Heriot-Watt scoops top award for ground-breaking research into disease



Academics from Heriot-Watt University have scooped a coveted prize in the Times Higher Education Awards 2017.

The international team of scientists were recognised for their extensive research into the microscopic workings of diseases such as cancer, dementia and diabetes.

At a special ceremony in London on Thursday 30 November, the group won Research Project of the year: STEM.

Through their ground-breaking work, the scientists developed highly sophisticated camera detectors for microscopes allowing diseases to be examined like never before.

The work was carried out as part of the Edinburgh Super-Resolution Imaging Consortium (ESRIC) project, which is designed to further our understanding of biomedical research and encourage international collaboration.

ESRIC is a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, with its outreach work spanning more than 9,000 teachers, pupils and members of the public via talks and exhibitions.

Judges of the award said that the winning project “had already delivered prolific results, including a new diagnostic for cataracts – a major cause of blindness.”

On receiving the award, Professor Rory Duncan from the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering said:  “It’s a great achievement for everyone involved to win the equivalent of an Oscar in Higher Education terms.

“The award is a testament to the first class research going on at Heriot-Watt and all the researchers who strive to make a difference to people’s lives.

“It’s exciting that our studies have the potential to advance microscopy and help with medical breakthroughs and we’re delighted to pick up this prestigious prize. Our partnership with colleagues in the University of Edinburgh really shows the power of working across disciplines.”

The STEM project was made possible thanks to funding from The Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

Professor Wendy Bickmore FRS, FMedSci, and Director of MRC Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh added:  “As partners with Heriot-Watt in the Edinburgh Super Resolution Imaging Consortium (ESRIC), we at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine are thrilled with the award of the STEM research project of the year to ESRIC.

“This project is an exemplar of how interdisciplinary working across the physical, optical and biomedical sciences can empower life science researchers to explore biology at unparalleled levels of spatial resolution”

Heriot-Watt was also highly commended in the Arts, Humanities & Social Science Research Project category.

The Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE), led by Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick have been working on the impact of economics and policy changes on homelessness.

Professor Garry Pender, Deputy Principal Research and Innovation said: “This is a tremendous achievement and underlines the University’s international reputation for world-leading research.

“Both research studies have the potential to change people’s lives for the better and it is a great privilege to be recognised for the tremendous commitment of our staff and their successes in delivering transformational research.”