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Vice-Chancellor’s awards recognise the difference researchers make to society

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The announcement was made at a prize ceremony held at the Old Schools on 13 July. At the same event, one of Cambridge’s leading experts on EU law – and in particular, Brexit – received one of the Vice Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards for her work around the EU Referendum.

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, says: “I would like to offer my warm congratulations to the recipients of our Impact and Public Engagement Awards. These are outstanding examples that reflect the tremendous efforts by our researchers to make a major contribution to society.”

Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Awards

The Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Awards were established to recognise and reward those whose research has led to excellent impact beyond academia, whether on the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life. Each winner receives a prize of £1,000 and a trophy, with the overall winner - Dr Alexander Patto from the Department of Physics – receiving £2,000.

This year’s winners are:

Overall winner: Dr Alexander Patto (Department of Physics)

WaterScope

Using an open-source flexure microscope, spin-out company WaterScope is developing rapid, automated water testing kits and affordable diagnostics to empower developing communities. Its microscopes are being used for education, to inspire future scientists from India to Colombia. Its open-source microscope is supporting local initiatives, with companies such as STIClab in Tanzania making medical microscopes from recycled plastic bottles.

Elroy Dimson (Judge Business School)

‘Active Ownership’: Engaging with investee companies on environmental and social issues

‘Active Ownership’ refers to commitment by asset owners and their portfolio managers to engage with the businesses they own, focusing on issues that matter to all stakeholders and to the economy as a whole, including environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns. By providing evidence to guide ESG strategy, Professor Dimson’s research has had a substantial impact on investment policy and practice.

Professor Nick Morrell (Department of Medicine)

From genetics to new treatments in pulmonary arterial hypertension

Severe high blood pressure in the lungs, known as idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, is a rare disease that affects approximately 1,000 people in the UK. The condition usually affects young women and average life expectancy is three to five years. Existing treatments improve symptoms but have little impact on survival. Professor Morrell has introduced routine genetic testing for this condition, and found that one in four patients carry a particular genetic mutation associated with more severe disease and worse survival. His research has identified new ways to treat the disease, the most promising of which is being commercialised through a university spin-out biotech company.

Professor Lawrence Sherman, Peter Neyroud, Dr Barak Ariel, Dr Cristobal Weinborn and Eleanor Neyroud (Institute of Criminology)

Cambridge Crime Harm Index

The Cambridge Crime Harm Index is a tool for creating a single metric for the seriousness of crime associated with any one offender, victim, address, community, or prevention strategy, supplementing traditional measures giving all crimes equal weight. The UK Office of National Statistics credits the index as the stimulus to institute its own, modified version from 2017. Police use the Cambridge index to target highest-harm offenders, victims, places, times and days, differences in crime harm per capita differs across communities or within them over time, adding precision to decisions for allocating scarce resources in times of budget cuts.

Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards

The Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards were set up to recognise and reward those who undertake quality engagement with research. Each winner receives a £1000 personal cash prize and a trophy. This year’s winners are:

Professor Catherine Barnard (Faculty of Law)

In the run up to the EU membership referendum Professor Barnard developed a range of outputs to explain key issues at stake including migration, which forms the basis of her research, in addition to the wider EU law remit. Harnessing the timeliness of the political climate, Barnard’s videos, online articles, radio and TV interviews have supported her engagement across 12 town hall events from Exeter to Newcastle, an open prison and round-table discussions with various public groups. She has also provided a number of briefing sessions to major political party MPs and peers. She has become a trusted public figure, and researcher, on EU law, Brexit and surrounding issues, ensuring that the voices of those key to the research process are heard and listened to.

Dr Elisa Laurenti (Wellcome/MRC Stem Cell Institute and Department of Haematology)

Dr Laurenti has engaged over 2,500 people, at six separate events, with her Stem Cell Robots activity. She collaborated with a researcher in educational robotics to produce this robot-based activity, which maps a stem cell’s differentiation to become a specific cell type. The activity has provided a platform for children, families and adults to discuss ethics and clinical applications of stem cell research.

Dr Nai-Chieh Liu (Department of Veterinary Medicine)

Dr Liu has developed a non-invasive respiratory function test for short-skulled dog breeds, including French bulldogs and pugs, which suffer from airway obstruction. She has engaged with dog owners by attending dog shows, dog club meetings and breeders’ premises to break down barriers between publics and veterinarians working to improve the health of these dogs. As a result of this engagement, the UK French bulldog club and the Bulldog Breed Council have adopted health testing schemes based on Dr Liu’s research.

Dr Neil Stott and Belinda Bell (Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation, Judge Business School)

Dr Stott and Miss Bell established Cambridge Social Ventures to embed research around social innovation into a practical workshop to support emerging social entrepreneurs. Since the first workshop in 2014, they have reached almost 500 people wanting to create social change by starting and growing a business. The team goes to considerable efforts to reach out to participants from non-traditional backgrounds and to ensure workshops are inclusive and accessible to a wide range of people by incorporating online engagement with work in the community.

Amalia Thomas (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics)

Amalia Thomas researches photoelasticity, a property by which certain materials transmit light differently when subjected to a force. Amalia has developed an engaging exhibition for secondary school students comprising interactive elements, which uses photoelasticity to visualise force, work and power.

Dr Frank Waldron-Lynch, Jane Kennet and Katerina Anselmiova (Department of Medicine and Department of Clinical Biochemistry)

Since the commencement of their research programme to develop drugs for Type 1 Diabetes, Dr Waldron-Lynch, Ms Kennet and Ms Anselmiova have developed a public engagement programme to engage participants, patients, families, funders, colleagues, institutions, companies and the community, with the aim of ensuring that their research remains relevant to stakeholder needs. Amongst their outputs, the team has formed a patient support group in addition to developing an online engagement strategy through social media platforms. Most recently, they have collaborated with GlaxoSmithKline to offer patients the opportunity to participate in clinical studies at all stages of their disease.

An open source, 3D-printable microscope that forms the cornerstone of rapid, automated water testing kits for use in low and middle-income countries, has helped a Cambridge researcher and his not-for-profit spin-out company win the top prize in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Awards at the University of Cambridge. 

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