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Congratulations to Chenying Liu, Josh Award winner 2024.

28 May 2024 7:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Congratulations to Chenying Liu!

We are very pleased to announce that the winner of the Josh Award 2024 is Chenying Liu.

Chenying is a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford University, working in engineering science. 

She has worked on modern structures inspired by origami and uses inspiration from their exceptional mechanical properties to design robots and personal protective equipment.

Her Josh award activity -"Sustainable Origami: Art, Robotics, Construction, and Space Exploration” will get audiences creating origami crafts, robotic grippers, deployable shelters and solar panels, using recycled materials.

The judges were impressed by the combination of an accessible activity with contemporary science and engineering.

A huge well done to our deserving winner!

Clare Harvey, Chief Executive, The Ogden Trust:

“Early-career science communicators have such an important role to play in inspiring future generations as they share their enthusiasm, passion and expertise. The Josh Award provides a fabulous platform for nurturing this emerging talent, and we are excited to be one of the funders for 2024. Huge congratulations to this year’s winner, Chenying - we look forward to seeing their future work and feel sure they will continue to make a real difference to the sector.”

Chenying makes origami in the Special Structures Group in Jenkin Building, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford. This later forms part of her video with Oxford Sparks - a platform to enhance the University's digital science engagement.

Watch the Oxford Sparks video - Origami inspiration, 3D printing and robots

A note from Chenying

My work and the Josh Award

Having practiced origami since childhood, I never dreamed that the paper folding art could be transformed into practical applications and benefit society in different domains.

After finishing my undergraduate studies in Beijing, China, I relocated to the UK to pursue a D.Phil (Doctor of Philosophy, known as Ph.D. elsewhere) in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford. I was fortunate to have two supervisors with complementary expertise: one introduced me to the fascinating world of origami engineering and the other encouraged me to explore its potential in advanced robotics. I ended up with a few exciting projects using origami principles: a gripper that can precisely handle fragile objects, a millipede-like robot that can change its morphology to adapt to the environment, and numerous structures that can morph into given shapes. With origami, the design of those robots has been greatly simplified and it has been much easier and more cost-efficient to synchronise their movements.

Origami also goes beyond robotics and has found its way into other domains such as deployable solar panels and energy absorption materials, the latter of which forms part of my postdoctoral project. I am very keen to impart my passion for origami engineering to the general public via science communication. Having been involved in a series of University's public engagement initiatives and external science festivals, I was awarded an Award Lectureship from the British Science Association and will soon give a talk on my research at the 2024 British Science Festival (BSF)!

Then, how is this related to the Josh Award? It is indeed a tremendous opportunity (both funding and training-wise) for me to further develop my talk into a series of interactive workshops for a wider range of audiences at the BSF and other Science Discovery Centre's programmes. I really hope this project could make science more accessible to the harder-to-reach communities, thereby providing them with fun and informative hands-on experience in engineering.

You can follow Chenying on X @MorningChenying or connect on LinkedIn 

Chenying and her peers at the 2022 International Women in Engineering Day, where they contributed to a series of outreach talks to A-level students who are self-identified as female or non-binary and interested in pursuing an engineering degree.

This photo was taken on 23rd June 2022 in Thom Building, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford. Left to right: Nadja Yang, Maitha Al Shimmari, Chenying Liu, Misha Patel, Frances Gawne

What is the Josh Award?

The Josh Award is a national prize for early-career science communicators who are passionate about continuing to work in this field in the future, including students, volunteers, researchers or creatives. 

The Award is inspired by and named in memory of Josh Phillips, who was the first Science Communication Officer at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum.  He proposed and ran the first Manchester Science Festival.

Josh was a much loved, much respected and highly talented science communicator, whose outstanding career is commemorated with this Award.  Josh was the Chair of BIG at the time of his death.

The Award is for Science and Showmanship, targeted to help stimulate and lead to a better future: fun with a purpose!


The Josh Award Trophy

What is the prize?

The Josh Award Winner will receive:

  • £500 to £2,500 depending on funds availability and need, to develop their project or event to be part of a Science Discovery Centre's programme, or at a UK Science Festival.  This budget includes all the costs and expenses (i.e. resources, travel, accommodation) for the project, and will be controlled by the sponsoring location and by the Josh Award Committee

  • The possibility of presenting your project or event at this year's British Science Festival, in East London, and the possibility of presenting it at the 2025 Cheltenham Science Festival.

  • Non-financial support from the sponsoring venue to further develop your winning proposal, as necessary, to fit logistics and practicalities of working in their setting

  • Opportunities for personal and professional development via the BIG network

  • Attending the annual BIG Event (conference fee and annual membership provided by BIG, worth around £300) to network with and present to a diverse range of science communicators from across the sector

  • The 2024 BIG Event will take place on 24-26 July in Cardiff

  • Attending professional training sessions with the Science Museum Group's Academy

  • A personal prize cheque of £2,000 from the Josh Award Fund

  • The Josh Award trophy, to hold and to hand on to the next winner, at the 2026 BIG Event

Thus, the total prize fund can be up to £4,800 + invaluable support from sci-comm professionals.

The winner is expected to:

  • Develop and deliver their project or event for the sponsoring venue(s), and ensure that it meets the Award's selection criteria
  • Meet expected deadlines and make themselves available for major dates agreed in advance
  • Attend The BIG Event 2024, present an audience-engaging case study of their project, and write it up for inclusion in the BIG newsletter after the project has been delivered
  • Receive the Josh Award Trophy at the BIG Event from the previous winner.
  • Proactively participate in relevant personal and professional development opportunities
  • Receive the personal prize cheque from the Josh Award Fund and meet the Josh Award Chairman
  • Be part of the Selection Panel for Josh Award 2026
  • Hand over the Award to the next winner at the 2026 BIG Event

Congratulations to all of our applicants

This year saw a large number of very impressive candidates for the Josh Award. Activities ranged from apps, animations and art installations to workshops and shows from a passionate group of applicants with diverse backgrounds. We wish them all well in their science communication careers and will be sharing more about their ideas and proposals on the BIG website very soon.

Guilia Ponti, William Marler, Chloe Trotter, Emma Latta, Max Hughes,

Amelia Doran, Gareth Campbell, Lee Parkin, Abi Fafolu and Danbee Kim.

We would love to see you all as speakers at a future BIG Event!

Thank you to our panel 

James Piercy, Former Chair of BIG and Judging Panel Chair

Kirsty Hayward, Chair, BIG 

Shaaron Leverment, CEO ADSC 

James Brown, Chair, UKSFN

Mat Allen, Programme Manager, Cheltenham Science Festival

Eva Ernstzen, 2022 Josh Award Winner

Thank you also to Timothy Phillips, Family Representative and Steering Committee Chairman.

Read all about The Josh Award here

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