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Young researchers win chance to go where the action is

The winners of the National Science and Engineering Competition 2014 have shared their exciting experiences at some of Europe’s premier research institutes in diaries telling their stories.

Big Bang Fair 2014 prize winner Laila Akhtar (left) at the Genome Analysis CentreAs prize winners at the Big Bang Fair 2014, Laila Akhtar, Rebecca Simpson and Ameeta and Aneeta Kumar were treated to trips to some of the most prestigious research institutes in Europe where they had an opportunity to meet with researchers and take part in exciting experiments.

Laila Akhtar, whose project scooped the ‘RCUK Best Use of Research Award’, spent her time at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in Norwich where she, amongst other things, extracted the DNA from a strawberry and used a small machine to find the concentration of DNA in samples of solution. The visit gave Laila some food for thought, she said: “The trip actually made me think a bit more about Biochemistry, as I really enjoyed studying chemistry at A-levels and may see what that has to offer in research.”

Ameeta and Aneeta Kumar were the joint winners of the ‘UK Young Scientist of the Year Award’ and visited the Babraham Institute to experience research first hand focusing on the science and facilities most relevant to their project, which investigated the effectiveness of novel pH Low Insertion Peptide (pHLIP) in imaging cancers.

Last, but in no means least, was Rebecca Simpson who took home the ‘UK Young Engineer of the Year Award’ for her project ‘The development of an arcade machine repurposed for the education sector’. As part of her prize she visited the La Palma Observatory in the Canary Islands, she said: “The journey was a great learning experience as I got to look first hand at some of the largest telescopes currently operating and the amazing La Palma mountainside left by volcanic explosions, landslides and thousands of years of erosion.”

Dr Kerry Leslie, Head of RCUK Public Engagement with Research, said: “It is wonderful that these young, talented people get the chance to see, and get involved with, some of best research facilities across the continent. By inspiring and incentivising young people to pursue a career in research we are placing the UK in a position to be increasingly successful, not just in the field of research but economically and socially and RCUK will continue to support this cause.”

RCUK sponsor the Best Use of Research Prize and organise the experience at research institutes for prize winners.

The National Science and Engineering Competition is coordinated by the British Science Association and is open to all 11-18 year olds living in the UK and in full-time education. The Competition rewards students who have achieved excellence in a science, technology, engineering or maths project.

Diaries from Laila Akhtar and Rebecca Simpson's visits can be found below:

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Nicholas Turner
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Notes to editors

Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils who annually invest around £3 billion in research. We support excellent research, as judged by peer review, that has an impact on the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. To maintain the UK’s global research position we offer a diverse range of funding opportunities, foster international collaborations and provide access to the best facilities and infrastructure around the world. We also support the training and career development of researchers and work with them to inspire young people and engage the wider public with research. To maximise the impact of research on economic growth and societal wellbeing we work in partnership with other research funders including the Technology Strategy Board, the UK Higher Education funding bodies, business, government, and charitable organisations.

The seven UK Research Councils are:

  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC);
  • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC);
  • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC);
  • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC);
  • Medical Research Council (MRC);
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC);
  • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

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