Dr Stephen Hicks, a research fellow in neuroscience and visual prosthetics at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford struck gold in the engineering session at this year's SET for Britain research poster competition.

Thanks to a winning combination of cutting edge research and presentational flair, Dr Hicks impressed the judges with his project to develop smart glasses that could help partially sighted people to see the world more clearly again or even for the first time in their lives.

Originally from Sidney, Australia, but a long time Londoner, Dr Hicks said: "This project is full of very interesting scientific questions, but what is really satisfying about it is the potential of engineering innovation to raise the quality of life of tens of thousands people around the world."

Dr Hicks presented his research to an audience of Peers, MPs and expert judges and went on to win the £3,000 first prize and a gold medal.

SET for Britain aims to help parliamentarians understand more about the UK's thriving science and engineering base as well as acknowledging and rewarding outstanding research.

Ms Claire Donoghue, a PhD researcher at Imperial College London, from Orpington in Kent, was awarded the silver medal and £2,000 prize for her work in designing software that learns how to interpret MRI scans without human assistance and to predict osteoarthritis, which could allow for early treatment of the disease.

About her experience of SET for Britain, Ms Donoghue said: "It has been great to meet many MPs who are interested in the scientific developments at UK universities. I am hopeful that events of this kind will have a positive impact on future of research."

The bronze medal and a £1,000 prize went to Christopher Spargo, a PhD student in the Power Electronics Drives and Machines Group at Newcastle University, but originally from Hartlepool, working on developing the next generation of electronic motors for future electronic vehicles.

Sir John Parker GBE FREng, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering said: "The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes engineering at the heart of society and showcases its prominent role in the health and wealth of the nation.

"The translation of good science and research via innovative engineering drives economic growth and creates jobs. Judging by the work of the talented researchers taking part in this year's SET for Britain it gives added confidence for the future of engineering.

Volker Schultz, Chief Executive Officer, Essar Oil UK commented: "Essar Oil UK are delighted to be gold sponsors of the Engineering Section of SET for Britain 2014. The awards help to encourage and support young scientists, engineers and technologists, with the standard of entrants consistently impressive year after year. As a company that employs so many talented people across these different disciplines we take a tremendous interest in the excellent work the competition is promoting."

Shane Bennison, Engineering Director, Boeing Defence UK, added: "At Boeing, we engage with some of the most capable scientists, mathematicians and engineers around the world in order to stay ahead of developments in research. This includes young people and those early in their careers to encourage the highest achievers to consider Boeing for their future careers. Presenting a prize at events such as this is a key part of that engagement."

Lord Bhattacharyya FREng and the Warwick Manufacturing Group are delighted to sponsor the Silver Award said: "It is a pleasure to have such a close association with excellence in engineering research, reflecting our own passion in this field."

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: "This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country's best young researchers.

"These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians' best opportunity to meet them and understand their work."

Notes for editors

  1. SET for Britain is a poster competition in the House of Commons - involving approximately 180 early stage or early career researchers - judged by professional and academic experts. All presenters are entered into either the engineering, the biological and biomedical sciences, the physical sciences (chemistry), or the physical sciences (physics) session, depending on their specialism.

    Each session will result in the reward of Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates. Bronze winners will receive a £1,000 prize; Silver, £2,000; and Gold, £3,000. There will also be an overall winner from the four sessions who will receive the Westminster Wharton Medal.

    SET for Britain was established by Dr Eric Wharton in 1997. Following his untimely death in 2007, the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, with support from The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Institute of Physics, the Society of Biology, The Royal Society of Chemistry, The Physiological Society and the Society of Chemical Industry are working together to further his legacy.

    The event is made possible this year by the prize sponsors, who are BP, the Clay Mathematics Institute, Essar, INEOS, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), Germains Seed Technology, Boeing, the Bank of England and the Institute of Biomedical Science.

    Early stage or early career researchers include university research students, postgraduates, research assistants, postdocs, research fellows, newly-appointed lecturers, part-time and mature students, returners, those people embarking on a second career, and their equivalent in national, public sector and industrial laboratories, and appropriate final year undergraduate and MSc students, all of whom are engaged in scientific, engineering, technological or medical research.
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering
    As the UK's national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK's role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK's world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.

For more information please contact:

Giorgio De Faveri at the Royal Academy of Engineering 
Tel: 020 7766 0655
Email: Giorgio De Faveri

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