Early career researchers presented their work to MPs, in a unique poster competition in Parliament.
STEM for Britain is an annual chemistry poster competition that takes place in Parliament. Its unique location makes it an ideal opportunity for MPs to learn about the cutting-edge scientific research being carried out in their constituencies and around the UK.
Now in its 11th year, the competition took place on 13 March in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House in Westminster, and many MPs attended throughout the day.
30 early-career chemistry researchers were selected from dozens of applicants to present their posters. The judges – leading figures in industry and academia – assessed the exhibitors on enthusiasm, clarity and brevity, as well as the scientific excellence of their work.
Medals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place were presented by Royal Society of Chemistry President Dame Carol Robinson.
[l-r] Bronze winner Isabel Wilkinson, Gold winner David Fallon, and Silver winner Felicity NoakesPicture:
David Fallon, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Strathclyde and GSK, won the Gold medal in the chemistry category, taking home a cash prize of £2,000. His research was on applications of photolabelling.
David said, "I feel elated to win, I absolutely didn’t expect it. Just to see all your three years of work on one page is fantastic enough, but then to end up winning the medal is just absolutely fantastic.
"I’d really recommend [that others apply in future]. I got questions on my poster from so many different fields, that you just don’t get if you only present at scientific conferences. It was a fantastic experience to express my work in lay terms – because it needs to be expressed that way if it’s going to benefit the rest of society."
Felicity Noakes, a PhD student at The University of Sheffield, took home the Silver medal and £1,250, for her poster on a new drug for ovarian cancer treatment. She said, "It feels absolutely incredible to win. I was not expecting it at all."
"I applied in order to get my research out there. It was really nice to meet my local MP – he took a real interest in my work. I think it’s important to speak to MPs about my research because they are the ones that have a voice – they’ve got the power to make a difference."
Isabel Wilkinson, a PhD student at the University of Oxford, was the Bronze winner, and received a prize of £750. Her research is on drug targets for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
She said, "It’s such an honour to win. I applied because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak to MPs and it’s wonderful to hear about new research in other STEM fields too. Usually when I go to conferences, it’s all about chemistry.
"Science communication is really important. There’s no point in scientists only talking amongst ourselves – we have to be able to communicate our work to others so we bring the public along with us as we make our discoveries."