Vice-Chancellor’s Awards celebrate public engagement with research

Jemma Rowlandson - PhD in CSCT - and winner of the VC's Postgraduate Award for Public Engagement.

A lesson in throwing... and activated carbons. PhD Jemma Rowlandson's engaging presentation was enjoyed by audience members at last week's event.

The public engagement efforts of seven researchers from across the University were celebrated last week at the finals for this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Public Engagement with Research.

Innovative presentations ranged from an interactive showcase on how to save the world with leerdammer cheese, to a stand-up on the value of sport and an artistic challenge asking members of the audience to ‘draw a funeral director’. Attendees at the event were also treated to a walk-through of a Wiki that’s exposing how the tobacco industry influences health policy, a humorous and artistic presentation on how the design of a pen can help building construction, and a live stage demonstration of how piebaldism works and therefore why cats get their stripes.

Engaging audiences with research

The Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement with Research was taken by Dr Kit Yates from the Centre for Mathematical Biology and Department of Mathematical Sciences for his enthusiasm and skill in engaging people in a difficult subject area and in demonstrating how public engagement has benefitted his research directly. Kit’s research interests are mathematical modelling and the analysis of biological systems. He began engaging with the public early in his career and much of his engagement activity has research as its theme.

Kit Yates - Piebaldism

How do you model piebaldism in front of a theatre audience? Dr Kit Yates' stage demonstration showed how it could be done.

The Postgraduate Prize was won by Jemma Rowlandson from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies and Department of Chemical Engineering. Throughout the course of her PhD Jemma has been active in finding new ways to share her work with the public. Earlier this year she also won the University’s Three Minute Thesis competition for postgraduates and will now go through to the national finals.

Commenting on winning, Dr Yates said: “I’m delighted to have won the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement with Research. Like many researchers involved with engagement, I engaged because I think justifying and sharing my work is an important part of my job. It’s great that the University also recognises this and has seen fit to reward its engaged researchers, especially researchers like me in mathematics which is often pigeon-holed as a dry and unengaging subject. I will ensure the award is put to good use within the Department to encourage innovative engagement activities.”

Jemma Rowlandson added: “It is an honour to receive this award. I believe communicating your work through public engagement is both a really important part of research, and vital to inspire the scientists and engineers of the future. To have the work I have done in this area recognised by the University is absolutely fantastic, it shows they appreciate the value and potential of public engagement.”

Doing public engagement across different disciplines

In The Edge PhD Ammar Azzouz discusses his research with the Mayor of Bath, Councillor William Sandry.

Engage: Public Engagement in Practice, which is organised by the Public Engagement Unit, recognises and celebrates the diverse range of engaged research taking place across different areas in the University. This year’s finalists included seven researchers from six departments.

Dr Karen Evans-Reeves & Andy Rowell (Tobacco Control Research Group, Department for Health):

Karen and Andy work in the Tobacco Control Research Group. Their research focuses on monitoring the tobacco industry, their marketing activities and disruptive tactics that they employ to effect regulation of tobacco products and smoking. This research led to them establishing a research-based resource ( exploring how the tobacco industry influences policy in the UK, the EU and internationally.

Dr John Troyer (Centre for Death & Society, Department of Social & Policy Sciences):

John is the Director of the Centre for Death and Society and is an expert on how technology impacts human death and mortality. He has a diverse portfolio of public engagement experiences under his belt, each of them being closely tied to his research. In the last two years alone he has undertaken over 60 engagement activities related to his research, including talks, interviews, community research projects, collaborations with theatre companies and a two-year project with the Bristol Museum.

Sport by stand-up: Ioannis Costas Batlle's lively presentation went down well with the audience.

How to make research funny? Ioannis Costas Batlle's lively presentation covered sport via stand-up!

Ammar Azzouz (Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering):

Ammar is an architecture student who researches the use of digital modelling tools and construction management needs when building complex structures. He is also an artist with an interest in the link between contemporary art, architecture and politics. He has undertaken and organised a wide range of public engagement activities relating to architectural research including mentoring young people in the BRLSI Young Researchers Programme, submitting hand-drawn pieces to competitions, presenting his research for the Engineering Without Borders Society and organising a local discussion event about Palmyra in his native Syria

Ioannis Costas Batlle (Department of Education):

Ioannis is based in the Department of Education and his research interests are in the provision of sport for underprivileged children and their psycho-social benefits. His research-led public engagement has included writing for the press, performing stand-up routines and delivering a prolonged project with Frome College about social justice. He has also instigated and organised public engagement opportunities to encourage other postgraduates to get involved, including this year’s  ‘Ignite your Mind’ festival for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Professor Jonathan Knight, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) explained: “Across the board our researchers are finding new ways of engaging the public with their work and this process of engagement feeds back positively into their own research. It was an honour to be part of the judging panel for this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and the Postgraduate Prize and to celebrate with the winners and runners-up why public engagement matters.”

Watch Jemma and Kit's presentations

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Andy Dunne
University Press Office
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