On Wednesday 12 June 2019 the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences celebrated the achievements of its student societies with the sixth annual EPS Societies’ Awards. This spectacular black-tie dinner with live entertainment saw the presentation of 16 prestigious awards in 14 categories. A truly brilliant way to end the academic year.
After receiving a record-breaking 986 nominations from students, staff, alumni and friends of the College the judging panel had very difficult job 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 2019 EPS Societies' Awards are:
Sports Personality of the Year
Sports Rep, BUMS: Birmingham University Materials Society
A force to be reckoned with on the pitch, Will has proved to be quite extraordinary off it too. He’s been an active and keen participant in all BUMS sports teams – netball, basketball and football – throughout his four years at Birmingham, and was a vital member of their first touch rugby team which went on to win the UBSport Summer Touch Rugby Series in 2018. But as Sports Rep, Will has transformed sport in Metallurgy and Materials. First, he was pivotal in the rebranding of the three sports teams as ‘BUMSport’, which became a sort of sub-society that students could join for a small fee. With the membership money, Will was able to provide branded kit, equipment and training sessions, as well as boost the number of students participating in sporting activities across the School. As a result, BUMSport has gone from winning nothing in the campus league last year to coming first in basketball, fourth in netball, and sixth and seventh in football. Will also led the way in introducing social badminton which has proved a big hit, attracting up to 20 players every fortnight. He has shown his continuing commitment to BUMSport and respect of fellow members by playing in each of the teams – despite never having played netball before this year. His passion, commitment, hard work and infectious enthusiasm have boosted morale and taken BUMSport to new heights.
Will said about winning: "I'd have to owe the award to BUMS and how much the Society has contributed towards my experience at Birmingham. When I started university I assumed that the only route to getting involved in sport would be through the university sports teams, however almost the entirety and certainly most enjoyable of sport has come from BUMS. Sport with BUMS has allowed me to create some great friends and through the past couple of years build new skills.
Throughout the past year as sports rep, I have been able to give back to BUMS what it has given me. With help from the sports captains and incredible amounts of work from Sam and Harriet (Co-presidents), we have been able to restructure and build on sports in BUMS, of which I am massively proud.
This award has really blown me away and made me feel quite special!"
Sports Team of the Year 2018/19
EPS Mixed Netball
For a small team, EPS Mixed Netball have taken huge strides this year. They’ve had a tricky couple of years with the majority of their members either graduating or starting years in industry over the summer so practically had to start from scratch. But they pulled together at the last minute and nothing’s stopped them since! Membership has shot up by more than 50 per cent and they won eight out of the ten games they played competitively, reaching the quarter-finals of the Campus League and coming second in their own league (a big improvement on last year’s seventh place). For the first time in a good few years, a committee has been set up to ensure the momentum continues into next year and beyond. The surge in success is due to a combination of factors – a new and enthusiastic leader, well-organised taster training and pay-and-play sessions to encourage more people to take up netball, whatever their ability, along with a range of social events to gel the team. They have become a diverse and integrated group, with 3 male members (which is more than many other University teams), and players from across the College. EPS Mixed Netball has created a warm and welcoming environment for anyone who wants to join, even if they’ve never played before, and make sure every member is an integral part of the team. Along with a competitive spirit, the focus is on providing a relaxed environment for people to keep fit, meet new people and, most importantly, have fun.
Emily Jones EPS Mixed Netball Captain 2018/2019 said: "It means a lot to the team to win sports team of the year. It fills me with pride knowing that all of our hard work and accomplishments this year have been recognised and we can use this achievement to hopefully gain new members for the future."
Outstanding Event Award
STEM, LGBTQ and You
oSTEM: Out in STEM
It was an event that ‘had it all and more’, as months of hard work by the oSTEM committee culminated in Birmingham’s first ‘STEM, LGBTQ and You’ conference dedicated to exploring LGBTQ+ experiences in STEM subjects. The day-long event, which took place in February, rounded off LGBT History Month in spectacular style, attracting more than 75 people. Funded by the Alumni Impact Fund for Students, the event featured eight speakers from universities including Birmingham, Oxford, Staffordshire and even the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the US who skyped in to join them. Topics ranged from microbiology and algebraic geometry to computational linguistics, materials and psychology. The conference – the biggest LGBTQ STEM event the University has ever hosted – was aimed at anyone who wanted to learn more about a diverse range of subjects and how people who identify as LGBTQ experience the world of STEM. Participants included undergraduates, postgraduates, professionals and support and academic staff, and brought together people from different disciplines and universities. A previous oSTEM chairperson summed up the success of the day by saying: ‘The event showed the truly amazing capabilities of students the University, showing how professional and also how compassionate your students are…words cannot express how proud I am.’
