Seismic societal engagement activity recognised in the 2020 President’s Awards


Two teenage school girls participate in an engineering workshop

From a citizen science project with a local school to inspiring global audiences with volcanoes, we celebrate the achievements of this year’s winners.

The President's Awards for Excellence in Societal Engagement recognise staff and students who have gone above and beyond their day-to-day responsibilities to better connect the work of Imperial and our research with society – whether that’s with the wider public, schools, community groups, or patients. The awards also recognise staff who have supported the development of a culture of societal engagement at Imperial.  

Societal engagement is about inspiring and nurturing a sense of curiosity, enabling accessible and meaningful experiences and creating opportunities to share ideas Professor Maggie Dallman VP International, Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships)

This year's ceremony was hosted virtually with Professor Maggie Dallman presenting the prizes for Societal Engagement saying, “Here at Imperial, societal engagement is about inspiring and nurturing a sense of curiosity, enabling accessible and meaningful experiences and creating opportunities to share ideas, insights and skills.” 

Integer-al work 

Dr Philip Ramsden – President’s Medal for Excellence in Societal Engagement 

Dr Philip Ramsden was awarded the President’s Medal for Excellence in Societal Engagement for his outreach work encouraging young people from underrepresented backgrounds to study Maths.  

Philip Ramsden giving a talkThe sustained and extensive programme of inclusive education and outreach activities led by Ramsden includes mA*ths - a large outreach programme aimed at Year 12 and Year 13 students from underrepresented backgrounds aiming for an A* grade at A-level. Ramsden has been the principal developer of the video component of MA*ths, a large proportion of which is delivered online. He also jointly developed, and now runs, both the Mathematics strand of the College’s widening-participation focused Summer School (joint with the Sutton Trust) and the College’s Key Stage 3/4 Homework Club at White City. Ramsden also coordinates the monthly “Maths Circle” masterclasses (joint with the Royal Institution) and is a regular speaker at the Royal Institution’s events.  

In addition to his outreach work, Ramsden has taken a leadership role in improving the UK-wide provision for secondary education in mathematics. He led a project for Continuing Professional Development for A-level Maths teachers and is currently developing a digital learning hub for teachers. 

Seismic activity 

Professor Chris Jackson - President’s Achievement Award for Excellence in Societal Engagement (Individual) 

Professor Chris Jackson was awarded the individual Achievement Award for his work inspiring and supporting people from marginalised backgrounds in STEM and academia. 

Jackson uses his influence as a successful black professor to celebrate black and minority ethnic scientists and engineers. This includes being part of the inaugural Diversity Challenge at the Royal Institution. 

Jackson has appeared on several television programmes including for the BBC, National Geographic and Channel 5. The global and significant impact of these documentaries is poignantly illustrated through the messages sent to him.  

Alongside countless academic talks, Jackson has delivered engaging talks and conversations at the Geological Society of London, Wellcome Collection, Google and Cheltenham Science Festival. He is a regular presenter at Pint of Science.  And his Royal Institution discourse (How to Look Inside a Volcano) has already been viewed over 20,000 times with the accompanying Q&A being viewed over 3,000 times. He was also a guest presenter on the 2019 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, discussing the mathematical likelihood of volcanic eruptions. 

Souper trouper 

Professor Jake Baum and the Anti-Malarial Soup Project team - President’s Achievement Award for Excellence in Societal Engagement (Team) 

Professor Jake Baum and the Anti-Malarial Soup Project group won the team Achievement Award for their citizen science project. 

Image of Jake BaumThe Anti-Malarial Soup project was a collaborative citizen science project with a local primary school - Eden Primary School in North London. The scientists and school children looked at homemade soups from various households finding them to contain anti-malarial properties.  

Taking the initiative to communicate the impact of the outreach project, Baum published the work in the Archives of Disease in Childhood with the school children listed as first authors of the study. A whirlwind media frenzy followed. Of key importance, the media attention reinvigorated conversation about conventional versus alternative medicine and, instead of the usual dichotomy, championed the value of evidence-based approaches, community outreach, and the wisdom that may lie in therapies from traditional cultures.  

An agent of change 

Priya Pallan - President’s Leadership Award for Excellence in Societal Engagement 

Priya Pallan was awarded the Leadership Award for leading exceptional work in engaging with local community groups, businesses and residents in the White City area. 

