On Wednesday 6 June 2018 the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences celebrated the achievements of its student societies with the fifth annual EPS Societies’ Awards. This spectacular black-tie dinner with live entertainment and 13 prestigious awards was a brilliant way to end the academic year.
After receiving 741 nominations from students, staff, alumni and friends of the College the judging panel had very difficult job of selecting winners. Ultimately there can only be one winner for each award, but ALL of our finalists deserve the utmost recognition.
The winners of the 2018 EPS Societies' Awards are:
Outstanding Event Award
British Science Week: Exploration and Discovery in Space
In March, AstroSoc designed a brand-new workshop as part of British Science Week. Over 120 11- to 13-year-olds from local schools Bordesley Green Girls, Saint Paul’s School for Girls, Foxford and The Royal School Wolverhampton participated in an afternoon of astronomical exploration and discovery. Workshops included ‘Telescopes: A Window to the Cosmos’, a brief introduction to telescopes and astronomy; the strange behaviour of our neighbouring planets in ‘A Tour of the Solar System’; controlling a Mars rover in ‘Exploration Mars: Choose Your Own Adventure’; and learnt about ‘The Sun: Our Closest Star’. Also included in the programme was the Society’s new modern constellations, which were designed before Christmas and had just gained the attention of news outlets throughout the country. AstroSoc made sure all pupils had a lasting memory of the day by designing certificates and stickers as souvenirs from each workshop. Each of their committee and volunteers put great effort into the event, despite fighting busy end of term schedules, deadlines, dissertations and the flu. They successfully prepared talks, created timetables, designed materials and liaised with the Guild regarding risk assessment and training procedures. Feedback from pupils and teachers alike has been overwhelmingly positive, with many asking for resources to take back to their schools to share with other classes. This will no doubt become a regular feature in AstroSoc’s calendar, with teachers already asking when they can book again! It proved an incredible opportunity for AstroSoc members to inspire a new generation to take an interest in astronomy.
Volunteer of the Year
Charity Rep, BUCES: Birmingham University Chemical Engineering Society
Dáire puts her heart and soul into everything she does for BUCES. This year alone she has encouraged the society to raise over £3,500 for worthwhile causes; this is a record for BUCES and they are very proud of her efforts. She has gone above and beyond in organising creative events such as the Selly Oak Races and a sell-out pub quiz to raise money for Acorns Children’s Hospice. Dáire also put together a team for the Birmingham Half Marathon. Despite being a self-confessed running novice she threw herself into training, determined to take part herself. The team saw lecturers, students and alumni running alongside each other for UK mental health charity Mind in memory of Mark, a chemical engineering alumnus who sadly passed away last year. In addition to the time she dedicates to organising fundraising events, Dáire volunteers to show prospective students around the School of Chemical Engineering. She has also assisted outreach fellow Jon Wood in putting on a show at ‘The Big Bang Fair’, inspiring secondary school students to pursue careers in STEM. Dáire can, without fail, always be found in the Garner Learning Suite, with a warm and welcoming smile on her face; she would go out of her way to help anyone. Several of the BUCES team have said that she is one of the loveliest people they know, regularly helps her classmates when they’re stuck with tutorials and is one of the most active and dedicated BUCES members.
"I am delighted to have been nominated and to have won the Volunteer of the Year Award. BUCES has been a major part of my time at University and I have been very lucky to have been part of the most amazing committee, who supported me and our amazing charities. Personally I am very proud of everyone for running the Birmingham half marathon for MIND, our greatest challenge of the year."
Diversity and Inclusion Award
oSTEM: Out in STEM
oSTEM operates to ensure the University is accessible and inclusive for LGBTAQ+ students and act as a voice for under-represented students. They work tirelessly to provide a safe space for LGBTAQ+ students across the sciences, bringing together people from all backgrounds, years and subjects with a common interest in STEM. Their weekly coffee socials are an opportunity to meet like-minded people in a friendly, supportive environment, and termly Speaking Out events showcase the achievements of STEM LGBTAQ+ professionals as role models and potential inspiration for future careers. An ongoing collaboration with WISE continued their partnering of ‘Women In’ events and sparked a new outreach programme with oSTEM members volunteering in local schools to inspire young people, highlighting their commitment to outreach and inclusion not just at the University but also in the local community. Their continued work to increase the campus’ gender neutral toilets gained momentum with the introduction of a Twitter campaign raising awareness of the need for accessible, safe facilities for all. They have also been invited to advise on suitable facilities for the new CTL and the support processes available to transgender students during their transition. In November they even travelled to Chicago as the first European oSTEM chapter to attend the annual conference and were invited to share their successes. oSTEM has had a significant positive impact on university life for its members, offering a place to be themselves without persecution, which for some is the first place they can be LGBTAQ+ and feel safe, supported and loved. As their members say ‘oSTEM is like a home rather than a society. It means family. No one gets left behind.’
