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York scientists take their research to Parliament

Posted on 24 March 2014

Five early career scientists from the University of York attended Parliament to present their science to politicians and a panel of expert judges as part of SET for Britain.

PhD students Amy Sawtell, Christiana Kitsiou, Emily Johnston and Amanda Barnes,  and postdoctoral researcher Dr Isabelle Winder, were shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to take part in this year’s event at the House of Commons.

Four of the researchers displayed posters of their research in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences session:

  • Amy Sawtell, 27, (Department of Biology) is working closely with GlaxoSmithKline, looking at how cells of the immune system protect against pneumonia infection.
  • Emily Johnston, 25, (Department of Biology) titled her poster “Plants vs. Explosives: Revealing why TNT is toxic to plants, towards developing plants to clean-up explosives pollution”.
  • Amanda Barnes, 27, (Department of Biology) is a PhD student at the Universities of York and Sheffield. Her poster explained her research into using injectable materials and stem cells for knee repair in osteoarthritis
  • Dr Winder, 26, (Department of Archaeology) is researching the new “scrambler man” hypothesis of human evolution, which proposes that a key stage in our ancestors’ evolution involved living in ecologically and topographically complex landscapes. Her work is funded by the European Research Council and is part of a project called DISPERSE.

A fifth researcher was entered into the Chemistry session:

  • Christiana Kitsiou, 24, (Department of Chemistry) is researching the design of novel chemical reactions to produce libraries of valuable compounds for use in the discovery of new medicines.

Dr Winder said: "I was thrilled to have the opportunity to present my work at SET for Britain. I got into research because I think my field - human evolution - is fascinating, and I am very keen to share my results and enthusiasm with others."

Amanda Barnes added: "SET for Britain has given me the opportunity to showcase my multi-disciplinary research to Members of Parliament, and communicate the importance of regenerative medicine research in improving the health and quality of life for individuals worldwide."

The annual competition, which is open to early stage or early career researchers, is run by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee in collaboration with the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Physics, the Physiological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Biology and the Society of Chemical Industry.

Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said, "This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.  These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work."

The national event receives financial support from BP, the Clay Mathematics Institute, Essar, INEOS, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), Germains Seed Technology, Boeing, the Bank of England and the Institute of Biomedical Science.

Notes to editors:

  • SET for Britain is a poster competition in the House of Commons, involving approximately 210 early stage or early career researchers, judged by professional and academic experts.  All presenters are entered into either the Engineering, the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, the Physical Sciences (Chemistry), the Physical Sciences (Physics) session, or the Mathematics session, depending on the researcher’s specialism.  For further information visit
  • Photos of the researchers at Westminster are available from the University of York Press Office: or 01904 322029.  
  • More information about the University of York’s Department of Archaeology at
  • More information about the University of York’s Department of Biology at
  • More information about the University of York’s Department of Chemistry at