oSTEM said about their award: "STEM, LGBTQ and You was the culmination of many months of hard work by the oSTEM committee and it is amazing to see it be celebrated. To see our event bringing together people who are LGBTQ in STEM across the UK together be such a success is amazing. People were brought together from different disciplines and universities to interact when under normal circumstances they would not."
Volunteer of the Year
Volunteering Officer, MathSoc
Ethan’s sterling efforts as Volunteering Officer saw nearly £3,000 being raised for charity during the year, including more than £1,300 for St Basils through the ‘Fundraising February’ initiative. The money was raised through events including a pub quiz, bucket shakes and sponsorship of a 12-strong team to run the Coventry Half Marathon, with Ethan taking the lead in organising each activity. But it wasn’t only with fundraising that Ethan made his mark – he put the same amount of effort into the pastoral side of the role, organising MathSoc’s Family Scheme which helps first-year students settle in during their first semester at Birmingham. The scheme proved the most successful to date, with more than 30 ‘parents’ from older years working alongside the new cohort of 200-plus students to help the freshers integrate and develop new friendships. So positive was the experience that the ‘families’ continued to hold social events such as bowling and pub nights throughout the year. Ethan was is responsible for MathSoc’s Tutoring Scheme this year which sees students visiting local schools to help pupils from under-represented backgrounds. To round off the year, he was chosen to represent MathSoc and the School on a week-long ambassadorial trip to the Jinan Institute in China. ‘Ethan has an enviable quality in that he can’t refuse any opportunity presented to him, and he goes about his day-to-day business with charming wit and humour,’ is how one nominator describes him; praise indeed!
Ethan said about winning: "I was very lucky to be brought up in a highly-skilled and well-experienced committee. Romantically, I compare it to the 'Golden Years' of the England football team. I can't believe how many talented people fell together at the same time. All of us on the MathSoc committee this year were good mates and were committed to doing a good job. It was such a good time for me to be trained as a committee member and has stood me in good stead for next year. I would single out Sam as a role model for me. He beat me in the elections for Vice-President last year, but then I luckily proceeded to succeed him as Volunteering Officer. He was one of the first committee members I met as a first year, and I was calmed by his open, inclusive impression. In my opinion, the tutoring scheme with the Dame Elizabeth Cadbury School (DECS) owes its current state to his work over the past year. I was delighted to see him gain an award and he's a true inspiration for me. We're all looking forward to seeing how the volunteering side of MathSoc will grow over the coming academic year and would relish any help or advice that EPS can provide with this."
Each year it gets increasingly more difficult to shortlist, let alone choose the winners, of this category. More and more of our students are starting their own outreach activities and volunteering in local schools, and there are many others who have excellent long-standing programmes – both of which are amazing and vital to the future of STEM. The judges found themselves with the dilemma of comparing new projects with longstanding success – not a decision they wanted to make! So they decided to award two trophies: one for new or evolved outreach activities, and another for continued excellence, celebrating those who have excelled in their programmes for many years.
Jack Malcolmson - Outreach Award
Outreach Coordinator, EWB: Engineers Without Borders
EWB has transformed this year. They’ve increased their emphasis on outreach and really focused on reaching more local schools, pupils and the wider community. Jack has embraced this with enthusiasm, confidence and dedication. He built new relationships, raised the number of schools EWB work with to 23, and doubled the number of outreach opportunities. He organised a number of activities that saw more than 175 pupils participate in interactive workshops on the importance and application of STEM in everyday life, and how engineers and scientists are solving world problems. All the schools sent glowing feedback, saying how positive the impact had been on the children and asking for return visits from EWB. Jack’s hard work also resulted in a large number of EWB members helping out at The Big Bang Fair at Birmingham’s NEC, attended by more than 80,000 schoolchildren over five days, and contributed to efforts in encouraging EWB members to become STEM Ambassadors through on-campus training. Jack’s creative, committed and personable approach to his role has not only helped promote STEM subjects to a younger generation and inspire them to think about pursuing engineering; it’s also given EWB members the opportunity to develop skills such as public speaking. Through his hard work and perseverance in enabling these outreach activities, many local children have been positively influenced and he has been the perfect role model. Jack’s efforts have helped promote STEM amongst the next generation and have inspired many people to pursue STEM in the future.
