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Hundreds of up-and-coming scientists demonstrate their research at House of Commons


More than 200 early career scientists presented their research in a poster competition to dozens of politicians, and a panel of experts, at the House of Commons this week.

The STEM for BRITAIN competition, which is co-sponsored by Research Councils UK, saw entries from across the sciences, with research on topics varying on anything from understanding cloud formation to develop better climate models, and new early-diagnosis scans for dementia; to a new model to predict space weather, and printing medicines to increase precision with dosage.

The 210 entries were split into five categories, ‘Biological and Biomedical Science’, ‘Chemistry’, ‘Physics’, ‘Engineering’, and ‘Mathematics’.

At Monday’s event, the winners, who were judged on their ability to communicate their research, were each presented with a £3,000 prize.

They were:

  • Biological and Biomedical Science: Lauren McNeill, Manchester Metropolitan University – developing a cost-effective device for the rapid detection of the drug mephedrone.
  • Chemistry: Shuen Lann Yvonne Choo, Newcastle University – creating new materials for hydrogen production, for greener sources of energy.
  • Engineering: Miguel Xavier, University of Southampton – engineering a device to isolate human bone marrow stem cells for bone regeneration.
  • Mathematics: Dr James Grogan, University of Oxford – combining state-of-the-art, high resolution computer modelling and imaging in cancer research.
  • Physics: Soraya Caixeiro, King’s College London – EPSRC-funded research on developing biocompatible lasers, which have the potential to be used as sensors inside the body.

The overall winner was announced as Lauren, 30, who walked away with the coveted Westminster Medal.

On winning the Westminster Medal, Lauren said she was “ecstatic” and “completely surprised” but thought the judges had been drawn to her work because of its clear ‘real-world’ applications.

 “I wanted to highlight the need for new research into a quick, portable and cost-effective detection method for mephedrone,” she added. “This kind of device could be used for mandatory drug testing in prisons and A&E departments throughout the world by non-specialists. My research is still in the early stages, but intriguing results offer an insight into its potential.”

The competition, originally named SET for Britain, has been running since 1997. The aim is to help politicians understand more about the UK’s thriving science and engineering base, and reward some of the strongest scientific and engineering research being undertaken in the UK.

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee who was on the Westminster Medal judging panel, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.

“These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs the event in collaboration with the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Physics, The Physiological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Society of Chemistry; with financial support from Research Councils UK, Warwick Manufacturing Group, the Clay Mathematics Institute, the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research, the Institute of Biomedical Science and the Society of Chemical Industry.

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