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Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2016 – winner announced

14 Oct 2016

MRC-funded PhD student Liza Selley from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health has won this year’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award. On 13 October, Liza received the first prize of £1,500 for her article: "Braking perceptions of traffic pollution".

The runner-up prize of £750 was awarded to Katie Ember, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, for her article, "Cholangiocarcinoma: The Cancer You’ve Never Heard Of". Commendation prizes of £400 went to Paul Cowling from the University of Edinburgh, Ainslie Johnstone from the University of Oxford, and Edie Crosse from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

Guests mingle at the awards ceremony

The awards were announced by MRC Chairman and Chair of the judging panel, Donald Brydon CBE, alongside 2014 winner and fellow competition judge, Dr Chris van Tulleken, University College London. In his opening address, Mr Brydon said: "We are going through a period of extraordinary change, particularly in this country, and it has never been so important to communicate our science. The judging panel found this year’s entries to be the best we have seen for many years, so picking a winner was extremely difficult."

The other judges on this year’s panel included: Vivienne Parry OBE, science journalist; Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, CEO, Innovate UK; and Professor Uta Frith DBE, developmental psychologist.

During the ceremony, 2014 winner Dr van Tulleken commented on the current state of public engagement with science and reflected on his own career as a science communicator and presenter. He commented: "The joy of writing is not just about the contemplation of science; you have to be creative, force a narrative and stick to a brief. Winning the 2014 Max Perutz award was a bonus, but it was the process of writing that I found wonderful."

Professor Robin Perutz

Professor Robin Perutz, son of the late Max Perutz, reflected on his father’s arrival in Britain as a refugee from Austria in the 1930s and spoke movingly about the importance of international collaboration in science and research. He also spoke about his father’s talent for writing, including his interest in the lives of fellow pioneers in X-ray crystallography: John Desmond Bernal and Dorothy Hodgkin.

The Max Perutz Award is in its 19th year and encourages MRC-funded PhD students to communicate their work to a wider audience. Entrants are asked to explain why their research matters in just 800 words. Since the competition started in 1998, over 1000 researchers have submitted entries and taken their first steps into 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, including haemoglobin. He was the founder and first Chairman of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge. 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.

All of the short-listed articles are now published (PDF, 956KB).

Liza Selley with all shortlisted entrants, Donald Brydon, Robin Perutz and Chris van Tulleken


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