Jack on his award: “2018/19 has been a great year for the Engineers Without Borders Outreach Workshops, and it’s an honour to have my efforts recognised by the college. Our increased reach (to over 175 secondary school students) couldn’t be achieved without our amazing STEM Ambassador volunteers - we’ve received great feedback from the schools and numerous requests for further workshops. With the society being part of the College of EPS, we’ve been able to recruit more ambassadors (from the EPS Societies Fair) and support their STEM Ambassador training (via the College organised STEM event). Support has always been available when hurdles have been met and I’d like to say a big 'Thank You' to the wider College team.”
AstroSoc - Outreach Award Continued Excellence
AstroSoc consistently reaches for the stars when it comes to engaging with the local community. Their dedication and unparalleled commitment is a huge credit to them and a big factor in their success. Their remarkable and extensive outreach programme features a host of free events for people of all ages with an interest in astronomy. As well as delivering the popular Astronomy in the City lecture series, each packed with astrophysics, stargazing, expert speakers, and observatory visits, the Society has grown its own series of workshops, Tea, Talk and Telescope. Usually held on a Thursday evening, the talks are followed by night-sky viewing– and, of course, tea-drinking – and are proving a big hit and have considerably swelled AstroSoc’s mailing list. Along with regular events, this year has again seen the society organise and get involved with a range of other outreach activities. They included welcoming 45 schoolchildren onto campus for a ‘tour’ of the solar system as part of their Exploration and Discovery in Space Event for British Science Week; a ‘constellation workshop’ at a school in Hall Green; observatory nights for Scout and Beavers groups; and visiting care homes for the elderly to talk about topics such as the solar system and black holes. The Society even presented a planetarium show at New Street Station as part of a Physics in the City event. Once again, AstroSoc has proved itself to be out of this world!
AstroSoc Chair 2019/20, Tutku Kolcu says: "One of the leading aims of the University of Birmingham Astronomical Society is to promote Astronomy and inspire people towards it. We believe inspiration comes from the heart and this requires a lot of hard work and dedication. AstroSoc have been very keen to carry these traditions by organising numerous outreach events over the years to anyone willing to learn; no matter their age, size of the group or even the weather conditions! From creating new constellations for children and teaching about planets, to having lovely chats about binary black holes with elderly people, AstroSoc have spoken to many different types of people. We are delighted and proud to be the first to win the Continued Excellence in Outreach Award! We hope this success will continue for generations and AstroSoc will be a star point of inspiration for everyone interested in Astronomy."
Diversity and Inclusion Award
We recognise the importance of equality and diversity across the College and since we received so many strong nominations to this Award, the judges struggled would like to celebrate everyone who received strong nominations. Therefore they decided to create the longest shortlist the Award has seen, consisting of nine nominees. We would like to thank all of our societies for their sincere efforts in making the College a more inclusive environment, and ensuring everyone is treated fairly and with respect.
BEaMS: Black and Ethnic Minority Scientists
BEaMS is an inspirational new society set up to represent and give a platform to black and ethnic minority (BME) scientists. BME students are under-represented in all disciplines, so BEaMS provides a new opportunity for them to gather as a majority to celebrate their diversity and build a community. As well as offering members with a safe space to discuss their university experiences and raise concerns, the Society runs a range of events that are open to all. They also collaborate with a number of other societies across the University, have started working with alumni, and are collaborating with staff across the College. Already membership has reached 70 and the Society continues to grow rapidly. One nominator observed: ‘No other society has done as much for bringing about diversity and a comfortable social network for black and ethnic minorities.’
BEaMS said about their award: “We are extremely grateful to win the Diversity and Inclusion Award! This recognises our commitment to represent and promote equality and diversity within the EPS community. We would like to thank all those involved to make this possible. We are proud of all the work completed this past and how BEaMS has grown as a society. We hope to continue supporting, empowering and inspiring fellow students!”
