WISE Tech Award – Sponsored by Pfizer

This award will go to an exceptional woman who developed a new technological or digital solution to solve a societal, medical, or technological challenge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The individual will have identified a problem that needed to be solved, then acted to deliver a successful response. The following women have been shortlisted as finalists:

Eloise Wells – Laboratory Assistant for the Wellcome Sanger Institute Laboratory 

In the early days of the pandemic Eloise recognised a rapid solution was needed to successfully find the 3% of positive swab samples arriving each day among the tens of thousands arriving from across the UK. Eloise seized the opportunity to develop a tech solution that would replace the paper lists method of sorting. She used her initiative and coding skills to develop a plate sorting and reading programme that would find positive samples in 44 seconds. This led to 200 work hours being saved each month.  

Emma Larne and Hannah Williams: Liverpool Clinical Laboratories, Merseyside   

These remarkable scientists stepped forward – with almost zero experience in virology or managing a service – to validate a new testing solution and establish a laboratory from scratch in three months. They overcame significant technological, recruitment and logistical challenges to implement a seamless staff-testing service for 10,000 samples per week from the Cheshire & Merseyside Pathology Network. This meant the workforce could keep rolling to support the challenges posed by the pandemic.  

Dr Amy Thomas: Research Associate at the University of Bristol looking at zoonotic TB 

Amy identified very early into the pandemic that the widely used invasive swab test was unsuitable for children. She proceeded to design and validate a simple saliva spit test to roll out to schools across Bristol. The test is still contributing to national decision-making for outbreak control and has already been used in more than ten outbreaks in Bristol. Amy’s work was particularly remarkable since it was conducted shortly after her PhD studies in a completely unrelated field. She used her initiative to source laboratory space, pre-pandemic saliva samples (from researchers in Portugal) and set up a pop-up clinic in the carpark of a local hospital to collect saliva samples. The project won £1.8m in funding.  

WISE New Educator Award – Sponsored by PA Consulting

This award will recognise a woman who developed an innovative approach to education or training, working at any level or in any sphere, to overcome a challenge created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The award is not limited to professional educators and will focus on the impact achieved.  The following women have been shortlisted as finalists:

Zoe Wellbelove: Junior Doctor Whittington Health NHS Trust

Zoe developed a virtual simulation training programme – an ingenious way of supporting the gap in skills for final-year medical students. She realised that their training during the 2020 /2021 period was critical and would help support the ongoing pandemic recovery. Zoe delivered this on top of her work as a doctor in infectious diseases – an incredible achievement. We expect her work to save many more lives in the future. 

Anna Young: Lecturer at the University of Bath  

Anna’s commitment to students, faculty, university and local community throughout the pandemic impressed all our judges. She supported not only the students under her charge, but the colleagues around her in new and ingenious ways. She is a wonderful example of how one person can make a huge difference to the world around them. Anna’s commitment to the continuation of her course by supporting ongoing learning at her university during the pandemic is a fantastic example of leading by example.  

Tanya Howden: Computer Science Teacher

Since receiving a Computer Science degree from Heriot-Watt University, Tanya has always worked to encourage women and other under-represented groups into computing. The work for which she was nominated for the WISE New Educator Award saw her expand the reach of an innovation centre, set up with the Heart of Midlothian FC, to start providing digital opportunities from home for underprivileged girls and people. Tanya has since begun to train as a computing science teacher. Her work is inspiring the next generation of coders to help to solve the challenges of the future.

WISE Data Solution Award – Sponsored by IQVIA

This category aims to recognise an exceptional woman who created a novel data driven or analytical solution to a problem caused by the pandemic. We encouraged women from all sectors to apply. Judges will be looking for innovative solutions likely to inspire other girls or women to follow their example. The following women have been shortlisted as finalists:

Ruth Studley: Nominated for her work in the role of Deputy Director for Infection Survey Analysis at the Office for National Statistics

The ONS’s COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) provides vital information that has helped determine the UK government’s response to the pandemic and provide information to the wider public. Ruth helped design and continually improve the survey to ensure that the data was presented in near real-time and was easily accessible to ordinary people. By creating a cohort of 500,000 people who consented to have their data used for research, this work made a significant contribution to public understanding during the pandemic. The survey has made a huge contribution to building public trust in the use of personal health data.  

