Unsung Heroes of Science winners announced virtually
6 July 2020
Reaching new heights in its second year, our Unsung Heroes of Science competition saw 56 video entries from around the world. Last week we announced the winners in a special online celebration event and awards ceremony.
We were lucky to be joined by Dr Christopher Hollings, a researcher at Oxford’s Mathematical Institute and Senior Research Fellow at The Queen’s College. He gave a special lecture on the ultimate unsung heroes – pioneering ancient Egyptian mathematicians whose names we don’t even know – as an online webinar for our shortlisted competitors and their supporters. In a fascinating talk, we learnt about ancient Egyptian methods for multiplication, writing numbers in heiroglyphs and how the ancient Egyptians used maths to build an effective agricultural society.
The prizes were awarded by competition judge Prof. Alison Woollard, a Fellow in Biochemistry here at Hertford and Oxford University’s Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research. Alison, who was helped in the judging by her 17-year-old daughter, spoke about how she was blown away by the quality of this year’s entries – not only in their academic rigour but in their creativity, storytelling and design.
The first prize – and the opportunity to shadow Hertford alumna Fiona Bruce at the BBC – went to Drishya Rai of Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School in Canterbury. Drishya’s video celebrates the double act of Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, scientists who took Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and transformed it into a drug which could be mass produced, saving millions of lives during the Second World War.
In second and third place respectively were Harry Daisley of The Piggott School in Reading and Shreya Arun of Bedford Girls’ School. Harry’s video shines a light on the link between science and the arts, sharing the story of Suzanne Lee and her ‘BioCouture’ project which uses millions of tiny bacteria grown in bathtubs of sweet green tea to produce sustainable clothing. Shreya focuses on the American biochemist Gertrude Elion, a second-generation Jewish immigrant whose pioneering work in pharmacology led to the creation of AZT, the first drug to treat AIDS. Her video was also the runner-up in the Audience Award for the most-watched video with more than 14,700 views.
We were blown away by the reach of this year’s entries and the efforts put into promoting them. The winner of the Audience Award for most-watched video was Nikeisha Patel of Bedford Girls’ School. Nikeisha’s very current video on hand-washing pioneer Ignaz Semmelweis has been viewed an incredible 18,000 times since it was published in May. This unprecedented viewing figure in our competition is a powerful testament to how timely and appealing the video is.
The coronavirus pandemic has not only impacted our hand-washing routines; realising that social distancing would make it harder for teams to enter our competition, this year we opened up entries to individuals and those outside of the UK. We’re very pleased we did as we were able to award a prize for the best international entry, won by Manya Oswal of The International School Bangalore. Manya’s winning video shares the story of Brahmagupta, the Indian mathematician who invented the concept of zero in the 6th century.
But the prizes didn’t stop there! With this year’s entries of such a high calibre, Alison selected three ‘highly commended’ videos too. These awards went to:
Eleanor Butters & Eloise Clapson McBride of Altrincham Grammar School for Girls for their video about the Chinese female physicist Chien-Shiung Wu
Yasmin & Sienna Drummond of Beaconsfield High School for their video about Marie Maynard Daly, the first African-American woman in the USA to earn a PhD in Chemistry
Heer Mann & Bhavya Sharma of The Tiffin Girls’ School for their video about the “father of fibre optics” Narinder Singh Kapany
In these playlists, you can watch the awards ceremony, plus all of our winning videos and meet the creators behind them. And don’t forget – you can watch all of this year’s shortlisted entries on our YouTube channel.