The Houses of Parliament, with a Union Jack flag in the foreground. Image credit: Shutterstock.
The annual STEM for BRITAIN competition gives early-career researchers an opportunity to present their work directly to Members of Parliament and other UK policy makers. Image credit: Shutterstock.

Oxford early-career researchers celebrated at STEM for BRITAIN 2023

Oxford early-career researchers were among the winners of the STEM for BRITAIN awards at the Houses of Parliament this week

It was an honour to present my research in Parliament at STEM for Britain 2023. Personally, this event provided me with a great opportunity to learn about various cutting-edge research and honed my presentation skills.

Yujia Zhang, Department of Chemistry.

The event, which was hosted on 6 March on the Parliamentary estate, is a major scientific poster competition and exhibition organised by the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee and judged by professional and academic experts. It aims to recognise the outstanding science and engineering research being undertaken in UK universities by early-career researchers by giving them the opportunity to present their work directly to Members of Parliament (MPs).

This year, seven Oxford early-career researchers were short-listed and three were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals for their work.

Applications were open to scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians under five subject categories: Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Physics, Engineering, Mathematical Sciences and Chemistry. This year, 120 shortlisted finalists were invited to the reception event at UK Parliament to present a scientific poster.

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee, said, ‘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. Given the volume of applications each year, just to have a poster in this final is an achievement.’

The Oxford early-career researchers short-listed were:

  • Arkady Wey, DPhil in Industrially Focused Mathematical Modelling (Winner, Gold: Mathematics)
  • Dylan Sherman, DPhil in Engineering Science (Winner, Silver: Chemistry)
  • Abigail Lister, DPhil in Materials Science (Winner, Bronze: Engineering)
  • Jennifer Redmond, DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry (Shortlisted: Chemistry)
  • Yujia Zhang, postdoctoral researcher, Department of Chemistry (Shortlisted: Chemistry)
  • Oliver Bond, Mathematical Institute (Shortlisted: Mathematical Sciences)
  • Ruy Sebastian Bonilla, Associate Professor of Materials, (Shortlisted: Engineering)

The University of Oxford STEM for Britain finalists. Abigail Lister, Dylan Sherman, Ruy Sebastian Bonilla, Yujia Zhang, Jennifer Redmond, Arkady Wey. University of Oxford STEM for Britain finalists. Clockwise from top left: Abigail Lister, Dylan Sherman, Ruy Sebastian Bonilla, Yujia Zhang, Jennifer Redmond, Arkady Wey.

I was so encouraged to see and discuss my work with so many people, especially as they were coming from scientific institutes, industry, and policy making. I even managed to make contact with a potential new industrial collaborator.

Ruy Sebastian Bonilla, Department of Materials.

Arkady Wey, 27, a DPhil student of applied mathematics and winner of the Gold medal for the category of Mathematics, presented research about modelling the filtration of harmful contaminants from liquids and gases.

Of his win he said, ‘I’m surprised and thrilled. I’m very near to the end of my PhD, and I applied for this competition as a way of rounding off my studies and presenting my research. My main feeling is one of pride that my work has been recognised on this platform. I’m less interested in maths for maths’ sake, and I want to produce something with real world, social impact. Today feels like a great success.’

Dylan Sherman, a third-year DPhil student of Engineering Science won the Silver medal in the category of Chemistry for his poster presentation on creating a re-usable, cost-effective, and accurate local source water purity indicator for remote and developing communities. 

The broad range of innovative research within chemistry and other disciplines was really inspiring and it was fantastic to see and be a part of the enthusiastic dialogue between scientists and policymakers.

Jennifer Redmond, Department of Chemistry.

Reflecting on the event, he said: ‘It was an electric atmosphere, stimulated by the nexus between politicians, industry, professional organisations and academics. Even better, the poster format meant the connection between sectors was real - easily enabling powerful one-to-one discussions with parliamentarians and professionals directly. Sharing my research with the broader community was an exciting challenge of simplification and relatability - distilling the work to what really matters for our society. Thank you to all involved for the opportunity!’

The Bronze medal in the Engineering category was awarded to Abigail Lister, a fourth year DPhil student in the Department of Materials Science, for her work on sensors that can detect the presence of gases in the parts per billion and the potential benefits for medicine and security.

She said: ‘The STEM for Britain event was a very enjoyable day that gave me the opportunity to discuss my work on ultra-sensitive gas sensors not only with other researchers, but with MPs and industrial representatives too. I was delighted to win the Bronze award in the Engineering section for my poster.’

The other Oxford University finalists presented posters on the following subjects:

  • The application of atom probe tomography to investigate how ultrathin nanolayers could help develop improve the power conversion efficiency of solar panels (Ruy Sebastian Bonilla)
  • A bespoke molecular flow sensing device to aid the early detection of lung abnormalities in young smokers (Jennifer Redmond).
  • Microscale soft power sources for bio-integrated devices that can stimulate cells and tissues (Yujia Zhang).

You can find more information about the competition and view all the finalists’ posters on the STEM for BRITAIN website.