UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Fiona Truscott wins a UCL Engager of the Year 2017 Award

29 March 2017

We are extremely proud to announce that Dr Fiona Truscott, a Postdoctoral Researcher with The Department of Biochemical Engineering, was recognised for her engagement activities at the recent Provost's Engagement Awards. Winners shared prizes in 10 categories awarded by the UCL President and Provost, Professor Michael Arthur and the Dean of Engineering, Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker. 

Winners of awards in each category received a unique hand-made award created by the Institute of Making team especially for the awards together with Certificates of Excellence in Engineering Engagement signed by the President and Provost of UCL and the Dean of UCL Engineering. You can read more about the award on the UCL Engineering Page Here.On Monday 13th of March, the Provost’s Engineering Engagement Awards celebrated and recognised the hard work, commitment and passion that people at the Faculty of UCL Engineering put in to sharing their research, teaching and learning with children and young people. Dr Fiona Truscott, a post-doctoral researcher in The Department of Biochemical Engineering, won an award for UCL Engager of the Year (Research/Academic Staff (Grade 6 or 7).

We asked Fiona about the award, the ceremony and widening participation here in our department:

How was the reception?

I had a great time! Drinks, canapes and the awards – there were ten categories and each was introduced by someone who had worked with the winner. In my case it was Atlanta from the East London Science School near Bow – someone who participated in one of my sessions.

Tell me about your award

Well, my award was for UCL Engineering’s Engager Of The Year. I have a session that’s based around work with GERTI, an automated platform that I work within the labs here. I take the session out to schools but we also have groups come here to The Department of Biochemical Engineering and we not only talk about the science, but also about careers. I was also involved in UCL Engineering’s National Women in Engineering Day activities in June last year.  I’ve been doing about one session a month for a while now so I think it may be about the sheer number of school pupils I’ve reached as well!

What’s your motivation in your engagement activities?

Science and engineering are becoming a bigger and bigger part of all our lives. New inventions, new technology – they are changing the way we live, but people tend to think of science as removed from day-to-day living. I think it’s integral to our lives, and people use a scientific approach in their everyday lives without realising it. For example if you want to know if your new shirt goes with jeans, you try it on and see if it works -  in the labs here we just formalise that approach. I want to explain what we do, why we do it, what it achieves and – most importantly – that it can be fun! Too many think of science as boring so I try to show how enjoyable it can be.

Also, as a woman who works in engineering , I’d really like to dispel all those misconceptions and stereotypes about scientists and engineers – not all of us wear hard hats or white coats!

One of the really enjoyable parts of my engagement activities is sharing in the enthusiasm of school pupils. When you are doing research on a daily basis, it can become quite commonplace and routine. Getting to explain my work to a class of teenagers who respond with lots of enthusiasm and excitement is fantastic. You get to see your own work through their eyes and it always reminds me of how interesting and enjoyable my job is.

You’ve worked in a couple of different departments, what’s UCL Biochemical Engineering like in terms of public engagement?

It’s really good here. Some departments tend to carry out one big event, but here in The Department of Biochemical Engineering at UCL there are sustained activities all though the year that bring people in, as well as people going out into schools and the community. When I started here I hadn’t heard of Biochemical Engineering as an area due to it being relatively new, but when I explain to friends and relatives what I do, that we fundamentally change how products – vaccines, fuels, materials, medicines – are made, they are amazed and appreciate how what we’re doing really is changing the world. It’s very different to when I worked in Chemistry as people have generally heard of it tend to have some idea of what it involves. Here I’ve got a chance to really shape how people see my work and my area.