"We are extremely proud to support those who are LGBTAQ+, and to be recognised in doing so. We hope to continue to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the college of Engineering and Physical Sciences."
MathSoc launched their volunteering arm about three years ago and since then it has grown exponentially, particularly this academic year. In 2016/17, a small number of volunteers tutored GCSE pupils at the local Dame Elizabeth Cadbury College. They soon saw a desperate need for additional support for these pupils, so the then newly appointed Volunteering Officer Sam Davies set about devising a plan. The MathSoc Tutoring Scheme now sends over 80 student volunteers to tutor more than 100 pupils; that’s almost quadruple the number of volunteers on last year! Initially, tutoring was only for maths but the team soon saw a need in other subjects and started collaborating with PPS and ChemSoc to add physics and chemistry tutors to their curriculum. Tutors work with a small group of pupils once a week, giving close attention and support both to those striving for the best grades, and to those working hard to achieve a pass. All pupils being tutored are now achieving significantly higher grades than their peers. Many did not have high aspirations for their future career or education but meeting current University students has changed that and many are now growing in confidence thanks to their new positive role models. The Scheme has the added advantage of providing first-hand classroom experience to MathSoc members wanting to pursue a career in teaching. Sam has done a brilliant job of coordinating this Scheme and enhancing its effectiveness, and MathSoc and the School of Mathematics are proud of his vision and enthusiasm.
"We are all extremely grateful to win this award, and would like to thank all of our members, and the members of staff in the department, as without them our outreach schemes would be nothing! We are proud that we have positively affected so many people, and hope to improve both our family and tutoring schemes next year!"
Sports Personality of the Year
Sports Officer, MathSoc
Freddie has done a huge amount for MathSoc Sport this year. He captained MathSoc FC to a landslide league victory, winning every game. His team are now only two wins away from being crowned University champions. Freddie should be most proud of the way he has developed MathSoc to encourage greater involvement for members and added new sports to the Society’s repertoire. He secured MathSoc’s first-ever team kits, even washing the football strip on a weekly basis! Freddie introduced a social squash group allowing MathSoc members to play every Saturday morning, even if they’d never played before. He managed their first-ever girls’ football team in a 6-a-side tournament, where they came fourth despite there being six existing teams taking part! Outside of MathSoc, Freddie played an integral role in the organisation of the EPS Trophy, where he played in one of the three MathSoc teams and was quick to support the netball team, dashing from one tournament to the other. He went out of his way to single-handedly organise the first away trip for football and netball to the University of Nottingham to play (and win!) matches against their Politics Society. This and the socials he organised were a huge boost to the team spirit of MathSoc Sport. He achieved all of this while playing for the University’s Table Tennis team. He is strongly committed to ensuring all his teams have every opportunity to perform well on and off the pitch, and has done wonders for MathSoc Sport.
"It means a lot to win this award, when I joined as Mathsoc sports officer I just wanted to develop Mathsoc sport and allow as many people as possible to get involved in sport. It’s nice to get the recognition and I know that Mathsoc will get more and more people involved with sport."
Sports Team of the Year 2017/18
School of Engineering RFC
Engineering Rugby may not have had the most winning season, but in a period of transition due to a large number of their players graduating last summer, they have focused on integrating new players and made significant changes to the Club. Their numbers have swelled to 85, and they continue to welcome players of all abilities. They now offer both competitive and social membership to account for those who may not wish to play full-contact rugby but still want to be part of the team. After many years of trying, they have successfully secured twice-weekly training sessions, allowing them to create a set training schedule, and launched a new player ethos to ensure everyone knows the expectations of their sport. Thanks to these changes, the Club can now rely on regular attendance at training, enabling the committee to develop the entire team. Their mix of fixtures allows players to engage in the game at their own level, thus allowing those with little rugby experience to improve alongside seasoned players. They pride themselves on this inclusive approach and bring the core values of rugby (Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment and Discipline) to their diverse members. Moreover, the Club has a strong sense of belonging, with their annual Old Boys game seeing alumni return to challenge the ‘fresh blood’. This combined with their tour, relationships with local teams and building the foundations of a National Engineering Rugby League thanks to their many away games, the Club is a force to be reckoned with.
