Commendations for SLS at Stephen Fry Public Engagement Awards

Published on 29 April 2021

As part of the University of Dundee’s Celebrating our Public Engagement event, the University crowned the latest winners of the Stephen Fry Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement.

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The awards celebrate the people and projects that engage with wider audiences, and the benefits they bring to society. The winners across the three categories were announced by former Rector Stephen Fry:

  • Early Career Researcher of the Year: Laura Jones, Social Sciences, who is helping to break down the barriers that women experiencing commercial sexual exploitation face in accessing support.
  • Researcher of the Year: Dr Andrea Rodriguez, Dentistry, for her work in co-designing a programme to improve oral health among young people experiencing homelessness.
  • Project of the Year: The Educational Comics team, who have created educational comics for partners including charities, creative economies, and the health and education sectors.

Members of the Life Sciences community were also recognised with commendations. Veronica Pravata, PhD student from Daan van Aalten’s lab, was commended in the Early Career Researcher category and a partnership project with Dundee Science Centre, Science @ Home kits, was commended in the project category where twenty three applications were received.

Veronica  was acknowledged for a body of public engagement work related to her research on Intellectual Disability. Throughout her PhD, Veronica has created fun activities for adults and children to explain her research. This has included a snakes and ladders style game, where you start as a stem cell and your goal is to become a neuron. In the past year, she has contributed videos and activities for online audiences including on the Dundee Science Centre’s Home Learning Programme Women in STEM week. 

Veronica said, “Being involved in so many different activities has been a great opportunity in my career at so many different levels. I grew up a lot as a researcher and communicator trying to spark interest in what I do in children and adults, and I really hope to keep doing it in the future. I am extremely honoured to be commended in the Early Career Researcher category, but this would have not been possible without the guidance of the SLS Public Engagement Team.”

In March 2020, Dundee Science Centre launched their Home Learning Digital Programme in collaboration with the University of Dundee (dentistry, forensic science and life sciences) and others in response to a national need for STEM Learning resources for parents and children who suddenly found themselves homeschooling. The Centre were subsequently approached to support tackling equity and wellbeing in some of the most disadvantaged areas of our region. The Science@Home kits provided the same activities, with the necessary equipment and guides, but without the need for digital resource. For 10 weeks over summer 2020, 350 children received kits alongside their foodbank deliveries, giving families a real boost and some science learning in the process.

Project partners include Dundee Science Centre (initiative leads), University of Dundee (Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, Dundee Dental School, School of Life Sciences, Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research), Gate Church Wellbeing Project, Dundee City Council, Dundee Bairns, ChildSmile.

To learn more about the project, we share the story through the voices of the people involved in the following video. The viewer will discover the positive, meaningful impacts from these initiatives for our partner’s and local community and families.

The project has continued to provide kits during school holidays with a total of 4400 kits being delivered to date.

Within the School, we had nominations for a number of researchers and projects. These were:

Engaged Researcher of the Year

  • Irene Hallyburton - “Irene has been a stalwart of public engagement, giving a vast quantity of her time across a huge range of projects over many years.”
  • Suzanne Duce - “Suzanne is prolific in her range and magnitude of contributions… She is quite simply superlative and I am delighted to nominate her.”

Project of the Year:

  • Dundee Discoveries Map - “I would like to nominate Amy Cameron and Matthew Jarron to reflect all their hard work and imagination on the Dundee Discoveries Map project.”
  • Medicine Makers Badge - “… has gone from strength to strength, achieving important strategic goals and engaging thousands of girls and young women with STEM.”
  • Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research - “Ali and Ailsa quickly adapted their public engagement for a digital world substituting face-to-face events with online activities.”