Public Engagement Prize

Schools Day in the lab

Public Engagement Prize

The Public Engagement Prize recognises an individual or team who have contributed to the Institute's public engagement and science communication activities, demonstrating their passion for science and enthusiasm and commitment to inspiring generations.

2023 Winner

The nominations this year were judged by a review panel consisting of the Institute’s Public Engagement Team and external engagement professionals. 


Amy Wilkinson

Amy received the award for work bringing together artists, scientists and the public in a SciArt project and for contributions to a public dialogue project, both associated with the human Developmental Biology Initiative. The dialogue saw Amy discussing embryo research in a series of public workshops aiming to generate an up-to-date knowledge base in regard to the public's hopes and fears around the regulations governing such research. In particular the 14-day rule which sets the duration that embryos can be cultured in a lab for research purposes 

“Amazing to see a PhD student thinking about PE in this deliberative two-way format. The impact of this work on future policy direction is clear, as is the real value Amy is taking from it and into her work!” - external judge comment

Highly Commended

Hanane Hadj-Moussa

In recognition of their long-term dedication to PE. Hanane supports the Institute's PE programme strategically as part of the PE committee as well as being actively involved in most aspects of events whether focused at school audiences or wider communities. Hanane has also championed PE beyond the Institute through her work with the Cambridge Science Centre to engage audiences across the region with science.

"A real PE superstar! Clear recognition of the importance of including PE in her work and dedication shown through seeking out opportunities beyond BI. A real example for others to look to." - external judge comment

2022 Winner

The nominations this year were judged by a review panel consisting of the Institute’s Public Engagement Team and three external engagement professionals: Faye Watson (Public Engagement with Research Manager – Edinburgh University), James Piercy (Communications Officer – John Innes Centre), and Naomi Asantewa (Public Engagement Officer – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine).

Simon Rudge

Simon received the PE Prize for his commitment to sustained, researcher-led public engagement. He has run the Protein Challenge project, in which students complete a series of practical activities relating to Institute research, with the Cambridge Academy for Science & Technology since 2015. Last year, Simon secured Seed Funding to develop a touring version of one of the project experiments, thereby expanding this opportunity to schools in underserved areas.

Highly Commended

Anne Corcoran

For her long term commitment to public engagement and her crucial work during the pandemic adapting to new formats to engage public around vaccination. 

Her championing of engagement work within her team sets a fantastic example of how group leaders can enable others to take part in engagement work.

Jake Cross

For engaging underserved audiences in a way that is bespoke to the audiences needs whilst forwarding the Institute’s engagement mission through the Brilliant Club. 

Activities have been centred around research and researcher led from inception.


Lipidomics Team - Andrea Lopez & Diane Taylor

Nominated for being highly involved in numerous public engagement activities over the year and exemplifying how teams can come together around engagement activities.

Simon Andrews

Nominated for taking part in the Institute’s Meet a Bioscientist event and his support in hosting the Virus Fighter game, to ensure the game remains publicly available.


2021 Winners

This year saw a bumper crop of nominations for the 2021 PESC Prize, with eight groups and individuals being nominated for their commitment to engaging public audiences with Institute research. The nominations were assessed by a panel consisting of members of the Public Engagement team along with two external judges from the Wellcome Genome Campus and the UKRI Public Engagement teams.

In the end the judges found it impossible to decide between two nominations, so for the second time the PESC Prize was awarded to two groups: the Escape Room team and the Virus Fighter team.  Huge congratulations to both the winning teams! The Public Engagement team would also like to applaud all those who were nominated for their fantastic work this year.


Team Profiles


The Epigenetics Escape Room is a brilliant new resource to engage public audiences with epigenetics. The team adapted their plans for an in-person escape room to create the online version, which had great success as part of the 2021 Cambridge Festival with over 500 individuals trying out (and solving!) the puzzles.

This was a fantastic project which involved contributions from an impressive number of researchers. One judge commented that “this is a really innovative project that that has risen to the challenges of engaging with a public during a pandemic and taken the needs of the audience into account from the start.”


Headshots of the six members of the Virus Fighter team. These are arranged as squares in a 3x2 grid.