"Winning truely means a lot, not just to the club committe, but to the whole club who strives to make a welcoming atmosphere for anyone to play rugby in. It is great testiment to the hard working attitude of members who aim to increase the stanadard of rugby in the club and the way the club is run. Thank you EPS!"
PPS: Poynting Physical Society
PPS has excelled in developing brand-new opportunities for their members to get involved in career-enhancing activities. In securing sponsorship from BP at the start of the year, they have been able to not only promote their on-campus career talks and networking, but also start to build a lasting relationship with one of the world’s largest companies. Ellen Butler and Lucy Millington organised an outstanding Internship Fair for Physics and Astronomy students. This new event focused on unique opportunities for undergraduates to gain internships in laboratories, research centres, teaching and in industry. Given that physics students have a strong track record in gaining internships with large companies, these were specifically avoided and instead focus was given to placements that aren’t as easy to find and are directly relevant to the knowledge learned on their degree programmes. The Fair received representatives from SURE, Cockroft Institute, Daresbury Laboratory, The Odgen Trust and Teach First, as well as current students speaking about their own placements at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Maple TA, the NHS and the University. This has never been done by PPS or Physics before and resulted in several students successfully gaining summer placements. Feedback has been extremely positive and the event led to an invitation from Daresbury Laboratories for a group of students to visit their facilities. The unprecedented advances PPS has made in its industrial reach this year has allowed them to act as strong ambassadors of the School to industrial partners while enabling its members to gain access to unique employment opportunities.
Highly commended: Naomi Randall, BUCES: Birmingham University Chemical Engineering Society
EPS Community Award
EPS Trophy Team
In April 2017, a group of enthusiastic sportspeople had the vision to bring students across the College together through sport. That vision became a reality as the EPS Trophy; the first-ever multidisciplinary sports tournament for the entire College. The Trophy Team, founded in BUMS, grew to include MathSoc, PPS, UBSport, staff and many others to form a truly collaborative committee. They successfully applied for Hands Up funding, generously donated by Birmingham graduates, through the Alumni Office. The application process involved presenting to a panel of judges and the team had the ingenious idea of involving representatives of as many of the EPS societies as possible, visibly showing just how many groups the tournament would reach. This was a resounding success and the team not only obtained their funding, but were invited to compete to double their money by creating a promotional video. This went viral across the College and was only the start of their success. Over 200 EPS students from 12 different societies competed and spectated on competition day. The event even utilised the specialist skills of our societies, with SATNAV officially covering the day with live tweeting and the official EPS Trophy Report featured in their next magazine. UBRobotics helped in the spectator zone and Cameroon Catalyst held extra activities such as wheelbarrow races to raise money for charity. The event received rave reviews from everyone involved! The team hope that the EPS Trophy will become an annual event, galvanising the student body. The gauntlet has been thrown down!
Inspirational Committee Member
President, NucSoc and Chairperson, oSTEM: Out in STEM
Avery is the powerhouse of both oSTEM and NucSoc. They are at the forefront of every campaign, every outreach project and every conference. They have taken oSTEM to new heights, engaging not only with the LGBTQ+ community in Birmingham, but also in the UK and the USA, representing oSTEM Birmingham at the organisation’s annual conference in Chicago and travelling further than any other branch. Avery has drawn on their own life experiences to become a champion for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people who often feel underrepresented and ignored. They are a spokesperson and advocate for positive change, working to ensure the College is welcoming for people of all genders and sexualities, and that everyone has a voice. Avery has fuelled NucSoc into being a truly accessible and warm society with opportunities to get involved in careers activities and outreach to inspire the next generation of scientists. They have helped at Applicant Visit Days and supported new students during those first tricky weeks at university. They have also worked to bring both societies into the wider EPS Community, collaborating with the likes of WISE and EESESoc on workshops and events, all with their signature enthusiasm and creativity. Avery has gone through a heartbreakingly difficult year but despite this, they are always the first person to help others, from making tea to finding relevant resources. Avery is the backbone of both their societies and both are proud that Avery has given their all to support every single member in any way possible.
"I am incredibly proud to be considered an inspiration to two societies, both of which have been very important and supportive to me from the moment I started university. I hope to continue to support both oSTEM and NucSoc in becoming accesible to everyone. I am truly honoured to have been recognised in this way."
