Light of Understanding Award 2019 – and the winners are….

As well as being a chance to look to the future of engagement and learn new skills, PER Day is also a great opportunity to celebrate and reflect on some of the amazing PER projects already underway. For PER Day 2019 not only were we celebrating the Institutional achievement of being awarded a Silver Engage Watermark, but we also presented our Light of Understanding and Alice Roberts PGR Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement.

The Alice Roberts PGR Award for Excellence in Public Engagement

For 2019 the Alice Roberts PGR Award was presented to Sophie Louth (Formulation Engineering), a participant on the Research Communication and Public Engagement PGCARMS Advanced Skills PGR module who developed a brilliant project called “Hands Up”. Hands Up was a school workshop on medical engineering getting young people to build and test their own limb prosthetics

The judges noted Sophie’s extremely thoughtful and diligent approach; carefully considering the safety requirements of using power tools in a young person’s event whilst ensuring that the workshop would be fun and give participants a really meaningful opportunity to get hands on with her research. The PGCARMs assessment panel were also really impressed with her application of public engagement theory and logic modelling and her use of evaluation.

The Light of Understanding Award for Excellence in Public Engagement

The Light of Understanding is our new Institutional Award to recognise individuals and groups who are carrying out amazing public engagement work. The Award is named after a quote by Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel Laureate and Alumnus of University of Birmingham, who was also a pioneer of research communication and storytelling.

We wanted to create an Award that not only rewards brilliant work, but catalyses more activity and acts as a beacon to be passed to other researchers. Therefore, winners of the Light of Understanding are rewarded with a grant of £2,000 to spend on further public engagement activity that helps spread their good practice to other researchers.

The award was judged by an expert panel consisting of
Public Engagement Committee Chairs, Prof Alice Roberts and Prof Ian Grosvenor, Prof Tim Softley, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Helen Featherstone who is a leading national public engagement expert. The panel were so impressed with the number and quality of applications to the scheme, that they decided to award a special commendation to PhD student Liam Crowley (Biosciences) for his portfolio of work promoting the work of our forestry institute, BiFOR, and in particular his work on the successful insect podcast, Entocast. Liam received £250 to spend on further PER activity.

The 2019 Light of Understanding was awarded to the Applied Memory lab who’ve developed a brilliant project call ‘Are You a Good Eyewitness’. The project includes a tourable exhibition which has been used to engage with over 2,000 children at the ThinkTank science museum in Birmingham and a website featuring lots of great images and videos that really bring their research to life. The judges were particularly impressed by their attitude towards involving researchers at different career stages including a team of 24 undergraduates. They also designed their activity so that they can use the data collected directly in their research and the experience has also affected aspects of how they plan to carry out future research. The activity involved a large number of researchers and students, but was led by Prof Heather Flowe, Dr Melissa Colloff and PhD student Danielle Hett and Melissa and some of the students collected their award and told us a little more about their plans to us the £2,000 prize grant to further the reach of this project to children from areas of multiple deprivation.

Congratulations to all our winners! We can’t wait to see where you take your engagement next!

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