Science - September 21, 2015

Ig-Nobel Prize for former intern

Roelof Kleis

Where does a bee sting hurt the most? Michael Smith, a former intern in Wageningen, researched this and won an Ig-Nobel Prize.

‘Wow’, is the first reaction of his former supervisor, bee researcher Tjeerd Blacquière. He is super enthusiastic that his former intern has been awarded this Ig-Nobel prize. But it does not surprise him ‘We had already hoped this. When I first read about the research I immediately thought: only he could have thought of that. Michael has an independent and free spirit.’

Michael Smith, a Panamanian American, interrupted his study to fulfil a yearlong internship in Wageningen. There he joined the bee group of Blacquière. ‘He arranged his own scholarship via the Rotary. During his stay he was also supervised by a lady of the Rotary here in Wageningen.’ In Wageningen Smith researched the transmission of nozema parasite on bees. His work was published in the Plos One.

Smith performed the award winning study on bee stings at the Cornell University in the US. Smith was stung on different places of his body to find out where it would hurt the most. He did this, under the supervision of a doctor, on himself to avoid the Ethics Committee. The rules do not prohibit tests on one’s own body.

According to Smith the bee sting on the nostril, upper lip, and penis were the most painful. On a scale of 1-10 these respectively scored: 9,0 a 8,7 and a 7,3. Blacquière can confirm the list. ‘The nose, lips and the area around thee eyes are indeed the most sensitive. But sometimes it can also suddenly be very painful at a very different spot, for example in your bellybutton. I have been stung on my penis, but I did not suffer too much.’

Every year the Ig-Nobel Prize is awarded for improbably research, scientific research that makes people laugh and then think. According to Blacquière it was Smith’s dream to become the first person to win both Nobel prizes, de real one and the IG-Nobel Prize. Although he can not succeed. Physicist André Geim was the first to receive both awards a couple of years ago.

In 2000 Geim won the Ig-Nobel Prize for using magnets to levitate a frog. Ten years later he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for experiments with the substance graphene. He did this work at the Radbout University in Nijmegen. This year Nijmegen also received an award. Researchers of the Max Planc Instituut won the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature research on the word ‘huh’.

Re:actions 1

  • Katja

    Interesting, but please check your text for spelling and grammatical errors before publishing. Thanks.