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Bristol PhD students take science to Parliament

4 March 2015

PhD students from across the University are attending Parliament to present their science to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of SET for Britain on Monday 9 March.

Entries from Dr Loren Picco, Dr Christopher Lester, Camilla Stitt from the School of Physics; Laura Totterdell and Jonathan Matlock from the School of Chemistry; Louisa Cockbill in the School of Biochemistry; Darryl Kitney in the School of Physiology and Pharmacology; Kyriakos Georgiou in the Department of Computer Science; and Scott Hayes in the School of Biological Sciences were shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to appear in Parliament.

SET for Britain is a poster competition in the House of Commons for early stage or early career researchers. Presenters enter into one of five categories, depending on their specialism: engineering, the biological and biomedical sciences, the chemical sciences (chemistry), the physical sciences (physics), or mathematics. Judged by leading academics, the gold medalist in each category receives £3,000, while silver and bronze receive £2,000 and £1,000 respectively. The overall winner will receive the Westminster Wharton Medal.

The wide-ranging Bristol entries cover topics as diverse as the role of PICK1 in brain tumours (Louisa Cockbill); the use of mild heating as a potential therapeutic against overactive bladder (Darryl Kitney); how to write cool programs to achieve energy-efficient software (Kyriakos Georgiou); and how plants use colours and temperature to choose the best growth strategy (Scott Hayes).

Georgiou said: ‘My work enables computer programs to be analysed and optimised for lower energy consumption so that greener IT products can be developed in the future – a topic that fits well with Bristol’s aim to promote “greenness” as the European Green Capital 2015. I am very excited that SET for Britain provides me with an opportunity to present how my research can contribute towards this aim, to such an influential audience.’

Dr Kerstin Eder, Georgiou’s supervisor at the University of Bristol, said: ‘I am delighted to see Kyriakos enter the competition. Our research aims to promote energy efficiency to a first-class software design goal. Knowing how much energy is consumed by the code you write, at the time when you write it, is the key to enable energy efficient software development. Kyriakos is making a significant contribution to achieve this goal.’

Cockbill said: ‘I’m funded by public money and so it seems important to me to feedback the results of my research; presenting to MPs at Westminster seems like a perfect platform for that feedback. I am passionate about improving public understanding of scientific research, the nitty gritty details of a project as well as the general process of scientific investigation. At SET for Britain, I’ll get to practise my scientific communication on MPs. What an opportunity to inform the people who run our country about why scientific research is so worthwhile and why it needs the funding.’

Hayes said: ‘This is a great chance for me to present cutting-edge science to MPs at the heart of government. It also acts as the perfect opportunity for me to meet other young scientists from across a huge range of disciplines.’

Kitney added: ‘It is an honour to be given the chance to present my work in Parliament and express my enthusiasm for my field of research.’

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: ‘This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.’

SET for Britain is run by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee in collaboration with the Society of Biology, the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Physics, The Physiological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Society of Chemical Industry, with financial support from INEOS, Institute of Biomedical Science, Wiley, BP, Essar, WMG, Clay Mathematics Institute, and the Bank of England.

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