Prestigious Margaret Steel scholarship awarded to three EPS students

The award, in memory of Dr Margaret Steel, is a generous £1000 prize awarded to female students who showed a particular aptitude for innovation and want to develop an idea.

Susannah Billig, Foteini Zagklavara and Jessica Proctor will all embark on their Margaret Steel Award research projects.

Dr Margaret Steel was often thought to be eccentric and some of her ideas were considered by some as “crazy”, but her ability to “think out of the box” led her to become one of Imperial Chemical Industries Plc’s most prolific inventors.

Susannah Billig is a fourth-year student, studying for an MEng in Civil and Structural Engineering. Susannah previously worked in industry before she entered University. Academically, she has a passion for Geotechnical Engineering, particularly in its applications for transport infrastructure. 

She is also very enthusiastic about the development of sustainable solutions to Engineering problems. Her research project will look into developing a hemp-based geotextile, for applications in soil separation, ground reinforcement, protection against erosion and drainage.

Foteini Zagklavara is a PhD student from the Centre for Doctoral Training in Fluid Dynamics. She developed an interest in the Biomedical applications Engineering can have, and how Engineering can be used to help develop or facilitate the treatment or diagnosis of patients. 

As part of her PhD, she develops new experimental techniques that will allow Biologists to detect the different types of DNAs that exist in samples. 

Foteini explains “The idea of building this device is driven by the need to provide a fast and robust way of identifying quantitatively and qualitatively the different types of DNA that a biological sample might contain, as well as the specificity of the DNA molecules in that sample.”

The idea of building this device is driven by the need to provide a fast and robust way of identifying quantitatively and qualitatively the different types of DNA that a biological sample might contain, as well as the specificity of the DNA molecules in that sample.

Foteini Zagklavara

Jessica Proctor is a final year PhD student from the Centre for Doctoral Training in Fluid Dynamics. Her PhD focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of airborne transmission of pathogens within the indoor environment. She is extremely passionate about the work she conducts in hospitals that is focussed on understanding routes of infection in those with cystic fibrosis (CF) and coming up with ways to mitigate infection risk. 

Jessica would like to design a medical bioaerosol sampler to sample patients cough/exhaled breath in hospitals that is easy to use and analyse. She says “Investigating key features of `super producers` (people that breathe/cough out higher quantities of bacteria than the average patient) can aid with preventative measures and research into the field of airborne transmission.”

The interview panel was impressed by the student’s flair for innovation, critical thinking, and ambition for research. 

The Maragret Steel award

Julio Faria trustee of The Steel Scholarship Fund stated “The University of Leeds was chosen as the launch pad for the Scholarship because of its international reputation for innovation”. 

Susan Preston, Equality and Inclusion Project Assistant, who helped with the interview process, noted that “these research scholarships act as a catalyst, for the students, to explore and take part in new opportunities”. 

The Margaret Steel innovation award closely aligns with our equality and inclusion initiatives to attract, inspire and support students from diverse backgrounds to undertake research and innovation careers.

Professor Vania Dimitrova, Equality and Inclusion lead, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

The Faculty Equality and Inclusion lead, Professor Vania Dimitrova said “The Margaret Steel innovation award closely aligns with our equality and inclusion initiatives to attract, inspire and support students from diverse backgrounds to undertake research and innovation careers.”

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