Virus Fighter is the outcome of the VACCINE project, a collaborative, ORION-funded project to design a game which engages members of the public with the science behind infections, immunity and vaccinations. 25 students from a local state school were involved in designing the game in a co-creative process.

The judges praised this as a great example of a project which involved collaboration with several different external groups. They also highlighted the team effort, with clear ongoing support from senior researchers.

2021 Nominees

Christopher Todd was nominated primarily for his contributions to I’m a Scientist, a chat forum for answering school students’ questions about science.  Chris was awarded the title of most engaging scientist through a student vote, a fantastic achievement. He was also part of the epigenetics escape room team and has taken part in online school sessions discussing the ethics of genome editing.

Anne Corcoran was nominated for her longstanding support of PESC activities at the Institute, and for taking part in a Q&A about COVID-19 vaccines with the British Society for Immunology. This is a great example of how collaboration can help reach new audiences and widen the impact of public engagement work.

Piotr Jung was nominated for giving a Science Spotlight talk, helping to develop an animated research video, and co-founding Covid-Sations, a series of panel discussions about COVID-19 related topics. Judges appreciated the considerations made to make these events inclusive through use of closed captions and pronouns.

Adrian Liston , a key member of the Virus Fighter team, was also nominated individually for his children’s books about immunology: Battle Robots of the Blood and All About Coronavirus. A third book, Maya's Marvellous Medicine, has just been released. The judges highlighted his collaboration with an artist; use of a novel format; and support for other members of his team to participate in PESC activities.

Jo Montgomery was nominated for leading Scientist Stories, a series of video interviews supported by the Public Engagement seed fund. The three videos have a combined total of over 400 views and are a great resource for showcasing the people behind our science and for informing those wanting to find out more about careers in science.

Simon Rudge  was nominated for the Protein Challenge, a practical project which he has been running with the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology for over 10 years!  Simon successfully adapted the project to run remotely, with online talks and poster display sessions, and was commended for his long-term commitment to the project.

2020 Winners

The 2020 Public Engagement Prize was shared between Diljeet Gill and Carine Stapel for their work in different areas of the Public Engagement Programme.

Diljeet won his award for his continued commitment to engaging audiences with the Race Against the Ageing Clock research. Earlier in the year he took the lead in developing a 'What are they up to now?' video, working with a local animator, to showcase at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.

He then went on to engage more public audiences, many from underserved areas, by being the first presenter in the Science Spotlight talk programme. All throughout showing real versatility in adapting to digital formats to overcome the challenges COVID-19 led to for public engagement.

Carine won her award for developing and participating in ORION public dialogue events around genome editing. Throughout she championed the bringing together of public, scientific and professional stakeholder voices to enact action. By providing knowledge and expertise she guided conversations that led to impactful steps forward in the ORION project in relation to research integrity and ethics.

2019 Winners

The 2019 Public Engagement Prize was awarded jointly to The Cell Escape team: Izzy Hampson, Chiara Pantarelli, Richard Odle, Piotr Jung. In addition to individually being active in the Institute’s public engagement activities throughout 2018 and 2019, the team made an impressive joint contribution through the development of the cell signalling-themed Escape Room.

The award recognised the team’s exceptional achievement in the design of the project and its first use at the Cambridge Science Festival this year (image gallery here). In public feedback from The Cell Escape activity, Izzy, Chiara, Richard and Piotr were praised for how engaging they were when discussing the underlying science.

This award recognises Izzy’s, Chiara’s, Richard’s and Piotr’s demonstrated capacity for raising the profile of the Institute and engaging the public with our science in innovative and exciting ways.

2018 Winners

Csilla Varnai and Mikhail Spivakov worked with musician and music producer Max Cooper and visual artist and mathematician Andy Lomas, to produce an emotive new way to experience the complexity and elegance of DNA organisation. Taking data and inspiration from Csilla’s work, Max created two music tracks - ‘Chromos’ and ‘Coils of Living Synthesis’ - and devised a visual to complement the tracks and a Virtual Reality experience which allows people to climb inside the data.

