The winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for mathematics in the annual STEM for BRITAIN awards 2022 were announced yesterday afternoon (7 March 2022) at a prize-giving ceremony in the Houses of Parliament, Westminster.

The three winners – Desislava Ivanova (University of Oxford, Bronze), Teresa Bautista (King’s College London, Silver) and Matthew Tointon (University of Bristol, Gold) – were picked from 20 selected finalists and were awarded cash prizes ranging from £750 to £1,500 in value. Full details of the research presented in the final’s poster session can be found below.

STEM for BRITAIN aims to “help politicians understand more about the UK’s thriving science and engineering base and rewards some of the strongest scientific and engineering research being undertaken in the UK”. Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee which sponsors the mathematics awards, said:

“The Parliamentary & Scientific Committee is delighted to sponsor the mathematics awards.  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 STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

The Isaac Newton Institute – which provided support to the event – would like to congratulate not just Desislava, Teresa and Matthew on their awards, but all 20 of the mathematics finalists, and the further 100 finalists in the Biosciences, Chemistry, Engineering and Physics categories also. The level and passion of research on display was of inspirational quality, and we wish each of them the greatest success in the promising careers which lie ahead.

Gold award

“It feels fantastic, I have to say. I really enjoyed coming here. It’s very easy to imagine, as a mathematician, that your work is just being contained in a theoretical box and only existing for its own sake. Taking part in this competition has made me think harder about how to justify it to a broader group of people, who may not be interested in mathematics just for its beauty. I’ve also enjoyed the pleasure of meeting so many people – having not done a lot of that for the last two years due to the pandemic. It was nice to see what others are up to both in and beyond mathematics, and to speak to MPs about research as well. Thangam Debbonaire (MP for Bristol West) asked very insightful questions about the work and the posters. It was clear that it wasn’t just a box-ticking exercise, but an opportunity to really think deeply about what was being presented.” ~ Matthew Tointon

Silver award

“It’s both unexpected, and fantastic at the same time to win this award. It’s nice that the effort is rewarded, because explaining your research at the ‘popularisation’ level is not easy. It takes a lot of time to really put it into language that explains it in the clearest way. As scientists, we have to learn to explain what we are doing to the rest of society, because it’s increasingly important that there is no gap between the scientific world and the world in general. The more I work on my research, the more excited I am, and I hope I can stay in this career and keep exploring what this expanding universe has in store for us all.” ~ Teresa Bautista

Bronze award

“I think the most important part was to be here today in real life, and to see so many young scientists and their research. I’m super happy about the third place, of course, but I’m just really glad that I had the opportunity to speak to so many other people about both their research and mine. I work in the field of experimental design and there are so many ideas about future extensions of the projects that I’m working on. The next challenge is finding the time to do so!” ~Desislava Ivanova

Want an “explainer” of the science behind each of the winning posters? Look no further than the following Plus Magazine article:

(above, left to right) STEM for BRITAIN 2022 mathematics award winners: Desislava Ivanova (Bronze), Matthew Tointon (Gold), and Teresa Bautista (Silver).

“Maths is really important. It’s the quantitative language of the world. It is important culturally, and it is important economically. According to research from Deloitte, maths is deemed to be responsible for 17% of the UK’s GDP – and that is without counting the value of ‘Big Data’. The privacy of our banking, the integrity of our national security, the innovation of new ideas and greater efficiencies, can all be traced to mathematics. So a great thanks to all of those that took part in this year’s STEM for BRITAIN awards and for showcasing mathematics. It has showed a wonderful diversity of ideas, and just as importantly, a wonderful diversity of people.” ~ Paul Glendinning, President of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (speaking on behalf of the Council of the Mathematical Sciences)

“It gives me enormous pleasure to see the wealth of talent that is on display amongst these posters. It shows the beauty, the power and universality of mathematics. As we all know, scientific ideas have no borders and don’t recognise ethnicities. When a theory is proved, it belongs to the whole of mankind. I’m absolutely delighted at the quality of the work and the young talent on display today.” ~ Martin Bridson, President of the Clay Mathematics Institute (sponsor of the Gold and Silver awards)

“It to Gauss that we attribute the saying that ‘Mathematics is the Queen of the Sciences’. In fact, mathematics is more like a ‘Queen Bee’, it has many partners and all-comers are welcome. What this event indicates is the great centrality of mathematics, and how this has enriched the subject and our connections enormously. The recognition of skill and potential in young scientists is essential, and it’s been a great privilege to be here today to see these wonderful posters and the work that has been done.” ~ Geoffrey Grimmett, Chair of the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research (sponsor of the Bronze award)

STEM for BRITAIN is a poster competition in the House of Commons – involving approximately 120 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), the physical sciences (physics) session, or the mathematics session, depending on the researcher’s specialism.  

Each session results in the award of Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates.  Bronze winners receive a £750 prize; Silver, £1000; and Gold, £1,500 and a medal.  There is also an overall winner from the four sessions who receives the Westminster Wharton Medal.

STEM for BRITAIN (formerly SET for BRITAIN but now renamed to reflect the importance of its mathematical element) 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 Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Biology, The Physiological Society and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, is working to further his legacy.  

The event was made possible for 2022 with financial support from Dyson, the Clay Mathematics Institute, United Kingdom Research and Innovation, Society of Chemical Industry, the Nutrition Society, Institute of Biomedical Science, the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research, the Biochemical Society, and IEEE UK & Ireland Section.

The competition is open to early stage or early career researchers, which includes 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.

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