STEM for Britain 2023 sees science take centre stage at Westminster
Early career scientists from UK universities joined members of both houses of parliament in the annual STEM for BRITAIN competition. This event has been a fixture in the Westminster calendar since 2006 and aims to help politicians understand more about the UK’s thriving science and engineering base and rewards some of the strongest scientific and engineering research being undertaken in the UK.
Jo Reynolds, Royal Society of Chemistry director of science and communities spoke at the awards ceremony for the mathematics, physics and chemistry poster prizes, saying: “It has been a real pleasure to attend STEM for Britain again and to celebrate this year’s cohort of talented researchers.
“Science, research, and innovation are at the forefront in addressing some of the world’s most crucial challenges, from climate change and energy security to economic growth as we exit the pandemic.
“In recent years, we have all looked to science to provide the answers, and science has delivered time and time again. This has highlighted the importance of investing in long-term research funding, science education, infrastructure, and innovation, to help create a resilient UK.”
Prize-winning poster presentations
Judged by leading academics, the gold medallist receives £1500, while silver and bronze receive £1000 and £750 respectively.
Bea Jones, from the University of Cambridge and Diamond Light Source, won the gold medal in the chemistry section. She explained that her poster showcased her research into “light-responsive particles that can help to trigger the release of small molecules, with the aim to use it for targeted drug release.”
Talking about the experience of presenting to MPs and expert judges, with such varying levels of scientific knowledge, Bea said: “It was quite an interesting task actually because I’m used to talking to scientists all the time. It was really fun and a really good atmosphere here in general. It’s definitely another spur of inspiration.”
Chunchun Ye, from the University of Edinburgh, won the bronze chemistry medal for her explanation of research into materials that could provide a breakthrough in sustainable battery technologies. She said: “It’s my first time to attend such a poster competition – I feel super excited. It’s a good opportunity for me to communicate my research ideas with my peers and other people, so I’m happy.
“I received a research mobility grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry – that was my first mini grant – so I was able to start a collaboration with Qilei Song at Imperial College for my battery tests so this was the first step to facilitate the success of my collaborative projects.”
Dylan Sherman, from the University of Oxford, presented his research on sustainable water quality sensors, based on metal organic nanosheets. Winner of the chemistry silver medal, Dylan summed up the day as: “Dynamic and diverse. Dynamic in the sense that there’s always new people that come from different areas of knowledge, background and they pick up on different things in your research that you may not have picked up on and new ideas and slants that maybe you didn’t think of originally.
“Diverse in that you have parliamentarians, policymakers, legislators all the way through to industry and academics. Ultimately you need the nexus of all of those to work together if you ever want to make impact with your research in science, so to have it all in one room is a really exciting platform for the future.”
Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee, sponsors of the chemistry awards said: “The Parliamentary & Scientific Committee is delighted to sponsor the chemistry awards. 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.”
About STEM for Britain
The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs the event in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Biology, The Physiological Society, the Nutrition Society and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, with sponsorship from Dyson Ltd, Clay Mathematics Institute, United Kingdom Research and Innovation, Warwick Manufacturing Group, AWE, British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, the Society of Chemical Industry, Institute of Biomedical Science, the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research, and the Biochemical Society.