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Queen Mary public engagement projects celebrated

Monday 3 June 2013

Students and staff at Queen Mary have been rewarded for their innovative engagement and enterprise activities, events and inventions – from start-up tech companies and charity projects with the elderly to a website celebrating the beauty of maths.

The first Queen Mary Public Engagement Awards took place on Thursday 23 May, to celebrate the way QM projects benefit wider society on both a local and global scale.

All QM staff and students were eligible to apply for one of three public engagement prizes, which were awarded by the university’s Principal, Professor Simon Gaskell, and Director of the Centre for Public Engagement, Professor Mike Curtis.

Professor Peter McOwan, Vice-Principal for External Relations and Public Engagement, comments: “Here at QM our outward facing activities, our links with industry and the different communities we are part of are a key to the success of the institution, and as such are a high priority.

“We are proud to have had an amazing set of nominations from staff and students for these awards, and to have been able to select three winning projects which make a real difference to the local community and the wider world, as well as being truly excellent examples of staff and students engaging with the public.”

The Richard Garriott Award for Best Public Engagement Activity went to the Griffin Community Trust, a charity aiming to promote integration between Queen Mary’s medical and dental students and elderly east London residents through visits and excursions. Students living in Griffin House, which is ajacent to Shaftesbury Lodge in Poplar, befriend the Lodge’s 32 elderly residents and raise funds for special events and projects.

Highly commended was Carla Valentine of Barts Pathology Museum for running a programme of popular public lectures, workshops and weekend events, Dr Ben Still for his accessible particle physics project, Jiggling Atoms, and student project Teddy Bear Hospital, a scheme to help young children get over a fear of dentists, doctors and hospitals.

Professor Robin Whitty of the School of Mathematical Sciences received the Lucy Hawking Award for Best Public Engagement Resource for Theorum of the Day, a web-based ‘art gallery' of mathematical theorems. The project aims to celebrate the beauty of mathematics through descriptions of theorums. Every day a new ‘Theorum of the Day’ is added, alongside information on featured mathematicians, public maths events and maths news.

Highly commended was Professor Gavin Giovannoni for his multiple sclerosis research website, and the Help In Need Association – a charity run since 1982 by Queen Mary’s medical students, which aims to help people in distress and support those who are sick.

The Bruce Dickinson Award for Best Enterprise Activity – named after the Queen Mary graduate, Iron Maiden singer and entrepreneur – was awarded to Dr Matthew Purver of School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science for his technology start-up Chatterbox.

With Queen Mary alumnus Dr Stuart Battersby, Dr Purver created Chatterbox to commercialise his research in computer language and the study of language in interaction. The company’s unique cloud software platform allows users, such as market research or public relations agencies, to see who is driving discussions about brand-related issues through Twitter and whether the conversations are positive or negative, giving organisations vital knowledge with which to interact with an audience.

Highly commended were Professor Jonathon Pitts for QM spinout Actual Experience Ltd, Dr Josh Reiss with start-up technology company Mix Genius and Lindsey Shirah for her work addressing the resource and skills gap in the charity sector, and the undersupply of quality internship opportunities for students and graduates.

For more information about the projects supported by the Centre for Public Engagement at Queen Mary, visit www.qmul.ac.uk/publicengagement/.

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