Highly commended: Matthew Teller, RailSoc
Role Model of the Year
Academic President, BUCES: Birmingham University Chemical Engineering Society
Nisha is an incredibly organised and diligent student. She has formed an excellent relationship with all staff and students in the School of Chemical Engineering, building strong bonds with staff while also being heavily engaged with the wider student body across all year groups; earning her the respect of both communities. She has been a heavily involved chair of the Staff Student Committee, and the student rep system has worked much better under her leadership than in previous years. Her reputation has allowed her to take on responsibilities above and beyond her duties as BUCES’ Academic President, such as participating in the Vice-Chancellor’s review of the School, lunch meetings with the Vice-Chancellor to discuss University-wide improvements, assisting in an external project on assessment and feedback, working directly with lecturers to improve the course and assess prospective new lecturers. Nisha is also a regular volunteer on Open Days and Applicant Visit Days, successfully promoting the School and BUCES to potential future students. She works well with industrial visitors to help promote BUCES’ members to companies, and share careers opportunities with students seeking summer and year placements, and graduate employment. Outside BUCES, Nisha is first flute in the University’s Wind Band and participates in sports such as Ivengar Yoga and the Birmingham half marathon. Nisha’s commitment to her peers is second-to-none and she will do everything in her power to ensure all chemical engineering students have the resources they need to succeed in their degree. She is a superb example of the type of student that can thrive at Birmingham.
"I’m so very honoured to have been awarded Role Model of the Year at the EPS Awards. It’s been a great year being so involved within the workings of the chemical engineering department. I’ve made lifelong connections and friends and can’t wait to stay close to the department as an alumni!"
Highly commended: Julia Dancu, WISE: Women in Science and Engineering
Staff Member of the Year
Careers Adviser to the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Nominated by WISE: Women in Science and Engineering, they say:
Peggy has been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive or WISE since the founding of the society. Throughout her years of involvement she has worked with every committee the society has had, to the point in which she is now the longest-standing member of the society. She has supported every initiative and event WISE has held, from sourcing speakers and giving presentations herself to attending events and meetings (sometimes at quite unsociable times!), as well as the more day-to-day (but invaluable) tasks of booking rooms and general paperwork. The current committee, as well as the various WISE alumni that Peggy has kept in touch with, would like to gift her this award as a token of our gratitude for her dedication to our work.
Head of College Idea of the Year
PPS: Poynting Physical Society
The PPS Internships Fair in January broke new ground for the Society as its first large-scale careers and industrial event, which was a resounding success. Backed by departmental funding, the committee decided to devise a novel opportunity not covered by the scope of any other current careers events on campus. The culmination of this effort was an afternoon focused on advertising unique industrial and research placements directly within the field of physics such as laboratories and industrial research companies, as opposed to the large STEM recruiters featured at other fairs. Presentations delivered to students featured speakers representing organisations such as the Cockcroft Institute, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and SURE. The talks were followed by a networking reception, allowing students to directly engage with the industry professionals for careers advice. The event was extremely well-attended and received strong feedback from attendees, invited speakers and Peggy Vazoura from Careers Network. Many students applied to placements advertised at the fair, leading to successful placements such as Ellen Butler, who will be joining the SURE programme for the summer. The Cockcroft Institute was extremely impressed by the event and subsequently invited the Society to tour its facilities. Furthermore, the School consequently expressed interest in collaborating with the Society to support its own future careers events. The event has had a huge positive effect on the Society itself, with its success laying crucial foundations for PPS to continue to deliver such opportunities, further expanding the scope and impact of the Society.
"PPS had a hugely successful evening at the EPS awards - to receive two awards (the Society's first ever!) in recognition of the committee's hard efforts this year was a great moment for the society and all those involved. PPS pioneered an array of diverse, new opportunities over the last year and off the back of this success, the society is committed to developing these ideas and growing PPS even further."