In addition to the music being released on an EP and incorporated into Max’s worldwide shows, Csilla, Mikhail and Stefan Schoenfelder presented the work at the Cambridge Science Festival and Science Museum Lates, and the work is currently on display at the ZKM, Karlsruche, Germany until January 2019. This work required additional input from the team; developing and giving presentations and producing extended explanation content (in English and German), and exhibit hardware for the showcases.

2018 Nominees

Boo Virk, Alex Harvey and Dorottya Horkai, for supporting primary and secondary school outreach, science festivals and notably for developing and delivering new ‘Technasium’ challenge projects relating to their research/facility for the Institute’s partnership with a school in the Netherlands.

Carolyn Rogers and Elizabeth Hampson, for devising and delivering new projects for Cambridge Launchpad, which saw Year 8 students at three local secondary schools investigating DNA extraction and winning teams spending a day in our labs.

2017 Winner

Claire Senner was awarded the Public Engagement Prize for her successful Royal Society Partnership Grant, working with Hitchin Girls School on a project investigating X-chromosome inactivation.

The external judges, from The University of Cambridge and The Royal Society, commented on the range of activities and how well they had been run.

2017 Nominees

Abraham Mains, Laetitia Chauve and Boo Virk for their successful Royal Society Partnership Grant, working with Colchester County High School for Girls on a project investigating transgeneral effects of heat shock in C. elegans.

Simon Walker and Hanneke Okkenhaug, for their support of the Teacher Twilight event, the careers video series and for organising their Imaging project with Babraham Primary School to create science-inspired art for an exhibition in Ely Cathedral.

Boo Virk and Dorottya Horkai, for supporting primary and secondary school outreach, science festivals and notably for developing and delivering new ‘Technasium’ challenge projects relating to their science facilities for the Institute’s partnership with a school in the Netherlands.

Katherine Fletcher, for supporting secondary school science clubs and the 2016 Ethics Workshop, and for her contributions to the Protein Challenge Project with the Cambridge Academy for Science & Technology (formerly UTC), Cambridge - lab sessions, poster workshop and resource booklet.

Laetitia Chauve, for supporting primary and secondary school outreach at Babraham, including the Cambridge Science Festival and the Casanueva Group Royal Society Partnership Grant.

2016 Winners

Amy, a member of the Okkenhaug lab, was acknowledged for her consistent support of the Institute’s PE programme across a number of years. She was recognised for the extent of her contribution to the development of the 2015 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, including take a leading role in the associated video.

Olga, a member of the Corcoran lab, was recognised for her work as a PE Champion for the Nuclear Dynamics programme.  In this role she encourages others to get involved in activities and was involved in the design and development of a DNA-packaging activity for the Institute’s Molecular Explorers exhibit.

2015 Winners

Claire, a PhD student in the Coleman Lab, was recognised for her enthusiasm and dedication to engaging a wide variety of audiences. Even before joining Babraham as a summer student in 2012 she published a Science in Society Review in the Cambridge Triple Helix journal on ‘locked-in syndrome’. Since joining the Institute as a PhD student in 2013 she has engaged in a wide range of science communication activities, including tireless work for Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK), Cambridge Science Festival, schools and undergraduate supervisions.

Dr Simon Rudge, a Senior Researcher in the Wakelam Lab was acknowledged in recognition of his efforts in setting up the Babraham Institute’s Protein Challenge project for and with the University Technical College Cambridge. Simon has been instrumental in converting a one-day outreach activity into an 8-week challenge project for 14-16 year old students and dedicated a significant proportion of his time to ensure that the project was delivered successfully.

Speaking about her award, Claire said “I am very pleased to have been given this award - it was very unexpected!”. Simon was equally modest when talking about the UTC project, “I enjoyed designing the project and working with the UTC staff and students this year. I never imagined I would be nominated, never mind win this award!”.

The Public Engagement prize entries were judged by public engagement specialists from the BBSRC and Cambridge University who praised the Babraham Institute not only for the winning candidates but also for the number of quality nominations. One judge commented “Overall a good collection of applications and quite hard to compare and rank them”.