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STEM for Britain 2017

The judges and winner of the Wharton Westminster Award at STEM for Britain.

14 Mar 2017

Last night was the final of STEM for Britain 2017, supported by Stephen Benn, Director of Parliamentary Affairs for the Royal Society of Biology, and Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, as well as many MPs, universities, and learned societies.

Sharon Todd, Executive Director of SCI, and Nick Bourne, of the SCI London Group, attended on behalf of SCI to support the work of past-member, Dr Eric Wharton, who initiated SET for Britain, the forerunner to STEM for Britain.

This annual event aims to raise the profile of Britain's early-stage researchers at Westminster by engaging Members of both Houses of Parliament with current science, engineering, and mathematics research being undertaken in the UK, particularly by their local constituents and in their local universities. SCI believes that these aims are more important than ever: the current global challenges we face are significant and complex and require a multi-disciplinary, innovative approach. Supporting early-stage and early-career research scientists, engineers, and technologists is an essential part of that mission.

Around 500 early-career researchers entered the competition, with 35% being selected to present their work in one of the three poster sessions in Parliament. To encourage maximum participation by early-career researchers, the competition was divided into five subject areas:

  • Biological and Biomedical Science
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics

Each session concluded with a reception and prize-giving, and the three best presentations in each category were awarded a medal. The five gold medal winners were also presented with a year’s SCI student membership before being interviewed by the judges for the Wharton Westminster Medal, which is awarded for the ability to communicate their work to a lay audience.

Lauren McNeill, from Manchester Metropolitan University, was awarded the Wharton Westminster Medal, which was sponsored by SCI, after winning gold in the Biological and Biomedical Science category for her poster on a fast, simplified detection method for New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) outside the lab. Sharon was impressed with her presentation, saying, ‘Lauren clearly communicated the applications of her project and the resulting benefits to society. Being able to distil the complex science into practical and easily understood applications is an essential part of communicating science’.

Both Stephen Benn and Stephen Metcalfe spoke eloquently on the importance of science for the future of the UK and encouraged the participants to continue to maintain relationships with their MPs, as the House of Commons and the House of Lords debated the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

All the presentations on display were excellent and it was encouraging to see so many Members of Parliament supporting early-career research in science.

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