The judges were again faced with the dilemma of choosing between societies working with companies for the first time, and those who have a mastered the art of industrial liaison over many years. So just like with the Outreach Award, they awarded two trophies: one for those embarking on building industrial relationships or careers activities for the first time, and another for continued excellence, celebrating those who have many years of outstanding relationships.
RailSoc - Industrial Award
RailSoc is a relatively new society having been set up in October 2017, and is well on track when it comes to raising the profile of the University within the industry, working closely with the likes of South Western Railways and Virgin Rail. A presentation given to the society by South Western Railway led to the company developing an industrial placement year for undergraduates, with two RailSoc members securing full-time work. Throughout the year RailSoc has provided an exceptional programme of industry-led events for members, with a range of guest speaker presentations as well as site and office visits that have provided valuable insight into various aspects of the rail sector. These have included a trip to CrossCountry to observe its train service; a tour of Alstom’s state-of-the-art train modernisation facility at Widnes, and a visit to Swindon Panel Society, which gave members the opportunity to learn about and try out signalling systems. ‘RailSoc’s industrial events have been, both directly and indirectly, responsible for our members gaining employment,’ commented one student. ‘The experience the society has added to members’ CVs really makes them stand out.’
On their Award: "RailSoc are honoured to receive the industrial award as bringing Birmingham students and the railway industry closer is at the heart of what the society sets out to do! As one of the younger societies, it's amazing to have won this award amongst some well established and equally well deserving nominees."
Highly commended: Elizabeth Maidment, CivSoc
UBRacing - Industrial Award Continued Excellence
UBRacing was well and truly in the industrial driving seat this year, getting an additional eight sponsors on board to bring the total to 56; thus maintaining the strong partnerships it’s enjoyed over the past 22 years of building Formula Student cars. This year also saw the team increase its ties with title sponsor Mahle Powertrain, with team members taking the car to the company’s chassis dyno (rolling road) and inviting staff to testing sessions and into the lab to assist with the new engine dyno set-up. Platinum sponsor EPM’s facilities enabled the UBRacing committee to teach new members how to prepare parts for curing, an experience they wouldn’t have been able to gain elsewhere at the University. Two new sponsors, 3DJake and 3D FilaPrint, allowed the printing of a scale model of the car, enabling members to work with 3D printing and providing physical validation of the aerodynamics package, which contributed to a member’s final year project. Other new sponsors also offered invaluable expertise and experience: Oerlikon performed a topology optimisation on a final year project redesign of the car’s pedal box; Newman Cams reground the camshaft profile; Injectortune serviced the fuel injectors, and Custom Composites provided the team with carbon fibre tubing. The team’s industrial links also helped to secure jobs and placements with the likes of Aston Martin, Mercedes HPP, Red Bull Racing, Rolls-Royce and Caterpillar.
UBRacing Project Manager 2018/2019, Hannah Swinbourne said: "The team are truly thrilled to receive this award as the links to industry that working on this team provides is one of the biggest benefits of UBRacing. Many of us have spent a large portion of our spare time communicating with our industrial sponsors, and it means a lot that the judges recognised this."
EPS Community Award
President, CSS: Computer Science Society
Tom has worked with the EPS Community for several years, including a three-year stint on the EPS Societies’ Awards committee, during which time he’s striven to encourage collaboration and cohesion between the various societies. He’s orchestrated joint events with the likes of oSTEM, WISE, BEaMS, GDS and AFNOM, as well as several other societies including Tabletop Gaming. Tom has also worked on setting up the EPS Community’s EDI committee to encourage more cross-promotion and collaboration between EPS societies to improve equality, diversity and inclusivity across the College’s student groups. He has created links with computer science societies at Aston and BCU, helping to widen the University’s reach still further, and as President of CSS he has continued the society’s efforts to their events, from talks to workshops, are open to anyone, not just computer scientists. CSS’s willingness to lend out its resources, including marquees and their hardware lab, to other societies has served to strengthen the community bonds. Tom’s enthusiasm doesn’t stop with societies; he holds several voluntary positions on staff-student committees, is a committee member of the Guild of Graduates and Alumni Association, and is well recognised within the Birmingham Tech Community. He works tirelessly to collaborate with others and is always keen that everyone has a chance to get involved.
