Congratulations to Ruth Augur, the winner of the first Graduate School Prize for Public Engagement. After a hotly-contested public vote, Ruth was awarded the £400 prize to carry out her project, which will involve working closely with the Canterbury-based charity, Catching Lives, to create and restore a garden plot for the homeless to nurture, develop, and enjoy.
Professor Paul Allain hosted the event on Thursday evening, which gave three University of Kent PhD students the opportunity to showcase their work. They each identified a topical social issue and gave their proposed solution to the problem. Forty members of the public attended to discuss the potential merits and difficulties of each solution with the students over coffee, tea and cake in the beautiful La Trappiste in central Canterbury. They then had the opportunity to vote on which proposal they thought had the greatest potential to make an impact.
Hannah Newman (an interdisciplinary PhD in the Schools of Arts and Psychology)presented on autism and discussed how drama can be a powerful and positive tool in the growth and development of autistic children. Surej Mouli (a PhD in the School of Computing) spoke about the uses of medical robotics. Ruth Augur (a PhD in the School of Anthropology and Conservation) discussed homelessness in Canterbury. They all spoke very well about their research, but there could be only one winner.
One of the aims of the competition was to introduce the University of Kent to local residents, by demonstrating the real world impact of academic research and to empower the public to feel that they can influence the future of research. The entire event was the brainchild of Kent PhD student Laura Thomas-Walters, who submitted her original idea to the Postgraduate Experience Award panel, and went on to plan the whole thing – well done Laura!