Lorna wins British Biophysical Society prize

Professor Lorna Dougan has been honoured for her work in developing creative public engagement resources

Professor Lorna Dougan (School of Physics and Astronomy) has been awarded the British Biophysical Society (BBS) Elspeth Garman Prize for Public Engagement for her pioneering work in developing and delivering creative public engagement resources to diverse communities. 

The prize is awarded every two years and recognises excellence in biological physics engagement. 

She said: “I’m over the moon and honoured to receive the BBS Elspeth Garman Prize for Public Engagement. 

“The prize reflects hugely enjoyable team efforts, as well as our love of interdisciplinary and creative research. Special thanks to the University’s Engaged Research team, too.” 

Professor Dougan has led innovative projects at Leeds that are designed to share the creativity of scientific research, as well as engage a wider community with the creative process.

For example, in the SAWstitch project, Professor Dougan – collaborating with PhD students Christa Brown and Kalila Cook, as well as colleague Dr Paul Beales – developed an activity that embraces creative thinking to explore self-avoiding walks through the medium of hand embroidery. 

Self-avoiding walks are used to study biological networks and have provided inspiration to scientists, artists and designers. Professor Dougan’s team developed resources to introduce the physics of self-avoiding walks – and an activity that uses materials from hand embroidery – to explore these concepts. 

The project has been published in the Institute of Physics journal Physics Education, and, with the support of our public engagement team, the kits to create the embroideries have been shared with 300 families in the Leeds and Bradford area, about 300 students in local schools and with more than 100 members of the public, both nationally and internationally. 

The embroidery formed part of a Gallery of Soft Matter at the American Physical Society annual meeting in Chicago in March 2022, which attracted 12,000 physicists through an in-person and virtual platform.