Introducing the winners of the 2022 Societal Engagement Seed Fund. We're thrilled to continue supporting a wide range of societal engagement projects with this fund. Find out about the different projects below, and more will be announced soon.

Microbes rise to the challenge of plastic waste – led by Dr Alice Banks and Dr Joanne Benton

Plastics is part of our everyday lives, however, its widespread use in commodity packaging and disposable domestic products has dramatically contributed to global plastic pollution. This engagement project aims to increase awareness of the plastic crisis, and to inform the public about current research into addressing the challenging situation we face. 

MIPLACE is a European consortium of researchers investigating the microbial integration of plastics in the circular economy. The goal is to use microorganisms to degrade waste plastic and to convert the resulting waste into new products of a higher value, a process known as upcycling. Specifically, the research focusses on degrading polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyurethane (PU), key materials in the food and beverage packaging industry, and the production of flexible and rigid foams respectively. The degradation products of PET and PU are being repurposed to produce materials which can be used in the construction industry, such as waterproofing and insulation materials. 

Our engagement project sets out to inform several key groups within the community. One major opportunity to engage with families of children aged 5-12 was the Great Exhibition Road Festival. Our interactive exhibit in the Family Zone allowed visitors to learn about microorganisms and to create their own microbe using craft materials. We also spoke to visitors about the work we are doing to engineer microorganisms to degrade and upcycle plastics, and we offered visitors the opportunity to leave feedback on our research and their thoughts on the future of plastic use. We have also arranged to contribute to a talk series hosted by the charity OpenAge. OpenAge work with a community of individuals in London, aged 50 and above, to provide activities that offer new experiences and nurture different interests.  

For more information on our research, visit our website or follow us on Twitter. We have also produced a video on the MIPLACE project providing an overview of our research. 

Understanding & visualising the lived experience of Long COVID - led by Halle Johnson

It’s currently estimated that nearly 2 million people in the UK have ongoing and persistent symptoms following COVID-19 infection. Many of our close community including staff and students at the College and particularly health professionals working in the Trust will be living with ongoing symptoms after COVID-19 which will be impacting their lives. However, due to the new nature of this condition, long COVID is still poorly understood, is complex and ever-changing.   

There is a sense of frustration from people with Long COVID that the public are moving on from the COVID-19 pandemic and are disregarding the experiences of people with long COVID. Further, many are not aware of Long COVID and its associated impact. It’s now more important than ever, that the experiences of people with Long COVID are shared and acknowledged.  

Our overall aim of the visualising Long COVID project is to creatively share the symptom description responses (of which we have received over 100) as part of our ‘defining Long COVID challenge’ as a means to raise awareness of the breadth and depth of symptoms, and their impact, to our local community and health care professionals (HCPs) in a way that is accessible, engaging, and impactful.  

To achieve this, we have been working collaboratively with an artist who is living with long COVID (Still Ill Corona diary) to develop illustrations which visually capture the range and impact of Long COVID symptoms, e.g. what ‘fatigue’, ‘breathlessness’, ‘pain’, ‘tingling/buzzing’, ‘brain fog’ feels like.