Great Achievement in EPS Award
Helena Dodd and Curtis Collins
President, WISE: Women in Science and Engineering, and President, MathSoc
For the first time in the history of the EPS Societies' Awards, the Development and Alumni Relations Office have awarded the Great Acheivement in EPS Award to two outstanding winners:
Helena has been on the WISE committee for three years and has been instrumental in shaping the Society. She was a driving force in securing more than £11,000 in sponsorship and has forged links with numerous companies who have women’s equality and widening participation as key priorities. She was central to the design and delivery of the Women in Tech, Science and Engineering Conferences; each welcoming inspirational speakers and offering powerful insights into their respective industries. Her award-winning ‘Girls in STEM’ scheme, which introduced workshops and clubs to local schools where girls were under-performing in science, is now WISE’s benchmark programme and is a fantastic way to encourage young people to get hands-on with science and engineering. The scheme has been recognised in professional circles resulting in Helena being the only undergraduate shortlisted for a national STEM Inspiration Award in 2017, and she was invited to present some of her teaching demonstrations at the House of Lords. She is a respected mentor, with all school pupils she works with achieving higher grades thanks to her unending support, and one even winning West Midlands Learner of the Year for their progress. Her dedication to inspiring young people is demonstrated by her involvement with the Big Bang Fair for eight consecutive years, and this year she became the Fair’s youngest competition judge. On top of all this, she is an amazing chemist, was the only student to be awarded the RSC Undergraduate Research Bursary last year, and has been offered a PhD place at Imperial College London. Her achievements are seemingly endless.
"It is truly an honor to receive the Great Achievement in EPS Award. This is the perfect way to end an incredibly rewarding four years at Birmingham, and I'd like to thank everyone who has played a role in making EPS such a welcoming, inclusive and exciting space for me to be in. The rest of the nominees have had such incredible achievements and I've been inspired and learnt from them throughout my time at Birmingham. It is also an honor to share this award with Curtis, as his impact on the EPS Community is clear for all to see. I will do my best to honor this award as I start a new chapter in my life, and look forward to hearing about the amazing work that the new generation of EPS students will do!"
No one can doubt Curtis’s commitment to MathSoc, his School, his College or his University. He has done everything: committee member, student rep, school ambassador, undergraduate senate rep, chair of Guild Officer Question Time, alumni host, society president, keen volunteer, tutor and mentor, and ran for a Guild Officer position in the spring husting – the list goes on and all as a final-year student! Curtis is known for his immense enthusiasm and brilliant work ethic. As MathSoc President he has led the Society to greater and greater strengths through excellent team management and an innate ability to somehow be everywhere at once. He has helped others with their studies, held weekly support sessions for computer coding, constantly kept his fellow students informed on what’s happening in the School, made sure everyone’s voices are heard, and is always available for a chat. Curtis is passionate about making a difference for students across the University and does this by positively engaging with staff, helping to solve problems and creating exciting new events. He was part of the organising committee for the EPS Trophy, which saw many of the College’s societies compete for sporting glory, and he challenged societies across the five colleges to a University Challenge-style general knowledge quiz. Curtis has shown so much passion and enthusiasm when he helps at Applicant Visit Days that many students have said he was a prime factor in why they applied to Birmingham. Affectionately known as ‘The King of Maths’, Curtis is clearly at the centre of the School’s community.
"Winning the Great Achievement in EPS is a huge honour! The last year as the president of MathSoc has presented many challenging events and even more rewarding moments. Earning this Award is the proudest moment of my life and I am extremely happy that my hard work has been recognised by the College"
Society of the Year 2017/18
BUMS: Birmingham University Materials Society
BUMS has spent the year pioneering many new activities for the School and College. In Welcome Week they made it their mission to get to know every single new student. They introduced the ‘families’ programme, where two or three students from higher years become ‘parents’ of small groups of first years, making sure everyone felt welcome and included from their first day at University. As a result, there are now more first-year members than ever and a record number applied to take on Society positions at the end of the year. The BUMS Careers Fair was the biggest to date, with more than 20 companies supporting the future careers of students, and directly resulting in students obtaining employment. Of course, BUMS had a very busy social programme with lots of parties, quizzes and other social events, creating a fantastic atmosphere in the School. Together with NucSoc they again organised the Materials Ball, which this year sold out within five days and led to an Alumni Day being organised for graduates who joined the celebrations. To top it all off, BUMS spearheaded the EPS Trophy tournament, which successfully brought together students from across the College to compete for sporting glory. Thanks to their amazing sporting league success over the year, BUMS were victorious and won the entire competition! Continuing their winning streak, a few days later BUMS was crowned ‘Cleverest Society’ at the EPS University Challenge quiz and represented the College at the University-wide final. They have truly had a remarkable year.
"Winning Society of The Year at the EPS Awards encapsulates one of my biggest achievements at University, academic and non academic alike. Working on schemes and projects with my close friends with BUMS committee, meeting an end goal to win the biggest award in the College for my society is one of those rare, blissful moments of pure shameless achievement. It puts a cherry on top of my University experience." - Zak Viney, Co-President 2017/18
To find out more about the EPS Societies' Awards, or to get involved in the 2019 event, visit www.birmingham.ac.uk/eps/societiesawards.