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2013 Max Perutz Science Writing Award shortlist

27 Aug 2013

Eleven outstanding articles have been shortlisted for this year’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award, the MRC’s annual writing competition.

The winner, who will receive a £1,500 prize, will be announced at the awards ceremony on 25 September in the Science Museum, London. Their article will also be promoted in The Times’ magazine, Times Higher Education. The runner-up and highly commended writers will also be announced by competition judge Donald Brydon, MRC Chairman.

The judging panel also included: Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow; former New Scientist editor and executive at the Science Museum Roger Highfield; Times Higher Education reporter Lizzie Gibney; and last year’s Max Perutz Award winner Dr Andrew Bastawrous from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The Max Perutz Award asks MRC-funded researchers to write up to 800 words about their research and why it matters in a way that would interest a non-scientific audience.

Shortlisting this year’s articles, as ever, was a difficult task so a very well done to the following exceptional writers:

Scott Armstrong, Imperial College London

“Saving the brain from itself”

Ben Bleasdale, Imperial College London

“Molecular Fordism – manufacturing a monster”

Elizabeth Braithwaite, University of Oxford

“Depression in pregnancy: the elephant in the room”

Elizabeth Coker, Institute of Cancer Research

“Together they’re stronger: how to combine drugs to treat cancers”

Nick Dand, King’s College London

“Rare genetic disease: a haystack full of needles”

John Davis, King’s College London

“Building bodies, one bump at a time”

Clare Finlay, King’s College London

“A step in the right direction for Parkinson’s disease treatment?”

Oliver Freeman, The University of Manchester

“Why sugary nerves aren’t so sweet”

Clara Sidor, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

“Shaping up: what fruit flies can tell us about how our body is built”

Helen Spiers, MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King’s College London

“Cooking up a human”

Emma Yhnell, University of Cardiff

“Learning to remember in Huntington’s disease”

To mark the MRC Centenary this year, we also introduced a Centenary Challenge and a Centenary Prize.

The Challenge asked researchers to write 100 words on the future of their research area. The competition shortlisting judges have chosen to award the £500 prize to Peter Kilbride from University College London. His piece “2071 – My 80th Birthday Present!” was chosen for its creativity and individuality.

2071 – My 80th Birthday Present!

“What might my future children and grandchildren get me for my 80th birthday? No doubt I’ll have told them (slightly exaggerated) stories about my contribution to cryopreservation. I expect that I’d enjoy a good moan about my old creaking body. Maybe they’ll have put these things together and bought me a new hip — lab grown and frozen before my special day. Or perhaps a new set of lungs, so I can run without getting out of breath. No matter what they buy me, failing bodies — of the young or old — will no longer be the terror they are today.”

The Centenary Prize was awarded for the article with the best title. Titles and headlines are notoriously difficult to write as the author must not only capture the readers’ attention and entice them to read on, but it must also be a true reflection of the article. For this reason, Helen Keyworth’s article ‘Running Away from Addiction’ was chosen. The article gave an insight into Helen’s research at the University of Surrey into the difficulties faced when patients try to quit smoking and the effects of exercise on nicotine withdrawal in both humans and animals.

Peter and Helen will collect their prizes at the awards ceremony on 25 September.

Well done to both Centenary winners and the Max Perutz Award shortlist, and thank you to everyone who took part this year.

The MRC Max Perutz Award is now in its 16th year and encourages MRC-funded researchers to communicate their work to a wider audience. Since the competition started in 1998, hundreds of researchers have submitted entries and taken their first steps in science communication.

The award is named in honour of one of the UK’s most outstanding scientists and communicators, Dr Max Perutz. Max, who died in 2002, was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work using X-ray crystallography to study the structures of globular proteins. He was the founder and first chairman of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, the lab which unravelled the structure of DNA. Max was also a keen and talented communicator who inspired countless students to use everyday language to share their research with the people whose lives are improved by their work.

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