Academic recognised for significant contribution to public engagement with research



Dr Alison Elliott, CBE, FRSE, General Secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, presenting Rory with the Senior Public Engagement Medal.

A Heriot-Watt University academic was awarded the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Senior Public Engagement medal in Inverness last month.

Professor Rory Duncan received a prestigious award at the public event, Colours of Art and Science, in Inverness recently.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh launched the RSE Medals for Public Engagement in 2011, with ‎the aim of recognising and rewarding the advancement of high-quality public engagement ‎with research.

Rory Duncan has a sustained record of delivering impactful public engagement with research (PER) activities in Scotland and internationally in diverse events and occasions, as well as successfully enabling and encouraging early-career researchers to design and deliver their own PER to further their own communication and dissemination skills.

The RSE cited Rory as a 'passionate and enormously productive advocate for public engagement in Scotland, the UK and internationally.'

Professor Rory Duncan said: “The purpose of my PER efforts is to celebrate the power of multi-disciplinary research, discussing this with varied publics and audiences of all ages and backgrounds, alongside the obvious demonstration that STEM (and STEAM, incorporating the arts) isn't 'just for boys'.

“I aspire to converse with 'difficult to reach' low STEM capital audiences across Scotland.”

At the event in Inverness, Rory Duncan, who originates from the same city, delivered a public lecture, From the Dark Ocean Comes Light, telling the story of fluorescent proteins – genetic tools originating from marine organisms like corals or jellyfish, that have transformed modern cell biology and biomedical research.

In his lecture, Rory also celebrated his earlier public engagement successes including the nationwide Wellcome Trust-funded Enlightenment project that engaged with 100s of schools using 'smartphone microscopes' designed by Paul Dalgarno of Heriot-Watt's Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering (IB3).

Rory's lecture also focussed on the Leverhulme Trust-supported artist-residency for Hannah Imlach. Hannah is a visual artist and sculptor who spent nearly a year embedded in IB3, learning about multidisciplinary research, optical microscopy and fluorescent proteins, finding inspiration for her exhibition of the same name as Rory's lecture. Hannah's science-inspired exhibition was attended by more than 4000 members of the public in just one week as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. All this work was coordinated by the University's PER team, HW Engage.

This is the third time that Heriot-Watt academics have been recognised with RSE public engagement medals in the last five years.

In 2019, Heriot-Watt is celebrating its Year of Health, a calendar of engagement that spans schools, communities, businesses and government. Throughout the year, the campaign will highlight the University's research and the ground-breaking discoveries that are helping drive innovations in healthcare, diagnosis and treatment.