Imperial on the search for innovative student ideas to contribute to society


FoNS MAD image

On 25 January 2017 the Faculty of Natural Sciences launched its 2017 Make-a-Difference Competition, FoNS-MAD.

The competition, now in its 4th successful year, challenges all undergraduates in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, plus team members from other faculties across the College, to develop ideas for a low-cost technology with a positive social impact. Throughout the competition, teams progress from articulating their challenge, to submitting a detailed proposal of what they plan to develop. The top 4 teams within the competition are given the opportunity, space and funding to implement their project over the summer. By the end of the competition, the 4 teams are asked to demonstrate the proof-of-concept of their technology and to showcase their idea to a broader audience and a panel of VIP judges.

The launch event, which was attended by students, previous competition winners and finalists, staff from across the college, plus the competition organising committee, outlined the scope of the competition and the various stages of the challenge.

The launch also featured a presentation by Team LipidSense, winners of FoNS-MAD 2016. LipidSense are Kevin Halim and Joel Wong Wen Han of the Department of Chemistry; Johnathan Mei from the Department of Mathematics; and Kamal Nahas of the Department of Life Sciences. The team’s project aim was to develop a simple and rapid test of peroxide concentration in frying oil to determine if it is suitable and safe for consumption and re-use. LipidSense successfully submitted a patent application for their idea in 2016.

The competition’s VIP panel of judges comprises Professor Dame Julia Higgins, Professor of Polymer Science and Senior Research Investigator in the Department of Chemical Engineering; Professor Lord Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies; Professor Sir John Pendry from the Department of Physics at Imperial; and external judge Dr Ruth Allan, of Deloitte.

Interested students have attended Ideas and Teambuilding Workshops throughout February, to both facilitate team-building and to help them identify and explore challenges and develop innovative solutions to these. They have now formed teams and are working on outline project proposals which they will submit in March.

Following submission of their outline proposals, a number of teams will be long-listed to go through to the full proposal stage, of which 4 of these will be shortlisted for the final, lab placement stage of the competition.

The final judging event will take place on 25 October 2017.  

For more information on the competition, including details of previous winners and finalists, please visit the website.

Previous years' teams

2016: winners - Team LipidSense

LipidSense are Kevin Halim and Joel Wong Wen Han from the Dept. of Chemistry, Johnathan Mei from Maths and Kamal Nahas from Life Sciences.

The team developed a simple and rapid test of peroxide concentration in frying oil to determine if it is suitable and safe for consumption and re-use.

Finalists 2016


Uddhav Vaghela and Dimitrios Karponis from Medicine, Stephan Koenigstorfer from Physics, Ana Losada De La Lastra from chemistry and Claudia Liang Peng from Life Sciences. The team worked on an idea for the prevention of mosquito penetration by minimising the frictional adhesion forces between mosquito and a host surface.

Subsequently selected to take part in the Althea-Imperial Programme 2016/17.


Kaiji Wang from Medicine, Ashim Sen Gupta and Alice Cao from Physics, Wern Ng from Chemistry and Xinran Liu from Civil and Environmental Engineering. Developed an idea for a electrochemical MIP-capacitor sensor powered by smartphone NFC.

Subsequently selected to take part in the Althea-Imperial Programme 2016/17.

Other teams 2016


Nishta Parekh and Jiarui Xu from Life Sciences; Harrison Zhu from Mathematics; Sunghun Jung of Maths and Computing; and Jiarui (Henry) Xu of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Developed an idea that involved the innovative application of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) to extend the shelf-life of household food.

Subsequently selected to take part in the Althea-Imperial Programme 2016/17.

2015: winners - Team Hidden Gens

Hidden Gens are Stanislav Piletsky, Zeyu Yang and Cristian Zagar from the Department of Chemistry; and Simon Rabinowicz from the Faculty of Medicine. The team’s project aim was to synthesise molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) that selectively bind to specific blood antigens. This has a number of applications, but Hidden Gens’ primary objective was to engineer a new design of blood-type testing strip.


Team CHaD

Ezra Kitson, Henry Lloyd-Laney, Adam Mills and Ivan Zheludev, all from the Department of Life Sciences.

The team worked on an idea to combat the disease schistosomiasis. They sought to develop a device that can detect the presence of Schistosoma mansoni in water, using a device simple enough to be used by nonspecialists.

The team received the endorsement of a major charity, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), who are based at Imperial College.

The Velox Group

Lauren Dennis and Jakub Vaith from the Department of Chemistry; and Cameron Doughty from the Department of Life Sciences from The Velox Group.

The team identified a disease without a simple qualitative technique for in-field patient diagnosis: Rift Valley Fever virus (RVF), which infects livestock with up to 90 % lethality, and has the potential to infect humans.  The team worked on a qualitative in-field test for Rift Valley Fever using antibodies conjugated to nano-particles.

The team were subsequently runners up in the Althea-Imperial Programme 2015/16.

Other Teams 2015


Zhe Lu, Siyuan Wang, Shiqi Wang from Biochemistry; and Tianyou Wang from EEE.

Worked on “Naiad”, a wearable hydration monitoring device.

Subsequently took part in the IP WiseUp programme.


Peng Peng from Maths and Computing; Siu Law from Maths; and Hongjiang Liu from Computing.

Aimed to create an infinitely variable transmission, which unlike the conventional transmission, would provide a continuous range of gear ratio to choose from rather than having only a few fixed gear ratios. Their aim was to achieve this without relying on friction devices, clutches, hydraulics or lever arms and to avoid energy loss, vibrations and leakages.


Dijana Spasenoska and Haoyun Liu from Life Sciences; and Taiwo Lawal and Zimen Makwana from Chemistry.

Aimed to develop a cheap, copper based water purifier. Their proposed water purifier would use copper and its alloys, known for their antibacterial properties, to kill different types of bacteria in water.


Luyao Chen from Maths; James Debney from Life Sciences; and Andrew Lamb from Physics.

Aimed to create a system to cushion the fall of a malfunctioning unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

2014: winners - ZymeDeal

Zymedeal are Jiawen Dou, Evelyn Liu, Sijia Yu and Qiyun Zhong of Life Sciences. ZymeDeal worked on a solution to the problem of beverage preservation, which they identified as an emergent problem in many aspects of daily life. They explored a method of natural, low-cost and efficient beverage storage by developing an enzyme coated polymer for long-term liquid storage at room temperature.

Subsequently selected to take part in the Althea-Imperial Programme 2014/5 and also the Venture Catalyst Challenge.

Went on to be finalists in the China-UK Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2015. They were placed 3rd overall against very stiff competition from teams from Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, UCL and the University of Ulster. The team received a £1,500 cash prize, plus the details of their project were posted on the website of the UK Association for Entrepreneur Investment and Immigration for potential investors and collaborators to view.


Tim Pauwels and Vasily Shenshin of Life Sciences. The aim of the FunGu(Y)s team project was to improve the quality of research with air displacement micropipettes by designing one which was more resistant to errors and which would demand less strenuous movements, thus decreasing the risk of RSI.


Alan Chang of Physics, Timothy Yin Ho Hui of Maths, Tin Shing Lee and Xin Zhan of Life Sciences. The BioMilk team worked on a project to create a milk substitute to provide a lactose-free milk option to the public using synthetic biology techniques. The core objective of their project was to make milk affordable and readily accessible to everyone


Rebecca Middleton

Rebecca Middleton
Faculty of Natural Sciences

Click to expand or contract

Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2689

Show all stories by this author