Tom said about winning: "This award means so much to me! I've never won an individual one before, and it's incredible to be recognised for the things I've done in the College, and beyond. I'm honoured to be at the forefront of the EPS Community, and given I've got a few years left, I don't plan on going away any time soon. Also, I'm delighted to be the newly-elected Vice-President of the Guild of Graduates and Alumni Association (GGAA)."
Inspirational Committee Member
Team Principal, Brum Eco Racing
Annabel has revved up this new Society with great spirit and enthusiasm, becoming an inspiring role model to female engineers in particular. The youngest female lead of an engineering society, Annabel has impressed both committee and team members with her determination and dedication towards designing a single-seater car from scratch to take part in the Shell Eco Marathon, an international engineering event with the aim to build a car that can travel the furthest distance on the least amount of fuel. Since becoming Team Principal in October 2018, Annabel has welcomed so many new members that the Society has doubled in size! Her philosophy is that every member of Brum Eco is valued and has something to contribute. She has created a highly motivated and inclusive team ethos, and she’s helped to instil into younger members the knowledge and confidence they need to carry out the tasks assigned to them. ‘Annabel is an inspired leader,’ says one member. ‘She pushes us to new heights. She includes everyone and finds a position for everyone in the team.’ Annabel ensures members meet regularly and are kept up-to-date on all aspects of the project, creating a cohesive team and working environment, regularly meeting with staff in the School of Engineering and sponsors to keep them up to date and the car’s progress. Due to her popularity, Annabel has already been voted in to lead the team again next year.
Annabel said: "I am delighted and grateful to have won the award! The nomination came as a complete surprise to me, thank you to everyone who nominated me!"
Highly commended: Alex Munro-Clark, WISE: Women in Science and Engineering
Role Model of the Year
Yasmin Afia Bobie
Academic President, BUCES: Birmingham University Chemical Engineering Society
Yasmin has been the driving force behind a raft of major changes and improvements BUCES has undergone this year. These have included a complete overhaul of the School’s student feedback system which resulted in students’ concerns being acted on more quickly and the production of a video giving advice to new students and those moving into the second year. Yasmin also took the lead on improving BUCES’ student-run tutoring scheme, known as PASS, where first-year students are led by third- and fourth-years in weekly group study sessions. She rebooted the scheme by organising sessions throughout the year and expanding the subject areas available, using her own initiative to recruit students as PASS Leaders and liaising with staff to schedule suitable timeslots and rooms for the sessions. Yasmin also trained to become a PASS Leader herself, enabling her to become an active role model for her peers. As well as her BUCES committee role, Yasmin is Vice-President of the Ghana Society, helping international students settle into university life and make the most of Birmingham. She also somehow finds time to play for the 2nd women’s basketball team! One of her nominators notes ‘Throughout my time working with Yasmin, she conducted herself with professionalism and integrity, putting the interests of her peers first; she exemplifies exactly the kind of student that should receive the Role Model of the Year award.’
Yasmin says: “To be recognised by the College for the work I’ve done on top of my academic work means so much to me. I’m so grateful to be a part of BUCES and chemical engineering and I’m so grateful for everyone because I definitely wouldn’t have won this award without them!”
Highly commended: Navleen Kaur, BEaMS: Black, Ethnic and Minority Scientists
Staff Member of the Year
Careers and Employability Advisor, Careers Network
Nominated by WISE: Women in Science and Engineering, who say: Amy has been a wonderful support for WISE this year, booking rooms and helping to promote all of our events, without her few of our events could have taken place! She is always reliable and enthusiastic.
Amy says: "I was honoured to have been nominated by WISE as their staff member of the year and I feel so privileged to have won the award!
I have a real passion for supporting equality and diversity, so to be recognised by such an amazing society who work so hard to break down these barriers means so much to me.
Thank you WISE - I am really looking forward to supporting you in your ambitions to achieve even greater things going forward."
