UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


IHE celebrates its first Engagement Awards at ceremony

14 September 2023

On Monday 11 September, we celebrated our inaugural IHE Engagement Awards – recognising excellence in public engagement within our healthcare engineering and digital health community.

Oh Pod team

In June 2023, we announced the launch of the IHE Engagement Awards.

Developing a culture where public engagement is embedded into practice and valued by staff requires support, encouragement and recognition of effort and achievement. We know there are teams and individuals from across UCL who are delivering phenomenal and innovative public engagement activities in our field.

Our vision is that the IHE Engagement Awards will provide researchers with the formal recognition they deserve, alongside a powerful boost to their morale (and their CV!). 

The awards were judged by:

  • Prof Clare Elwell, Professor of Medical Physics in the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, and Vice Dean for Impact for Faculty
  • Dr Rupy Kaur Matharu, Research Fellow, UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
  • Dr Rebecca Baker, Research Fellow, UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science
  • Alice Hardy, Communications and Impact Manager, UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering

Thank you to everyone who submitted an application; we were incredibly impressed by the breadth and quality of applications. 

We are delighted to announce the following winners:

PhD and Early-Career Researchers  

Category winner: MERS Repair Café 

The Mechanical Engineering Researchers Society is a UCL Mechanical Engineering society for PhD students and ECRs. In 2022, they teamed up with the UCL Institute of Making, UCL Engagement and the Restart Project to support an Electronics Segment at a Repair Café. 

In this interactive workshop, members of the public could bring their broken devices along for a consultation with a repair expert, and tips on how to fix the object themselves. 

They had more than 220 visitors, nearly all of whom left the Repair Café with their device either full repaired or in better condition than when they arrived. 

Through their evaluation, they learned that as well as gaining new skills and confidence, visitors left the workshop with renewed hope, new connections and friendships. 

Honourable mention: Carlos Navarrete-Leon 

Carlos is a PhD student in UCL Medical Physics and Engineering who has made significant contributions to public engagement in healthcare engineering over the last year. 

He has played a key role in leading the Orbyts programme, an initiative which partners researchers with schools to empower students and break down barriers in science education. As a native Spanish-speaker, Carlos has established a billingual research project with Latin American school pupils in South London.  

A teacher from the school said, “having a researcher who is Latin American, who runs sessions in Spanish if needed, was a great opportunity to offer to students at different stages of language acquisition. Being able to take part in something like this has built their confidence”. 

Community engagement and Patient and Public Involvement (PPI)  

Category winner: VaxHub 

Vax Hub team members Steve Morris and Salome De Sa Magalhaes

Dr Stephen Morris and Dr Salome De Sa Magalhaes

Based in UCL Biochemical Engineering, VaxHub is engaging with the public to improve understanding of vaccines and their role against resistant pathogens and future epidemics. Since July 2022, the team have been collaborating with Langdon Park School in Easte London, and North Hertfordshire College in Stevenage to co-create an impactful, interactive outreach programme to engage with teachers and pupils, and raise awareness of vaccine design, development and manufacture. 

The project leads worked closely with teachers to develop the programme and tailor it to their needs. They offered CPD training to teachers in modern vaccine development, held workshops in schools, hosted lab sessions at UCL, and arranged group research projects for school groups.  

One teacher said, “VaxHub never stops to amaze our students by not only bringing cutting-edge science, but also bringing them to their unique labs to manufacture a vaccine to the dengue virus”. 

Honourable mention: In Theatre 

The Wellcome/EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences (WEISS) undertook a project to engage communities in Tower Hamlets, focusing on their work in AI, patient data, and the future of surgery. 

It was the centre’s most ambitious public engagement endeavour to date, involving more than 35 WEISS researchers, 15 researchers from broader UCL, and more than 2,200 members of the public. They worked with design studio The Liminal Space, the UCL East Team, the UCL Policy Impact Unit and Bowel Research UK to bring their vision to life. 

In Theatre was an interactive and imaginative installation, involving several stalls and workshops. The relationships made with the local community continue to flourish and feed into new activities at the centre. 


Category winner: Oh Pod! 

Oh Pod team

Oh Pod team members

Oh Pod is a mental health podcast series co-produced by UCL academics and members of minority communities. The aim of the project is to host honest discussions between researchers and marginalised communities in East London, that lead to developed trust. 

The podcast focused on mental health, neurodiversity and illnesses that are often taboo in BAME communities.  

The UCL team worked with Future Formed (a Borough of Waltham Forest initiative) that offers residents exposure to creative industries. The format of the podcast helped ground conversations in reality and allowed people with lived experience to lead the conversation. The skills and experience gained by the community members led to improved confidence and will allow them to continue their work in podcasting and the creative field.  

Honourable mention: Catarina Veiga and Adam Szmul, How Can We Share Research Together? 

In March 2023, Catarina and Adam worked with CRUK RadNet City of London, CRUK Patient Involvment Network and visual artist Jenny Leonard to explore how cancer research could be disseminated more effectively. 

The aim of the project was to work together with patients, with the long-term goal of embedding them into their research culture. They hosted a workshop with patients exploring how they currently access information and what they would like to see shared. Following the success of the workshop, the pair are now working with a smaller group of patients and a graphic designer to create resources that can be shared with a broader patient and public audience and inform their future research processes.

Communicating our research  

Category winner: Sing, Say, Spray 

Jegak Seo from the Healthy Infrastructure Research Group

Jegak Seo from the Healthy Infrastructure Research Group (right)

Sing, Say, Spray is a creative interactive exhibition that showcases research taking place in the Healthy Infrastructure Research Group. Following the COVID pandemic, the exhibit was designed and built specifically for experimental knowledge transfer between children and UCL researchers on the movement on bioaerosols. Children learned about respiratory droplets and aersols and the activities that generate their spread – like breathing, shouting, coughing and sneezing. 

Some of the activities included blow painting, giant microbe stuffed toys, and counting particles through an old-fashioned megaphone. 

The group shared their work at a range of high-profile engagement festivals, including Bloomsbury Festival and Cally Fest, and attracted over 600 visitors. Their work was featured in a Bloomsbury Festival YouTube video, and they are developing and refining their ideas for next year. 

Honourable mention: Science of Surgery 

The Science of Surgery is WEISS’ annual science fair. Its 3rd iteration was held in April 2023 at Charles Bell House and was open to the general public. Visitors were able to take part in a wide range of fun activities based on the centre’s research themes 

The target audience is local families in Camden and Islington, with a growing reach into Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Building on their In Theatre work, the project leads offered travel bursaries to 15 British-Bangladeshi families travelling in from East London. 

Last year was its widest participation yet, with more than 80 WEISS members from MSc to Professors taking part, and more than 500 visitors – more than double from the previous years.  

Congratulations to everyone, and keep your eyes peeled for next year!