Silvia Ottaviani: Nominated for her work in the role of Honorary Lecturer in Molecular Cell Biology, Imperial College

Silvia’s work for Imperial College involved using AI and other data from the UK and Italy to accelerate the identification of baricitinib as a novel antiviral drug. The project resulted in a 71% reduction in deaths observed in moderate-severe SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia (this included a large elderly cohort). The impressive nomination also included practical examples of the ways in which Silvia inspired other women and girls into STEM roles around this work. She delivered this project over and above her day job and carried on working to deliver it during her maternity.

Ming Tang: Chief Data and Analytics Officer for NHS England and NHS Improvement

Ming created the Covid Data Store for NHS England in her role as Chief Data and Analytics Officer. Her work combined data analytics, created new data sets and curated and mobilised the power of AI to fill a COVID-19 demand and supply chain abyss. This work helped create one version of the ‘on the NHS ground truth’. Ming delivered the Data Store at a time when all decision makers had their own opinions about demand, PPE, medicines, and critical care staff capacity. Ming is not only a supreme data scientist but demonstrated significant powers of persuasion to bring multiple stakeholders together and create a team in a time of crisis.  

WISE D&I Award – Sponsored by HRS

This award aims to recognise an individual, group or organisation that found innovative ways of ensuring that Diversity & Inclusion targets were met during the pandemic. The judges will assess the support and training established by the nominee. They will also examine evidence of effectiveness in terms of meeting targets and impacting women within a group or organisation. The following women have been shortlisted as finalists:

Kathryn McKenna: Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland

Vicky Newman: Department for the Economy Northern Ireland

Kathryn and Vicky are worthy finalists who despite facing extremely stretched resources, put together a cohesive plan to inspire women in STEM from early career upwards. Their work involved embracing social channels like TikTok and Twitter to connect with the relevant audiences and inspire future generations. Kathryn was able to look past the challenges of the pandemic and maintain her focus: to create a strong pipeline that would encourage more women into STEM professions.

Tamsin Alli-Balogun: Group Mentoring Manager SNC- Lavalin, UK Transportation Division, Atkins

Marsha Wright: Two-Way Mentoring Manager SNC- Lavalin, UK Transportation Division, Atkins

Sarah Lewis: Mentoring Co-ordinator, SNC- Lavalin, UK Transportation Division, Atkins

Ilana Hillel: Mentoring Adviser, SNC- Lavalin, UK Transportation Division, Atkins

Tamsin, Marsha, Sarah and Ilana’s work had a clear impact on their organisation, leading to a significant uptick in female participation, as well as an increase in feelings of connectedness throughout Atkins. There was also impressive work done around career progression and the long-term direction of the organisation. These finalists helped the engagement within their business and the promotion of women in STEM.

Tolu Oke: Global DEI Customer Engagement Leader at Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Tolu’s work during the pandemic was impressive for several key reasons. Perhaps the most salient being that she had a global impact on the progression of D&I in the business. The submission was backed up with some outstanding personal references. This nominee helped establish a global reach of 1,450 ambassadors committed to helping to deliver D&I for AWS across 28 countries. To quote one of the references in her submission: “Tolu truly brought a fresh wind, an awesome drive, a wealth of experience, and a positive, supportive yet competent quality to the program that I have seldom witnessed anywhere else”. This quote helps demonstrate why Tolu was shortlisted for this category.  

