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Wellcome - MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute


We have recently awarded our annual prizes for public engagement, and our first prizes recognising research culture and integrity.

The success of our science is contingent both on what we produce and how we produce it. Every year, we award prizes to individuals or teams at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute who excel in their work engaging with patient and public groups. For 2021, we also introduced new prizes for those committed to improving our research culture and integrity.

We want to acknowledge people that stand out in these areas, no matter their role or position at the Institute - and there is no better way to know about their positive impact than asking our community in an annual, open call for nominations. After a challenging year, there was no shortage of outstanding nominations for all of the prizes on offer.

We are delighted to acknowledge some of the extraordinary contributions through our prizewinners:

Innovation in Public Engagment
Mariana Quiroga-Londono, Göttgens Lab

Mariana Quiroga-Londono is a PhD student in the Gottgens Group. A bioinformatician and haematologist, Mariana developed Code for a Change, an interactive platform teaching Python through bioinformatics challenges, and took part in online art workshops with Blood Cancer UK patient ambassadors. She did both in her spare time, in addition to her studies, during the early COVID-19 lockdowns.

Mariana says "Code for a Change is a non-profit initiative that allows users to engage with it in a number of ways, including:

  1. By improving their skills using the different interactive terminals to become more comfortable with a real coding environment;
  2. By taking part in the first edition of our programming challenge, 'Hack the Virus', which introduces users to the world of bioinformatics in a fun and engaging way;
  3. By supporting our solidarity campaign that offers online resources to students in Colombia who have had to put their education on hold during lockdown simply because they couldn’t afford to pay for the internet; and finally,
  4. By supporting the inclusion of women in STEM subjects, because we women can code too.

In addition to all of this, we have been able to count on the social media support of our current volunteers, Gabriela Estrada and Aia Rahim, all the way from Mexico and Italy, respectively. This idea and platform would not have come into fruition if it weren’t for the digital creativity of the bioinformatician, Paula Balcells.I am so incredibly grateful for the recognition this award signifies and for the support of all those who have made it possible. Thank you!"

Commitment to Public Engagement
Shaline Fazal, Barker Lab

Shaline Fazal is a postdoctoral researcher in the Barker Group. In 2020, Shaline contributed to a range of public engagement projects we coordinated during the pandemic including video updates, online workshops and more. Most recently, Shaline has also been participating in the 2021 Parkinson’s UK poetry project.

Shaline comments "I am thrilled, honoured, and shocked to have received this prize. With such a high calibre of contenders, it was a real surprise. One of the most fulfilling things in the last 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic has been my increased involvement in public engagement projects, especially when you see how important it has been for the participants involved in our research. All the projects were fantastic but I am most proud of the "lockdown lowdown" videos that I put together around the Barker/Williams-Gray Labs' work on Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease. None of this would be possible without such a supportive public engagement network at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and in particular without our research participants. COVID-19 has definitely highlighted how much public engagement matters!"

Commitment to Research Culture
Roy Ramon Pelegrin, Tissue Culture Team, and Marcia da Silva, Building Team

Roy and Marcia received awards for their key roles in enabling team science as they are always willing to help and will go beyond their duties if it is on their hands to help with an urgent matter. On top of that, while being professional and respectful, they will always have a smile and nice words ready to make your day.

Marcia comments, "I was delighted to receive confirmation of my award for “Commitment to Research Culture” from the Stem Cell Institute. I am very proud to have received this accolade as it shows what you can achieve with a positive mental attitude and the help of your colleagues. I would like to thank them for their support as this would not have been possible without the team."

Commitment to Research Integrity
Anna Osnato, Fatima Lugtu & Rute Tomaz, Vallier Lab

During the first lockdown, Anna, Fatima and Rute (postdocs in the Vallier lab) developed an online resource sharing the lab’s NGS pipelines and courses and tutorials to help scientists wanting to learn more about bioinformatic analysis. The website received a lot of traffic in the first month with around 3,000 visits. Over a year later the website still receives an average of 10 visitors a day. This initiative was developed at a time when many people were starting to use more bioinformatics for data analysis as they weren’t able to go into the labs and has provided a great training resource.

Congratulations and well done to all

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