Winners of 2016 Recognising Excellence Awards

School of Biological Sciences

Once again we were delighted with the number and variety of nominations and it was a difficult job to decide on the winners of each category. There is clearly so much effort being made by many people across the School.

The winners were announced by Head of School, Prof David Gray, at a School meeting on Thursday 8th December. Seven awards were presented across openness in animal research, public engagement and knowledge exchange, along with with one mention for special achievement.


Openness in Animal Research (1 award presented)

Ms Divya Malik
Institute for Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Divya is being recognised for her efforts to improve the welfare of experimental animals. She has devised and implemented new practices in animal care designed to show that improved care can have significant positive effects on the outcome of in vivo experiments in mice. This work has been noted by the home office vet and commented on very favourably. Divya has shown an enormous amount of initiative and energy in promoting this work.

Knowledge Exchange (2 awards presented)

Prof Evelyn Telfer
Institute for Cell Biology
Evelyn is being recognised for her work on the re-implantation of frozen ovarian tissue resulting in the restoration of ovarian function in a patient that had undergone chemotherapy treatment 10 years earlier. The patient went on to have a natural conception and successful pregnancy, which you may have read about in the news. Evelyn’s group devised the freezing and thawing protocols and worked alongside the clinicians. This work resulted in the first baby born in the UK after re-implantation of frozen ovarian tissue.
The birth of this baby is a huge impact from Evelyn’s research and it gives hope to those women who have had ovarian tissue stored (instead of eggs) prior to their chemotherapy. It also helps when counselling women and their families about the methods of fertility preservation prior to chemotherapy. Evelyn is also working with a US company who are using her protocols to mature eggs in vitro from stem cells
Edinburgh Protein Production Facility
(Dr Martin Wear, Dr Matt Nowicki, Dr Elizabeth Blackburn and Ms Sandra Bruce)
The (EPPF) team have developed an international reputation in the biotech industry as the go-to laboratory for carrying out projects that are too technically demanding or difficult to carry out with their in-house resources and expertise.   In the last 12 months the EPPF team have attracted over 10 projects from commercial companies worth well over £100K. This work does provide an additional income stream to the School but the key impact is in maintaining and enhancing the world class reputation of science in SBS.

Public Engagement (4 awards presented)

Ms Cara Bray
PhD Student, Rose Zamoyska group (Institute for Immunology and Infection Research)  
Cara Bray devised a game to demonstrate the principles of vaccination and recognition of infection by antibodies. Cara developed the concept of “Can You Fight a Dangerous Disease?” and helped to organise the 3D printing and painting of the final pieces for the game. Along with other Zamoyska lab members, Cara took the game to a range of festivals, interacting with visitors and encouraging their participation.
Dr Eleni Pavlina Karagianni
PDRA, Val Wilson Group (Institute for Stem Cell Research)
Eleni has been involved in two main projects based on her ideas and research. The first is a high school lesson in developmental biology and stem cells called “Why my project matters". This is based on real scientific data and presents how a research project can evolve. The lesson gives a taste of scientific research to young students, aiming to inspire them and trigger their excitement about sciences.
The second project is named “Dr. Skelfie and her mobile stem cell lab". This is a hands-on activity about stem cells and regeneration. Dr. Skelfie is a human skeleton - visitors build different cell types then transplant the cells onto her trying to help her to regenerate damaged tissues.Eleni also contributed to the development of two "stem cell dances" that are now performed by the Science Ceilidh band (2015). Eleni has participated in the delivery of outreach activities in a number of events (Midlothian science festival, Edinburgh sciences festival, Sci fun roadshow)
Dr Hannah Florance and Dr Gaynor Campbell
(Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology)
Hannah and Gaynor are receiving this award for their creativity and enthusiasm in explain what synthetic biology is and what it can do for our planet through several outreach activities.
They helped to conceive the Master Biobuilder exhibit which has travelled around several science festivals reaching hundreds of children.
The central character explains the concept behind building with DNA. It provides an opportunity for children (and grownups) to learn about engineering yeast and why we do it – how we’d go about constructing a metabolic pathway using cool fuzzy-felt bioparts - and then captures children’s creative ideas about what they would build.
Hannah and Gaynor also participated in the Science Art Writing (or SAW) training course and took a unique and creative science project into local Edinburgh primary schools.
This reward is well deserved and Hannah and Gaynor are great role models for others interested in coming up with new ways to share the exciting and world-changing research that we do here.
Prof Graham Stone
Institute for Evolutionary Biology
Graham is being recognised for his work as a committee member of the Edinburgh Living Landscape group which seeks to create, restore and connect green areas of the city to make attractive and biodiverse landscapes that will be healthy, nature rich and resilient to climate change. Graham has also made films to highlight the value that urban pollinating insects, such as bees, make to our landscape. In addition, Graham has organised Doors Open Day in the Ashworth labs for several years, and continues to interact with visitors as Dr Bones, enthusiastically explaining the exhibits from the Ashworth Natural History Collection to our many visitors. Graham has been committed to engaging with the public on many levels for a long time, and we believe he is truly deserving of this award.

Special Mention

Mr Frank Machin 
PhD student, Peter Doerner group (Institute for Molecular Plant Sciences)
Frank entered the international science communication competition, FameLab, and went on to win the Edinburgh regional heat, the Scotland Grand Final and was runner - up in the UK Grand Final. This is a fantastic achievement for Frank. After the UK Final, Frank presented longer, or adapted, versions of the Famelab talks for Edinburgh Skeptics, Glasgow Skeptics, Edinburgh Canal Festival and the Midlothian Science Festival. Frank has presented and publicised plant sciences and developmental biology to public audiences in Scotland and England.