Our University organises day of scientific discovery for budding young scientist

A budding young scientist was taken on an intriguing journey of scientific discovery when our staff organised a special day of activities to reignite his passion for the subject.

Seven-year-old Jamie, who is on the autistic spectrum, was invited to visit our University after Dr Lynsey Grieveson read a post on social media about how an incident at school had knocked his confidence in pursuing a career in science.

His mother wrote that Jamie had been tasked with dressing up as something that epitomised his dream job at school but, after choosing to represent a career in science, his classmates dismissed his scientist costume.

Dr Lynsey Grieveson, Clinical Academic Training Manager, felt that our University would be the perfect place to reaffirm Jamie’s enthusiasm for science.

She said: “I was incensed that a child had been left to feel that their idea was stupid. I can empathise as my own child is on the autistic spectrum and there are many additional hurdles these children face on a daily basis. What really annoyed me is that I was afraid the bullies had won and Jamie would no longer feel his passion for science was valid or that he could achieve in this sphere.

“I wanted to show him that at Sheffield we think that being a scientist is an excellent career choice and to embrace this in a positive way by enabling him to engage in an activity at the University or by showing him some laboratory space or meeting some scientists.”

Dr Lynsey Grieveson and Jamie

Following an overwhelming response from our departments offering their time, a day of scientific endeavours was arranged for Jamie to enjoy, including exploring the human body through virtual reality, interacting with robotics and studying zebrafish.

Dr Grieveson added: “I am very proud of being a member of staff of this University. I knew there would be many who felt the same as I did and offer some of their time but not quite the amount of responses I received! The academic staff were just unbelievable. They were kind, caring, patient, interesting and fun. Everyone put such a huge amount of effort into making their part of the day great for Jamie and it certainly was.”

Jamie’s mum, Nicola Witcombe, said: “When I asked Jamie how he felt about the day and what he would like to say to the people he met, he said thank you for making my day and making me feel special. We were blown away by the effort that people had gone to for our little man. To have people take the time out from their incredibly important work to show our son what they do and to make it accessible for him was fantastic and humbling.

“As parents - you just want to know your child has a future and often things like university can feel so far away when your child has challenges to overcome. But the day really showed us Jamie’s ability to learn and participate in a different light and made us hopeful for his future. I firmly believe that if he wants it, being a scientist is within his reach.”

Well done to all involved!