Head of College Idea of the Year
Formation of the Society
Birmingham Energy Society
The Birmingham Energy Society (BES) was founded in October 2018 to meet an increasing demand across the University for a platform to allow students to discuss and learn about the energy landscape in the UK and globally. Bringing together students from many disciplines across the College and the wider University community, the Society aims to explore a range of areas connected to the energy industry, including new technologies, environmental impact and social and economic factors. University students could become key players in creating innovation and change in the energy industry in the very near future, so BES gives them an opportunity to meet and network with potential employers and academics. In just a few months the Society has developed tremendously, forging several strong links with industry, hosting talks and running a trip to Tyseley Energy Park. The year culminating in the Energy Insight Day; a mini-conference with speakers from a variety of energy roles offering a snapshot into the career opportunities available across the broad sector. Most notably, they have lined up with the Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI), leading to a new goal of making the fascinating research of the Institute more accessible to University students. Having been awarded BEI funding, that prospects already looks bright!
The Energy Society on their win: "We would like to thank the Head of College and the College more widely for this award. We are very grateful for the recognition and support we have received from the College in our foundation year. We hope that this provides a strong base for the growth of a platform for students to discuss and learn about the challenges faced in the energy sector, especially in view of simultaneous drivers for decarbonisation and sustainable development in an ever complex global political landscape."
Highly commended: STEM, LGBTQ and You, oSTEM: Out in STEM
Great Achievement in EPS Award
Vice President, MathSoc
Sam has chalked up great achievements with MathSoc, from fundraising to putting on brilliant careers events, and helping other societies to emulate some of those achievements has made him stand out, even more, this year. His work has had a positive impact on more than 1,000 people, not just within MathSoc. One of his main successes has been the expansion of MathSoc’s Tutoring Scheme, which helps underrepresented school children improve their grades and raise their aspirations for their futures. When Sam took over the reins in 2017, there were only 20 student tutors and maths was the only subject on offer. There are now more than 100 volunteer tutors, subjects available include English, Physics, Chemistry, Geography and Modern Languages, and the Scheme helps more than 200 pupils work towards their GCSEs. Sam also took it upon himself to roll out MathSoc’s successful Family Scheme, which helps new students settle into university life and make friends, by organising and hosting a workshop attended by other societies across the University. He worked closely with them to set up or improve their own schemes, with Modern Languages having particular success. Sam’s considerable fundraising efforts include being Challenge Leader for Carnival RAG and leading a 30-strong team that raised more than £80,000 for the Meningitis Research Foundation. Sam’s achievements and positive attitude have inspired many others to volunteer and get involved in organising events, and his dedication and enthusiasm are faultless.
Sam said about winning: "I am incredibly honoured to have won this award, I would like to thank all those who have stood by my side this year, and also those who have inspired me in my time here. I am also incredibly humbled as there are many great people in this College - long may that continue!"
Society of the Year 2018/19
oSTEM: Out in STEM
oSTEM has done ‘an amazing job’ at creating a welcoming, inclusive space for LGBTQ+ students studying STEM subjects. Socials such as weekly coffee gatherings, pub quizzes and trips, including a visit to Bletchley Park, have helped achieve a strong sense of community, while there has also been a lot of collaboration with other societies such as NucSoc, CSS and BUMS. Still only three years old, oSTEM has grown enormously in a short space of time: for the second year running it was the only chapter outside the US and Canada to attend the annual oSTEM Inc Conference, held this year in Houston, Texas. The highest-profile occasion on this year’s calendar was the brand new, day-long conference ‘STEM, LGBTQ and You’, the biggest event the society has ever put on. A huge success, thanks to brilliant organisation and Alumni Impact Fund support, it attracted more than 75 people from across the University and the UK, featuring speakers drawn a wide range of backgrounds, as well as from the US. One member described oSTEM as ‘one of the most welcoming societies I have ever attended’, while another summed up the society’s importance by saying: ‘oSTEM has been the first time in my life I’ve been able to totally comfortably be myself – an LGBTQ, science-loving nerd – and find other people who are the same.’
oSTEM Chair 2018/2019, Avery Cunningham said: "Winning society of the year 2018/2019 is an incredible achievement for oSTEM. As still such a young society it has been incredible to see the society grow exponentially over the last few years to what it is today. It is amazing to see we have been able to contribute so much towards improving LGBTQ+ diversity within the college of EPS."
To find out more about the EPS Societies' Awards, or to get involved in the 2020 event, visit www.birmingham.ac.uk/eps/societiesawards.