The British Science Association (BSA) is pleased to announce the winners of its prestigious Award Lecture series for 2021. Seven of the top early career researchers, all based in the UK, have been recognised for their cutting-edge work and committed public engagement efforts.   

The winners are: 

  • Yolanda Ohene (University of Manchester) Winner for agriculture, biological and medical sciences 
  • XinRan Liu(University of Edinburgh) Winner for physical sciences and mathematics 
  • Donald Slater (University of Edinburgh) Winner for environmental sciences  
  • Edmund Hunt (University of Bristol) Winner for digital innovation 
  • Laura Lammasniemi(University of Warwick) Winner for social sciences
  • Louise Hickman(London School of Economics) Winner for science and the arts 
  • Rox Middleton(University of Bristol) Winner for engineering, technology and industry 

The Award Lecturers will all take part in a special Q+A event as part of the British Science Festival in September, where they will delve into their research and its real-world implications. All of the Q+A events will take place on the Chelmsford campus of Anglia Ruskin University, as part of the ambitious in-person festival programme. You can book your free tickets below.

In addition, to the live event, all of our Award Lecturers have recorded a short video clip discussing their work, which will be published on the BSA’s YouTube channel.

Antonio Benitez, Director of the British Science Festival said“I am delighted with this year’s cohort of Award Lectures and I am looking forward welcoming them to the British Science Festival in Chelmsford this September. The Award Lectures aim to promote open and informed discussions on issues involving science. The events will actively encourage these top UK early career scientists and Festival audiences to explore together the social aspects of their research.” 

Bookings for all British Science Festival events, including the Award Lectures, will open in early July, and you can find out more information about this year’s Festival on the website at 

About the 2021 Award Lectures and their research  

Winner for Environmental Sciences 

Dr Donald Slater: University of Edinburgh 

Are Polar ice sheets on the rocks? 

The Greenland Ice Sheet is seven times larger the UK, taller than Ben Nevis and contains as many ‘ice cubes’ as there are grains of sand on Earth. However, even colossal ice sheets, like the one in Greenland, are under threat by climate change, posing a significant risk to our environment. Hear Glaciologist, Donald Slater from the University of Edinburgh, tell the story of an ice sheet 'ice cube' as it makes its journey over thousands of years and on a colossal scale. Find out how the birth and death of an ice cube provides tiny clues into the health of these vast ice sheets and what this means for the future of our planet.  

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Winner for Engineering, Technology and Industry 

Dr Rox Middleton: University of Bristol 

The secrets of nature’s shimmer 

What makes certain berries look so wonderfully blue? As part of a journey to answer this question, physicist Rox is examining the way tiny nanostructures in fruits and flowers produce stunning visual effects, including brilliant blue sheens. Find out how the naturally occurring phenomenon of structural colour has evolved independently of colour pigments and what this could mean for colourant technology, manufacture and the way we think about colour.  

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Winner for Physical Sciences and Mathematics 

Dr XinRan Liu: University of Edinburgh 

Searching for the invisible 

XinRan is attempting to detect dark matter, one of the most common, yet most mysterious and hard-to-study substances in the field of physics. He will discuss the extreme lengths that scientists have gone to find the answers to some of the Universe's biggest questions. From studying the stars millions of miles above us to delving several kilometres below the surface of the Earth, he explains why dark matter could be the key to our understanding of the Universe.  

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Winner for Agricultural, Biological and Medical Sciences

Dr Yolanda Ohene: University of Manchester 

A window into the brain 

Our ability to see and understand what is going on inside the brain is critical for the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease. But finding ways to observe the inner workings of our minds in a non-invasive and meaningful way, to benefit patients, poses challenges for scientists and clinicians. Yolanda is on a mission to change that.  In this exclusive event, she will delve into how she has used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology to develop new, ground-breaking techniques for getting inside the head. By visualising the way water molecules move through the blood vessels in the brain, she is bringing together biology and physics to revolutionise the way we approach brain health.  

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Winner for Science and the Arts 

Dr Louise Hickman: London School of Economics and the Ada Lovelace Institute 

Crip AI – Towards disability led-design 

People with disabilities across the world come face-to-face with systems that were not designed for or with them, and that includes artificial intelligence (AI). Louise is an Access researcher who offers a compelling insight into the space between algorithms and people, and the importance of disability-led design in considering AI and data. Using real-life examples, such as captioning, she will explore the fascinating dynamic between technology, its diverse users and the wider environment, both from a practical and ethical standpoint. 

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Winner for social sciences 

Dr Laura Lammasniemi: University of Warwick 

Sexual Consent – Looking back at the law 
At a time when convictions for sexual assault and sexual activity with minors are at an all-time low, what can we learn by looking back? Drawing on real-life cases, legal historian, Laura delves into historical archives dating back to the 1800s. These records provide a glimpse into the ways that poverty, marital status, class and age have had an impact on how consent has been spoken about in the courtroom and asks what these insights mean for modern legal attitudes towards sexual autonomy?  

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Winner for Digital Innovation 

Dr Edmund Hunt: University of Bristol 

Robot Swarms 

What can a flock of birds, a school of fish or a colony of ants teach us about the future of robotics? The swarm behaviours we see throughout our natural environment may seem a world away from the neatly-defined, programmable domain of robots and robotics. However, engineer, Edmund Hunt from the University of Bristol, believes that the way in which biological swarms organise themselves, may hold the key to exciting advances in digital technology. Find out what the ability to design self-organised robotic swarm systems that are scalable, flexible, and robust could one day mean for human societies and our ability to monitor and protect the planet.  

Please note Edmund’s Q+A event will be held at the British Science Festival 2022.