Dr Siân Culley to receive Chris Hawes Outreach and Education Award

Founder of international database for female researchers announced as inaugural recipient of award in honour of former RMS President

The RMS is proud to announce Dr Siân Culley as the first recipient of the ‘Chris Hawes Outreach and Education Award’.

The award recognises those who have made a substantial contribution either to the field of education, or to outreach and public engagement over the course of their career. It was created last year in honour of the late Professor Chris Hawes, former President of the RMS, for his contributions to the Society, and his particular work within Outreach and Education.

Dr Siân Culley, University College London

Alongside her outstanding research activities, Dr Culley has made many contributions of national and international significance in the education of optical microscopy and outreach, particularly with under-represented and minority groups.

Her most prolific outreach achievement is her conception and realisation of an international database of female researchers. She created the database to showcase and highlight female

microscopists around the world and the specific areas of microscopy in which they specialise, to assist scientific and conference organisers in selecting excellent speakers for microscopy events while maintaining a positive gender balance.

This resource, supported by the RMS, gives the details of more than 360 female researchers working in all areas of microscopy and at all career stages. It has rapidly become the go-to resource for microscopy conference organisers worldwide, viewed over 10,000 times and notably used to excellent effect in identifying speakers for the RMS Frontiers in Bioimaging conference and annual ELMI workshops.

Less public but equally important is Dr Culley’s engagement in local and national outreach and educational activities. Notably, this includes her role as Ambassador for the ‘In2Science’ charity, which provides research opportunities to A-level students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She has supported several students participating in this programme, hosting microscopy-based projects at UCL, and has been directly involved in fundraising for the charity to widen access.

She has also given career talks at local schools to GCSE and A-level students, and has volunteered at activities including The Big Bang Fair at the Birmingham NEC in 2019 and at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology. Despite the relatively short time since her PhD award in 2015, Dr Culley has made a disproportionately large contribution to outreach and education in microscopy that benefits the whole community.

From inspiring the next generation of microscopists, through to providing resources for established academics, companies and learned societies, Dr Culley helps to promote a positive and inclusive learning environment, including the provision of open learning material via Figshare, where she has uploaded more than 100 slides that can be freely used for educational purposes.

Dr Culley has also been involved in the supervision of five PhD students, and has been invited to teach at several practical courses in optical microscopy. Such experience is not common in early career researchers, and it is testament to Dr Culley’s commitment to education and training that she is engaging in these activities at the earliest opportunity.

RMS President Professor Grace Burke said: “Dr Culley has made a tremendous impact within the microscopy and wider science community, and her wide-ranging contributions in promoting inclusivity through outreach and education have made a real difference to microscopists at all career stages. It is a real privilege to announce her as the first recipient of this important RMS award.”

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