Imperial College London

Awardees recognised for excellence in the Faculty of Natural Sciences


College main entrance

Annual Prizes for Excellence have been given to staff and students across FoNS for their exceptional contributions to the Faculty.

The Faculty of Natural Sciences (FoNS) have announced the results for this year’s Prizes for Excellence, organised by the FoNS Education Committee to celebrate the achievements and contributions of outstanding students and staff. Each award across six categories is worth £300. 

Congratulations to this year’s winners!

Outreach: Bringing the sounds of the rainforest to life

This year’s Excellence in Outreach award has gone to Dr Jenna Lawson from the Department of Life Sciences. Dr Lawson studies the impact of palm and teak plantations on biodiversity in Costa Rica.

On top of her academic research, she has remained engaged in a variety of outreach efforts, including giving talks about spider monkeys at eco-lodges as well as sharing the results of her conservation research with local communities.

The black-handed spider monkey is the largest of Costa Rican monkeys. They are an endangered species, and communicate using a rich array of calls that can be heard in pristine rainforests.

To study local ecosystems, Dr Lawson collects sound recordings which she analyses to identify different species of wildlife including howler monkeys and a vast array of tropical birds.

With thousands of hours of recordings, she realised that there was a unique opportunity to present her findings in an impactful and memorable way.

“I find that facts and figures don’t really do a lot. People are fed up with being told 50 per cent loss of this or that. I got to the point where people weren’t listening so I thought, we can engage people from their senses,” Dr Lawson said.

Using sound recordings, Dr Lawson created a 40-minute audio documentary that takes listeners from the soundscapes of pristine rainforests to palm and teak plantations. The noisy cacophony of monkey calls and bird song fades into an eerie silence.

It was designed to engage people’s senses in an educational way to show them what happens when we lose wildlife. Dr Jenna Lawson Department of Life Sciences

“It was designed to engage people’s senses in an educational way to show them what happens when we lose wildlife. What they can hear it for themselves, they don’t need numbers,” she said.

Her work has featured in the National Museum of Costa Rica as well as exhibitions and festivals in the UK. Dr Lawson says that there are endless possibilities for developing her outreach work: “We’ve barely started – [our audio] will be used for years to come as an educational tool.”

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: Fostering vibrant communities

The winners for the Excellence in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion were PhD student Matteo Tabaro and undergraduate student Christine Zhang from the Department of Mathematics. 

Tabaro’s research focuses on one-dimensional dynamical systems and he also organizes workshops that promote inclusivity in his Department.

“The event I am proudest of has been the workshop I organised in collaboration with Stonewall for graduate students in Mathematics,” he said. The workshop raised awareness about challenges faced by young LGBTQ+ academics.

Similarly, Zhang created a LGBTQ+ social group within the Department with the aim of strengthening community for sexual and gender minorities in Mathematics.

The Queens Tower Illuminated in Pride Colours for LGBT History Month.

“Honestly, it feels amazing [to be nominated],” Tabaro said, “When I first moved to London, I was really scared of coming out, and never would I have thought that eight years later, I would be leading discourses about inclusivity for the whole Mathematics department.”

Innovation in Teaching: Creating digital tools for education

This year's winners for Innovation in Teaching are:

  • Simon Gerrard, Department of Chemistry
  • Darren Crowdy, Department of Mathematics

Dr Simon Gerrard is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Chemistry. He helped to adapt digital tools for teaching, such as optimising the use of smartphones for an enzymes kinetics practical. This experiment was then able to be converted into a fully remote practical with written lab-book experiments and photos of analysis, which ran for two years during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

Dr Gerrard also worked with the FoNS EdTech Team to implement robust online assessments that could be marked automatically, with easy-to-access data about students' marks and respective confidence-levels. This helped the Department tailor education delivery, he said.

"I’m very lucky to be part of a friendly and motivated team of teaching fellows with fantastic teaching and admin support. It’s a really supportive community across both South Ken and White City," said Dr Gerrard.

Supporting Teaching and Learning

Available to any member of staff in the Faculty for excellence in the support of teaching and learning activities including, but not limited to, administrative and technical support for education.

  • Kevin Buzzard, Department of Mathematics
  • Nick Brooks, Department of Chemistry

Supporting the Student Experience

Available to any member of staff for excellence in the support of students, including, but not restricted to, personal tutoring; academic tutoring; mentoring; wellbeing support; the development of activities and initiatives that significantly enhance the experience of the UG and/ or PG student body.

  • Charlotte Sutherell, Department of Chemistry

Health and Safety

Given in recognition of excellence in promoting and implementing safe practices in the Faculty.

  • Maria Grazia Inghilterra, Department of Life Sciences

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Steven G. Johnson


Jacklin Kwan

Jacklin Kwan
Faculty of Natural Sciences


Student-experience, Strategy-staff-community, Outreach, Education
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