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2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award shortlist announced

4 Sep 2017

Fourteen 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 19 October at the Royal Institution, London.

We are pleased to announce that this year’s judging panel is made up of:

  • Donald Brydon, MRC Chairman
  • Dr Claire Ainsworth, freelance journalist and science writer
  • Sir Hugh Pelham, Director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
  • Philippa Pigache, journalist and science writer
  • Andy Ridgway, journalist and Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the University of the West of England in Bristol

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

We received more than 100 entries of a very high standard this year, which made the shortlisting a challenging task. Thank you to everyone who took part and many congratulations to the following exceptional writers:

  • Fiona Calvert, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute: “Alzheimer's disease: the puzzle we're so desperate to solve”
  • Alexander Kaltenboeck, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford: “If you let the sunshine in your brain, what will it do?”
  • Sonja Klingberg, MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge: “Childhood obesity in South Africa - is it a problem?”
  • Monica Kuteesa, MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS: “Alcohol, weed, sex: the high trinity”
  • Kirstin Leslie, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow: “Can Big Data Mend a Broken Heart?”
  • Lara Morley, Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine: “At the Placenta of Everything”
  • Nadine Mirza, The University of Manchester: “Avoiding gibberish when assessing for dementia”
  • Ioannis Pavlidis, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the The University of Edinburgh: “Born too soon: what would Hippocrates do?”
  • Jessica Potter, Queen Mary University of London: “Accessing healthcare – what’s the story?
  • Karolina Punovuori, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh: “Stem cell biology: decoding the manual for a self-building machine”
  • Maria Spyrou, University of Aberdeen: “Orchestration of chitin synthesis: Could understanding this process be a deadly fungus kryptonite?”
  • Sophie Quick, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh: “Watering the strawberry fields of the mind”
  • Upasana Tayal, Imperial College London: “Big hearts and giant genes: What lies at the end of the yellow brick road?”
  • Darren Thomas, University College London: “A predilection for prediction” 

The MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award is now in its 20th 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.


  • Categories: Corporate
  • Health categories: Generic
  • Strategic objectives: Aim: Research to people
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  • Type: News article