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Prizes for the next generation of researchers at the Big Bang Fair

Research Councils UK are delighted to announce that A-level student, Maria Thankachan, was the recipient of the RCUK-sponsored ‘Best Use of Research Prize’ for young people at the Big Bang Fair 2015.

From left to right: Sir Anthony Cleaver (Chairman of NERC), Maria Thankachan and Fran Scott (CBBC Science Presenter)Now in its seventh year, the Big Bang Fair attracts tens of thousands of visitors and is the single largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for 7 – 19 year olds in the UK. Through a huge variety of workshops, interactive exhibits, simulators and shows, the Fair aims to inspire young people and raise awareness of just how many rewarding career opportunities are available to those who study STEM subjects.

The ‘Best Use of Research Prize’ is awarded to entrants in the senior age category (17-18 years) only and takes in to account how innovative the research concept was, how well-planned and methodical the process was and how high the quality of the outcomes were.

This year the RCUK prize was presented by Sir Anthony Cleaver, Chairman of the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), who said: “As the Founding Chairman of the Big Bang Fair, I was very pleased to be able to present the RCUK prize at this year’s awards ceremony. Maria had designed a very impressive and innovative project, based around an interesting concept, and used exemplary research to carry out her investigations. Maria clearly has considerable talent and a promising future ahead of her. The overall standard of the entries at this year’s event was extremely high, which bodes well for the future of scientific research in the UK”.

Maria, of Holy Cross College, Bolton, named her project ‘Characterising the gene Deltex-2 (DTX2) – A gene involved in Autism Spectrum Disorders’. It was showcased at the Fair alongside over 200 other finalists of the prestigious ‘National Science and Engineering Competition.  As the winner of the RCUK prize Maria received £500, a certificate, and an ‘experience prize’, which will comprise a behind-the-scenes visit to a world-class RCUK research laboratory of her choice. The experience prize will offer Maria the opportunity to meet researchers working on cutting-edge research and access areas seldom seen by visitors. In previous years, winners have opted to visit the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council Genome Analysis Centre in Norwich and the Diamond Light Source (funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council), the UK’s national synchrotron facility, in Oxfordshire.

Dr Kerry Leslie, Head of Public Engagement at RCUK, added: “At RCUK, we are thrilled to be involved in the Big Bang Fair. Giving young people the trip of a lifetime provides them with the opportunity to step out of the classroom and discover the amazing contribution of science and engineering to the future and the important part they could play in it”.

Two other prizes were presented at this year’s event, the ‘UK Young Engineer of the Year’ and the ‘UK Young Scientist of the Year’, which are both sponsored by The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, were awarded to Colum McNally and Sarah Sobka respectively. RCUK will provide Colum and Sarah with the opportunity to visit a world-leading research facility; popular choices in previous years have been CERN in Geneva and the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes at the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma (Canary Islands).

RCUK would like to extend our congratulations to all the finalists of this year’s National Science and Engineering Competition and encourage applications for next year’s competition; for further details visit their website.

Photograph provided by National Science + Engineering Competition.

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Further information

Nicholas Turner
Press and Communications Manager
Tel: 01793 444592 or email: Nicholas Turner

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 Innovate UK, 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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