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The Hammond Science Communication Prize 2024 winners

Judges with the participants of the 2024 Hammond Science Communication Prize. The winners are posing with their certificates

The Hammond Science Communication Prize was held in the Stanley Library on the 26 February 2024. In line with this year’s theme of ‘connection’, students unravelled an aspect of connection in science that captivated them, articulating its scientific significance, and illustrating how its presence or absence shapes our world. 

The competition received seven excellent abstracts, all of which were selected to present for eight minutes to a packed audience and esteemed judges. 

The judges for this year’s awards were Dr Phil Hammond (1981 Clinical Medicine, Sponsor), Dr Katie Burton (Medicine), Dr Stuart Davies (Deputy Senior Tutor), Dr Soudabeh Imanikia (Biological Sciences), Dr Sabesan Sithamparanathan (Engineering), and Dr Helen Van Noorden (Arts). 

The outstanding presentations explored, amongst other topics, the neuronal control of psychopathy, the commercialisation of genomic data, parasitism by language, and our connection to dinosaurs.

Abstract and Audience Prizes winner: Scarlett Morine (2022, English Literature)

Abstract and Audience Prizes winner: Scarlett Morine (2022, English Literature)

The title of Scarlett’s entry was ‘Bats, Buboes and Boogieing: the Lesser-Spotted Connections in Pandemics’: an investigation into the literary depictions of the Black Death, the Dancing Plague, and the Great Influenza, and the odd links between them. Scarlett looked at a couple of trivial – and quite weird! – connections between the plagues. Firstly, that all three are followed by ‘poxes’, and, secondly, that literature has, overwhelmingly, pointed to women as the cause of evil and ill-health.

Scarlett commented:

“I am extremely grateful and honoured to win both the Abstract and Audience Prizes, especially as a Humanities student entering a “Science” Communication Prize (This was not on my 2024 bingo card!). Predicting the question, ‘Why is literature important to this topic?’, I was instructed by my DoS, Dr James Riley, to say ‘Because you need us!’, like an English Literature Defence League. As such, I revelled in the opportunity to reveal just one ‘connection’ between the fields of STEM and Humanities – whilst making the audience laugh with (dreadful) puns in the process!”


Pathology Prize winner: Charlie Owen (2023, Natural Sciences)

Pathology Prize winner: Charlie Owen (2023, Natural Sciences)

Charlie’s entry looked at parasite-host relationships, their coevolution, their importance in ecosystems, and how they will be affected by global heating. I ended with the crucial message that we should put more emphasis on the importance of parasites in conservation. 

Charlie commented: 

“Winning the prize meant a lot to me as I care hugely about science communication, and it is something I would like to explore further in the future. I believe good science communication is massively important in a world of large amounts of scientific misinformation.”


Judges' First Prize winner: Chloe Ou (2022, Medical Sciences)

Judges' First Prize winner: Chloe Ou (2022, Medical Sciences)

Chloe’s entry explored how the brain’s functions allow us to build emotional connections with others, the key to empathy. Neurons known as ‘mirror neurons’ are the part of the brain that is activated as a mirrored response to the emotional activation of another’s brain. Activated mirror neurons in the observation of others’ behaviours underlie mimicry and learning, more importantly, their activation by seeing others’ emotional responses allows us to form emotional connections. The shared neuronal activation explains the ability to form emotional connections with others. If mirror neurons are not activated, humans may not be able to empathise with others. This is important in understanding the behaviours of psychopathic offenders, as they struggle to empathise with the pain of others.

Chloe commented:

I am truly honored to win the Hammond Prize as it motivates me to explore more about neuroscience and boosts my confidence in giving presentations.


Judges Second Prize winner: Filip Twarowski (2022, Medical Sciences)

Judges Second Prize winner: Filip Twarowski (2022, Medical Sciences)

Filip’s talk was about how bacteria display a lot of the useful features found in modern computers and how modern technology means that applying computing/engineering principles to biological cells has great potential to create "biological computers".

Filip shared:

“The Hammond prize was my first experience of presenting a topic and answering questions about it to a larger group of people and I found the whole process a really enjoyable and worthwhile challenge. I was a little nervous and unsure of myself going into it and winning second prize was a nice surprise. I'd also like to thank Fiona Cooke for encouraging me to enter, and everyone that put the evening together because it was really great.”