have yet to take measures to better protect themselves from future flood events.

Over 450 households in three Hull areas affected by the 2007 floods were asked about their experiences and responses to the event, which impacted 9,000 homes and businesses.

Elsewhere, The University of Hull has also this September launched a new flagship MSc Flood Risk Management course.

The programme will focus on finding innovative new ways to increase flood resilience and tackle one of the greatest threats facing the planet.

Plans were also earlier this year submitted for Ark, a £15m National Flood Resilience Centre which will provide emergency services and responders with a controlled environment for simulated training in both urban and rural flood events, and includes a full-scale 120-metre-long street and a water rapids course.

The centre will also be a base for world-leading research and innovation, focused on enhancing business, societal and community resilience to flooding.

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