Sci Comm

Celebrating young scientists of tomorrow

Monday 13th December 2021

Celebrating the science stars of tomorrow! As The Oxford Trust (our parent charity) announced recipients of their Covid Innovation Heroes Awards­ 2021 – where scientists and organisations were recognised for their contribution in the crisis, part of the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’s Covid Heroes programme – Science Oxford were also delighted to invite exceptional students from Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire to our own 11th annual Young Scientist Of the Year Awards (YSOTY) 2021. STEM Careers Project Officer, Christopher Duff, tells all…

What can I do next? This was the question many of the sixth form students nominated for our YSOTY awards were contemplating at our virtual celebrations in November. At the crossroads of a key decision about their future, students from Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire heard some fascinating expert talks from scientists, engineers, graduates and apprentices from the region including Oxford Vaccine Group, the Science and Technology Facility Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and GKN Automotive.

Our Oxfordshire students were given an overview of the role of a social scientist from keynote speaker, Dr Samantha Vanderslott from Oxford Vaccine Group, in particular in communicating with the general public and most notably in the wake of Covid-19. Our Buckinghamshire students were equally treated to an excellent talk by Dr Sean Elias from the Jenner Institute – recipient of an Oxford Trust Covid Innovation Heroes Award in recognition of the Institute’s incredible work to develop, pilot, organise clinical trials, scale-up and roll out the AstraZenica Covid-19 vaccine in such a short space of time, saving millions of lives across the world. Dr Elias described his career journey as a vaccine scientist and the incredible achievement of developing a vaccine for Covid-19.

Each speaker gave a unique view of their own career path. Much like our YSOTY award categories, where students are nominated by their teachers, dedication, helping others and enthusiasm were mentioned again and again. In particular, two engineers at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, James Dalton and Steve George, had formed their own groups in pursuit of their passion, with James being the Chairman of the Apprenticeship forum at RAL and Steve starting his own amateur rocket society! Such enthusiasm was echoed by Jess Farmer, who had enjoyed maths but never coded before her journey to becoming a Scientific Computing Graduate – or Becky Harding, who had no idea what she wanted to be in sixth form, but is now working on one of the world’s largest lasers at RAL! All of the speakers highlighted the same fundamental message: ‘Do what you enjoy!‘ none more so than Melissa Chigubu, our speaker from GKN Automotive, who overcame the significant challenge of coming to the UK at GCSE age before embarking on a Mechanical Apprenticeship at GKN.

STEM Projects Officer Christopher Duff said: “It was vital for the students to see all types of career paths, and the next possible stepping stones for them into a career via a university path and graduate scheme, or through an apprenticeship. The overarching narrative of the two evenings was: ‘What exactly does a scientist or engineer Do’, and it was a testament to the speakers that they each highlighted those fundamentals of research and exploration, design, engineering and data analysis.

Now in their 11th year, the awards are an opportunity for the region’s secondary school teachers to nominate their best Year 13 students in science. Pupils are selected on exam results, progress made during their A-level course, being creative their approach or in recognition of their enthusiasm and commitment to their chosen subject. Thank you to all our speakers and our sponsors, the Nuffield Department of Medicine and STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Our 2022 Awards are back next autumn!

Listen as Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert delivers the 44th Richard Dimbleby lecture from Oxford, talking about creating a Covid-19 vaccine in less than a year. Said Professor of Vaccinology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, who works on vaccines for many different emerging pathogens and in 2020 led the development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, achieving emergency use approval in record time. The vaccine has now been used in more than 170 countries around the world after a groundbreaking partnership was formed between Oxford University and AstraZeneca. 

Pics:Oxon and Bucks celebration evenings 2021

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