Researchers shortlisted for prestigious Parliamentary poster competition

Houses of Parliament - credit Mats Hagwell (Flickr)

Two researchers from the Department of Chemistry have been selected from hundreds across the country to present their work at the House of Commons.

PhD student Lauren Turner and Post-doctoral Research Assistant Cinzia Spagnul have been shortlisted to take part in the SET for Britain 2015 poster competition.

This annual competition and exhibition encourages, supports and promotes Britain’s early-career research scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians. It has been described as being the ‘engine-room’ of development of UK research and Research & Development.

Lauren Turner

Above: PhD student Lauren Turner

Lauren’s research, shortlisted in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences category, is about the development of self-sterilising surfaces to combat healthcare associated infections. These infections occur in an average of 300,000 people a year, and cost the NHS £1 billion a year.

This research work aims to address this problem by making surfaces that use the photonic energy of normal hospital lighting to activate a unique surface coating, producing a thin film of very short lived reactive species which are harmless to humans, but lethal to bacteria.

Cinzia Spagnul

Above: Post-doctoral Research Assistant Cinzia Spagnul

Cinzia’s poster, selected for the Chemistry section, is on research about the development of a cheap, sustainable device for photo-sterilisation of water in remote regions of the world.

The combination of a non-toxic molecule (called a photosensitizer), bound to glass or a transparent polymer, and sunlight, creates high localized concentrations of reactive oxygen species which kill any microbial pathogens in water flowing over the surface. Ultimately, the intention is to use these materials to provide small, but constant, amounts of sterile water in remote regions of the world, where healthcare facilities are minimal.

SET for Britain

Lauren and Cinzia will present their research to politicians and a panel of expert judges at Westminster on Monday, 9th March, during the UK’s British Science Week.

SET for Britain aims to help politicians understand more about the UK’s science and engineering base and rewards the strongest research being undertaken in the UK.

In each subject category/section gold, silver and bronze winners will be selected with gold winners winning £3,000, silver £2,000 and bronze £1,000. The coveted Westminster Medal will be awarded to the competition’s overall winner.

Lauren, from the Department of Chemistry said: “Having the opportunity to present and explain my research at this prestigious and well-attended event is an honour. Research into how to fight healthcare associated infections is so important, as many people die each year from these infections. I feel this opportunity will allow me to express how important this research topic is, and how my research could make a difference.”

Cinzia, also from the Department of Chemistry commented: “Thanks to support from the Sir Halley Stewart Trust we have developed the first prototype of a cheap device that can be used for the sterilization of water, an especially important issue in remote regions of the developing world where healthcare facilities are often minimal. For me it’s an honour to take part in such a prestigious competition, and I am delighted at the opportunity to present our research findings to MPs and scientists from all over the UK.”

The competition is divided into five sections: Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematical Sciences and Physics with posters in each section being judged by experts.

Research will be judged on both the quality of the science and ability to explain it to a lay audience.

Early-career researchers eligible to apply to SET for Britain include MSc, final year PhD, Post Docs, Research Assistants or Fellows, newly-appointed lecturers, part-time and “mature” students and their equivalents in national, public sector and industrial laboratories, or companies.

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee run SET for Britain in collaboration with:

  • Council for Mathematical Sciences
  • Institute of Physics
  • The Physiological Society
  • Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Society of Biology
  • Society of Chemical Industry

Ross Boyle, Professor of Biological Chemistry, commented:

“I am extremely proud that two members of my research group have been selected for the SET Awards in the same year. It is yet another indication of the internationally excellent research being conducted in the Department of Chemistry.”


(Photo credit: Houses of Parliament – Mats Hagwell (Flickr))

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