Stephen Fry has lavished praise on University of Dundee staff and students who have won awards, named after the University’s former rector, for their success in sharing their work with the public.
The Stephen Fry Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement celebrate the people and projects that engage with wider audiences, and the benefits they bring to society. The winners will receive their awards at the University’s annual Discovery Days event at the Dalhousie Building on Friday 10 January.
Senga Robertson-Albertyn from the Division of Plant Sciences based at the James Hutton Institute won the inaugural Early Career Researcher of the Year award for work carried out during the course of her PhD studies. She views public engagement as integral to her life sciences research and this is only the latest of the awards she has won for her work in communicating research to the public.
Senga has already been named the Microbiology Society’s Engaged Researcher of the Year and received the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Public Engagement Innovator’s Medal. One of the first projects she developed helped teach children and communities about the bacteria that live in our gut. In this ‘Microbe Motels’ project Senga’s new ways of engaging others were so successful that she and colleagues published the work in a peer-reviewed journal.
The 2020 Public Engagement Project of the Year was won by The GROW Observatory team, who empowered thousands of volunteers across Europe to tackle environmental issues by bringing about change in their local communities while Dr Amy Rogers from the School of Medicine was named Engaged Researcher of the Year in recognition of the range of projects she has established to involve members of the public in research at the University. In 2019, she set up the Public Involvement Group to review and critique research on medicines.
Stephen Fry, the comedian, actor, writer, broadcaster and activist who served two terms as Rector of the University, congratulated the winners in an audio recording that played when they received their awards. He said, “I congratulate the winners, and all who work within the University for helping to cement its relationship with the wider community and cement its reputation as one of the great universities of the world. I’m so proud to be connected to the work that is done and to have my name unworthily flown as a banner. Thank you all very much. Lots and lots of love and congratulations to all.”
Prof John Rowan, Vice-Principal (Research, Knowledge Exchange and Wider Impact) at the University, said, “Public engagement is a key strand of our founding mission to transform lives through the creation, sharing and application of knowledge. The Stephen Fry Awards are just one of the ways we reward and recognise our staff and students’ outstanding efforts in listening to and learning with individuals, communities and organisations. Congratulations to all winners and nominees.”