Dr Heidi Burdett is a Research Fellow in the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society. Based in the Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Technology, Heidi is part of the Institute of Life and Earth Science and, along with her colleagues, her research seeks to understand the fundamental relationships between organisms and their environment, from the sub-organism to community scale.

For the last ten years Heidi has been actively involved in engaging the public with her scientific research into photosynthesis, climate change and biochemical cycling.

This year, Heidi received the Charles Lyell Award for Environmental Sciences from the British Science Association and gave the Award Lecture 'Resilient Reefs'  at the British Science Festival in September.

Throughout the Year of the Sea she was involved in a range of engagement events such as the Edinburgh International Science Festival, the Brightest Watts week, the British Science Festival, Doors Open Day at the Lyell Centre, and Northern Ireland Science Festival.

What made Heidi stand out as winner in the Impact category?

Her application stood out because she sought to measure qualitatively and quantitatively the impact of each engagement activity she was involved in.  For example, questionnaire results from Brightest Watts week (an initiative run by HWU that offers a relaxed and informal way for S5 pupils to learn more about university life) highlighted that pupils in Heidi’s sessions gained a better understanding of climate change and the complexities of mitigating it at an international level. 

Why does Heidi think it is important to engage the public with her research?

Seeing first-hand the impact that communicating my research can have in terms of inspiring young people to learn more about science and opening people’s eyes to threats currently facing our planet, has had a profound impact on me. I've been encouraged to investigate research avenues that positively impact society. For example, I'm currently working with the Scottish Government to improve protection and management of Scotland’s coastal ecosystems. 

Social media is now a key way that people connect with one another, so how can we use social media to effectively engage the public with research?

I am delighted to have been part of the team headed up by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) to co-develop a guide for academics making their first forays into the world of social media-based public engagement. Hopefully, even the more experienced users will benefit from the content.

What will you do with the prize money?

With the £1000 prize money I plan to work with the award winning Dekko Comics to translate my research into a 2 page comic strip that will be aligned to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and distributed to schools and libraries throughout the country. 

Visit Heidi's profile on our research portal for more information about her research including publications, activities and awards.

Follow Heidi on Twitter @HLBurdett