Photo of Priya PallanA few highlights of these activities include:  

  • Agents of change: Pallan is one of the key architects behind Agents of change, a unique place-based female community leadership network & programme for women who have an active interest in driving social change in the north of Hammersmith & Fulham. 
  • Open age: Open age was established to Champion an active life for older people, by providing a range of physical, mental and creative activities. Pallanhas worked closely with this group at White City and developed the Open age comedy night held at the InventionRooms.  
  • Community science seed fund: Launched in February 2019 to support community-led science and technology projects, the scheme offers small grant funding to local residents and community groups who wish to explore and share the wonder of science with their communities.  
  • Lol Lab: Over four free training sessions led by a professional comedy trainer, Imperial researchers and local residents learn how to put together and deliver their very own stand-up set. At the end of the training, everyone taking part has the chance to show off their new skills at a comedy showcase event at a local White City venue, raising money for a charity of their choice.  
  • What the Tech: One of Imperial College Business School and Imperial College’sflagship engagement projects, What the Tech?! provides drop-in tech support for local elderly residents along with tea and cake and a chance to get to know someone new. Pallan has been instrumental in setting up the programme and maintaining its success.  

Pallan has also helped develop, arrange and guide numerous events in the White City area, such as the White City Christmas market, enabling researchers to showcase their research to the local community.  

STEMette hero 

Vanessa Madu - President’s Student Award for Excellence in Societal Engagement 

Vanessa Madu at the Women of the Future AwardsUndergraduate student, Vanessa Madu, was awarded the Student Award for her work on a Hackathon event to encourage girls to pursue STEM. 

Madu is a second-year undergraduate and Women in STEM advocate. She is passionate about inspiring girls and young women to go into STEM and has spoken about this at conferences, in schools and on youth panels. In 2017 she was invited to attend a meeting in the House of Commons to give her opinion on how other girls could be inspired to take up careers in STEM. She delivers a range of talks around the country, completely initiated by herself in her spare time, that vary from ‘Making the Most of a Mentor’ to ‘The Best Way to Win a Game Show Using Maths’.  

Madu also runs science clubs and workshops as a STEMette speaker, going into schools to inspire other young girls. She has a strong passion to make mathematics accessible to all and to get girls excited with coding.  Vanessa was awarded the Rising Young Star Award in November by Women of the Future, which aims to recognise high achievers aged 16-21 who are showing exceptional promise within their industry, university or school. 

Working alongside Imperial researcher Dr Jackie Bell, Madu was also recently awarded funding from the Societal Engagement Seed Fund, for a collaboration between the Computing and Mathematics departments to inspire primary school-aged students with coding with a ‘Hello World Hack’ event. The activity ideas come from her own experiences of having wanted more computing provision when she was younger. She now wants to give back to those schools with little or no computing provision, whose main catchment are students from Widening Participation backgrounds. 

Policy Pioneer 

Dr Zeynep Engin from UCL - President’s Inspirational Partner Award for Excellence in Societal Engagement 

Research associate at UCL, Dr Zeynep Engin was awarded the Inspirational Partner Award for her work engaging migrant communities as well as policymakers. 

Photo of Zeynep EnginZeynep completed her PhD at Imperial and after leaving the College, but prior to founding the Data for Policy conference, Dr Engin joined the London Centre for Social Sciences, a charity initially set up to support scholars from Turkey. Dr Engin engaged with three key activities, two aimed at the Turkish community, and a third with a wider, international remit.  

For those aimed at the Turkish community, there were two motivating factors. The first relates to high-school-aged pupils: Dr Engin realised that there were signs of under-achievement in many second and third-generation (immigrant) members of this community, and decided to organise an educational platform through which high achieving engineers and academics with Turkish roots could give talks, serving as role models.  

Having engaged successfully with supporting the academic and "networking" needs of one community, Dr Engin turned her attention towards high-level policy. She recognised that there was no forum to bring academics involved in computing or data science together with civil servants and members of government. The latter of these evolved into the independently funded Data for Policy series of conferences.  

The aim of establishing Data for Policy was to focus on the need to bring together agencies of government (e.g. environmental monitoring agencies, health policy agencies and so on) on a global scale to establish multi-disciplinary, cross-sector thought leadership in the application of data science to policy and governance. Data for Policy is currently recognised as the premier global forum for data science and its impact on policy and government.  

Click here to find out more about societal engagement at Imperial.


Ellie Cawthera

Ellie Cawthera
Communications Division

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