WISE Community Champion Award – Sponsored by NHS

This award seeks to recognise a woman who developed a STEM solution to support community members during the pandemic. This will have been done either as part of their employment or within a voluntary capacity. WISE is looking for new faces and potential STEM role models to champion solutions developed for the public good. The winner will be held up as an example of the ways in which women have contributed to STEM developments with a view to inspiring girls and women to work in the sector. The following women have been shortlisted as finalists:

Vanessa Diaz: Professor of Healthcare Engineering at University College London

Vanessa was shortlisted for her creation and distribution of 3D printed visors using a network of home-based printers. This project demonstrated exceptional engineering practice through the whole supply chain of sourcing, logistics and manufacturing. Vanessa’s PPE was approved locally for widespread use in UCLH and the Royal Free Hospital while they waited for a robust and reliable official PPE supply chain to be established. Hundreds of Vanessa’s visors were delivered to medical teams across the country. Later in the pandemic, she widened the reach of her project and provided PPE to care homes. Vanessa is a clear role model for women and girls in STEM and an excellent advocate for WISE.  

Ms Meritxell Miret Gonzalez: Anatomical Pathology Technologist at the Royal Free Hospital

During the first surge of COVID-19 deaths, Meritxell enabled the use of software called Attend Anywhere to facilitate ‘virtual viewings’ of the Royal Free Hospital mortuary to allow bereaved relatives to view their deceased loved ones during times of strict travel and visitor restrictions. These viewings were done in a compassionate, safe and secure way.  This service was so well received that the department had several requests for assistance from other mortuaries to help set up an equivalent service.  Meritxell’s work made a genuine difference to many people during a very difficult time. 

Ms Susan McDonald: Nominated for her work with NHS Test and Trace, now UKHSA COVID-19 Testing

Susan’s excellent nomination described the use of her significant scientific, engineering and industry capabilities to help make COVID-19 testing a fair and inclusive service accessible to everyone. She spearheaded ease of access and usability and drove improvements in the UK COVID-19 home testing service. This work made the kits more accessible to ethnic minority groups, blind and partially sighted people, and those shielding or self-isolating. Susan’s inclusive, thoughtful and passionate work included instructions translated into 12 languages. She also worked with the 119 medical phone service to enable ordering of home test kits by those without access to the internet. Her nomination came with many testimonials and endorsements from individuals, diversity groups and charities.  

WISE Responsive Hero Award – Sponsored by AWE

This award aims to recognise and celebrate a STEM hero whose paid or voluntary work during the pandemic was exceptional. This person’s response will have been over and above their traditional voluntary or paid duties. The following women have been shortlisted as finalists:

Fiona Bennington: Nominated for her work as Director of Heroshield Ltd

The judges were impressed by Fiona’s initiative in the early stages of the pandemic to create a consortium of local companies that would adapt their production services to create the HeroShield. This ‘shield’ enabled the distribution of PPE for frontline workers in the local area. Fiona is an excellent STEM role model for women and girls since she applies her engineering capabilities to a variety of global projects that contribute to the betterment of society. This nominee showed considerable initiative and an ability to bring people together during a difficult time.  

Dr. Helena Stage: Nominated for her work as Mathematical Epidemiologist, The University of Manchester

Helena Stage is a mathematical epidemiologist who has been contributing to research on SARS-CoV-2 since late 2019 while working as a post-doctoral research associate at The University of Manchester. Her work, in conjunction with the University of Manchester’s COVID-19 modelling group, directly contributed to the scientific knowledge informing the UK pandemic response.

Ms Meaghan Kall: Duty Lead Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency’s National COVID-19 Epidemiology Cell

Meaghan’s monitoring and communication of trends for the UK Health Security Agency during England’s COVID-19 pandemic impressed the judges. Her recognition of the need for a reliable and trustworthy source of information and expertise around COVID-19 was invaluable to dispelling misinformation during this time. She worked tirelessly to make technical reports from the UK Heath Security Agency accessible to the general public via Twitter. In sharing this information with her 35 thousand followers she made a key contribution to the evolving understanding of data and research around the virus.

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