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PhD student from Imperial College London awarded prestigious Westminster Medal

Using bubbles to deliver drugs wins young engineer the top prize in Parliament research competition.

Sophie Morse, an engineering PhD student from Imperial College London has been awarded the prestigious Westminster Medal, along with the £2,000 gold prize for Engineering, at the STEM for Britain research poster competition at Parliament this week.

Sophie’s research focuses on the use of focused ultrasound and microbubbles to deliver drugs to the brain. This is a local, reversible and non-invasive technique that can help to diagnose and treat brain diseases.

Sophie said: “I hope the award will expose the extremely promising research we are doing to help cure brain diseases and help me to progress in my academic career. STEM for BRITAIN is a unique event, we got to speak to MPs about our research, in Parliament, which is not something we can do every day.

“Events like this are important for politicians to get a broad view of what engineers are doing across the country, while also allowing us engineers to also get an insight into what opinions and questions are raised by politicians about research.”

Sophie was one of 45 engineering researchers selected to present her research at the annual event, which is designed to showcase the excellent research being carried out by Britain’s early-career scientists, engineers and technologists. The competition is split into five sessions: engineering, biological and biomedical sciences, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. Each session has a gold prize worth £2,000, a silver prize worth £1,250 and bronze worth £750. The Westminster Medal is presented to the overall winner of all five sessions.

The engineering silver prize was presented to Lachlan Jardine, a PhD student from the University of Cambridge, for his work on the effect of cooling on jet engine performance. The engineering bronze prize was presented to Kari Clark, a final year PhD Student at University College London, for his research on using optical fibre to synchronise thousands of computers to within trillionths of a second, a technique that will help maximise the data processing capacity of future “cloud” data centres.

STEM for Britain 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.

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “I’m delighted at the superb engineering research on display at STEM for Britain this year. This annual showcase provides a glimpse of the world-leading research taking place in universities across the UK and it’s fantastic to see excellent engineering being recognised with the award of the prestigious Westminster Medal for Sophie’s research on innovative drug delivery to the brain. This event provides a great opportunity for Parliamentarians to meet researchers from their constituencies and to see how varied the world of engineering is and the many ways in which it benefits our society.”

Professor Dave Mullins, Director of External and International Relations at WMG, University of Warwick, sponsor of the engineering awards, commented: “Britain needs an economy built on technical innovation, improved productivity and long-term investment, therefore it is crucial that we support innovative research which has the potential to change the way we live. WMG is delighted to sponsor the STEM for Britain engineering awards for 2019 and the research being presented shows the great potential of early career scientists in the UK.

“At WMG, we have focused on the practical applications of the highest quality scientific research for nearly four decades, driving innovations in fields as diverse as battery technology and healthcare. I am sure the engineers presenting at STEM for Britain can make a similar impact on our society. We are proud to support their efforts, and the work of STEM for Britain, Stephen Metcalfe MP and the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee in bringing together scientists and parliamentarians to demonstrate how engineering research can improve lives, grow the economy and build a stronger society.”

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee, said: “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.”

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs the event in collaboration with the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Physics, the Physiological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Society of Chemistry; with financial support from Research Councils UK, Warwick Manufacturing Group, the Clay Mathematics Institute, the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research, the Institute of Biomedical Science, the Nutrition Society, the Comino Foundation, and the Society of Chemical Industry.

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