Our Connecting Science Public Engagement Prizes recognise outstanding efforts in engaging public or schools audiences with science, research and innovation on campus. This year the Prizes attracted a wide range of high-quality entries demonstrating rich and varied engagement work from across the campus.
The Innovator Prizes recognise staff at earlier stages of their careers or public engagement journeys, who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in engaging with schools or public audiences.
The first prize was awarded to Maria Duque for her work on the Worm Hunters project, a collaboration with the University of Antioquia, Colombia that combined public engagement with a deworming programme in Ciénaga, a town in Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Worm Hunters uses a comic book and hands-on activities to share and discuss Maria’s research with school children and their families.
The second prize was awarded to Kim Judge for her Sequencing in schools project, an innovative outreach programme that takes the Oxford Nanopore MinION Sequencer into the classroom. Students are given the opportunity to extract DNA from a sample, prepare the DNA library for sequencing, and load the DNA sample into the MinION sequencer, within minutes they can see the DNA sequencing data appear on the screen.
The Excellence Prizes recognise staff with a long-standing commitment to public engagement and activities that have helped influence or amplify the impact of the science.
The first prize was awarded to Francesc Galban, whose engagement portfolio represents an impressive track record of public engagement through public and patient involvement, collaborative research and community engagement with research focusing on underserved communities in Africa. Francesc’s approach demonstrates the value of embedding a strong public engagement ethos into a sustained research journey.
The second prize was awarded to Alena Pance, who has been involved in a wide range of public engagement activities for over eight years. Her work includes a long-standing relationship with the William Westley Primary school, volunteering at School STEM fairs, developing content for the Cambridge Technical level 3 qualification in laboratory skills and writing blogs and answering reads questions in the New Scientist magazine. Alena was also recognised for her support and encouragement of others starting their own Engagement activities.
A highly commended was also awarded to Valerie Vancollie, who has been involved in campus Public Engagement activities since 2009. Valerie has taken part in a range of festivals and events including the Royal Society Summer Exhibition, Big Biology Day and the Peterborough STEM festival and is an experienced campus tour leader.
Engaged Team Prize
The Engaged Team Prize celebrates an outstanding collaborative effort in engaging external audiences with aspects of campus science or research.
This year’s winner of the Engaged Team prize was Genome Decoders, a collaboration between the Wellcome Sanger Institute Parasite Genomics team, the WormBase team at the European Bioinformatics Institute, and the Institute for Research in Schools.
This innovative project engages A-level science students with the topics of Neglected Tropical Diseases and bioinformatics through the curation of gene structures in the human whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) genome. The project to date it has attracted more than 1000 students from 52 schools across the UK who are working alongside the scientists to identify all 15,000 genes in the human whipworm genome.
The Judging Panel
The prizes were assessed by a panel of judges both internal and external to the campus. Across all categories, judges looked for a variety of qualities including relevance to campus science, creativity of approach, partnership, sustainability of impact and efforts to tackle equality and diversity through the public engagement activity.
Dr Bella Starling
Bella Starling is a Wellcome Engagement Fellow and Director of Public Programmes at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. Her career has spanned neuroscience, genetics and stem cell research, science writing, biomedical ethics, public engagement, patient involvement and science policy, as a practitioner, action researcher, strategic adviser and funder.
Her current role oversees patient and public involvement in health-related research across the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and Wellcome Trust programmes in Greater Manchester (including the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre), covering a huge range of research areas, from primary care to molecular biotiming, 4 NHS Trusts, and working in partnership with a wealth of people, patients, community and creative organisations. Bella, sometimes, referred to as a change-maker is passionate about inclusion in, and democratisation of, research; her Fellowship explores how public engagement with research acts as a catalyst for social change.
Dr Edward Duca
Edward Duca is a Science and Innovation Communication Lecturer at the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Business Incubation at the University of Malta. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the research magazine Think that has reached over four million online views. He is a PhD graduate in Genetics (University of Edinburgh) and a freelance science writer, editor and communicator. He has written for several local and international organisations including The Times of Malta, Science and Nature.
In Malta, he founded Malta Cafe Scientifique, CineXjenza and Kids Dig Science, which are all part of the public outreach arm of the Malta Chamber of Scientists. By setting up the science and arts festival Science in the City (visited by over 24,000 per year), he aims to bridge the gap between the sciences and arts, that can benefit each other by providing inspiration, bringing new audiences to cultural events, pushing the boundaries of art into new fields, while shining a critical lens on science. He aims to continue setting up projects that communicate science to the public to create a scientifically aware society.
Dr Heather Featherstone
Helen Featherstone, is the Head of Public Engagement at the University of Bath, Public Engagement Unit. She works across the university supporting engaged research and creating the conditions for engaged research to flourish. The Public Engagement Unit’s work operates across four areas: Doing Public Engagement, Learning about Public Engagement, Celebrating Public Engagement and Leading on Public Engagement. Prior to this, Helen was doing similar work at the University of Exeter and has also been a post-doc researcher at UWE, Bristol looking at the publics’ roles in public engagement. Helen continues to teach on the MSc Science Communication course at UWE.
Helen is also a freelance public engagement consultant specialising in generating insight for the sector, mentoring teams and delivering training. Alongside her university, research, teaching, and freelance experience, Helen has extensive experience in practical STEM engagement activities primarily in interactive Science and Discovery Centres. For 16 years she has been responsible for all aspects of these activities including fundraising, project management, content and event delivery, collaborative working and evaluation.
Steve Palmer is Director of Communications for the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Wellcome Genome Campus. He is responsible for sharing the story of the Sanger and Campus through the media, publications, digital channels, brand and internal communications. Previously he ran science communications, media and digital content teams at Cancer Research UK for 15 years – delivering and running strategies that covered a wide selection of issues from patient data and animal research through to tobacco control and new cancer treatments. He also ran the communications functions for the British Journal of Cancer, National Cancer Research Institute, National Cancer Intelligence Network and Cancer Research Technology. Through all of these activities he has worked closely with many patient and public groups with an interest in science. Before that, he was a journalist and editor focussed primarily on the technology sector.
Alexis Mannion has been working in science communication and public engagement for more than ten years, and has held positions at the Science Museum in London, the British Science Association, and more recently the Francis Crick Institute and Wellcome. During that time, she completed an MSc in Science Communication.
Throughout her career Alexis has been passionate about enabling researchers to communicate their work in a meaningful way, which includes creating opportunities for open dialogue between audiences, scientists, and clinicians. At the Crick, her team led many innovative events and programmes, bringing researchers closer to the public, such as the Crick Chats.
Alexis is currently looking after the Inspiring Science Fund at Wellcome, a joint fund between BEIS and Wellcome which will see £30 million invested in science centres across the UK. The fund encourages science centres to refresh their content, facilities, and to extend and diversify their audiences, helping them connect with underserved communities.
Lindsey Crosswell is Head of External Relations at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), located on the Wellcome Genome Campus near Cambridge in the UK. A member of faculty and Senior Management Committee at EMBL-EBI she has a Europe-wide remit within this intergovernmental organisation. Lindsey leads a team of seven with responsibility for press, communications, public engagement activities, events, international conferences and exhibitions, women in science initiatives, philanthropy and UK alumni activities.
Her own specialism is government and public affairs and she manages the Institute’s stakeholder relationship activities including the international visits programme for funders, government representatives, policy makers, collaborators and members of the public.