The COVID Unsung Heroes Awards 2022 – let’s celebrate the finalists 

Our prestigious awards ceremony at Windsor Castle last week was a great success. Finalists shared a stage with HRH The Princess Royal, and special guests included Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Scientific Officer Professor Dame Sue Hill… 

Although the WISE Covid Unsung Heroes Awards ceremony took place in opulent surroundings and was attended by the great and the good, the theme of the awards seemed to strike a chord with ordinary people across the STEM industry and beyond.  

There is a good reason for this. All of us, regardless of background or profession, were impacted by the pandemic. Talk of testing kits and PPE has become a part of the national conversation and arguably there has been more focus on STEM over the last two years than at any other time in recent history.  

The buzz around the event meant that the WISE team received a greater number and higher quality of nominations than expected and creating a long list from these was no mean feat. The 12 judges, two for each award, then reduced this shortlist to 23 people. We have already celebrated the winners of each category here [lnsert] but would like to take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on the remaining 17 impressive finalists whose work in STEM has made such a valuable contribution to society over the last two years.      

Celebrating our finalists for the Covid Unsung Heroes Awards 

Following a speech from HRH The Princess Royal, and Professor Dame Sue Hill, the CUHA22 awards judges read descriptions of the work done by the finalists and presented them with certificates. One finalist said of the event that it had helped consolidate a community of women in STEM, and another said that this was the high point for her after a really difficult two years.  

Kay Hussain, Chief Executive of WISE, said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to witness the work of these amazing women. Each nominee has made a superb contribution during the pandemic and we truly wish that we could have celebrated them all as winners.  

“Since being appointed CEO of WISE in the height of the pandemic, I have been so impressed by the tenacity, excellence and vision demonstrated by so many women in STEM, and none more so than those recognised last night. We want to personally thank each of them for the contributions they have made to our society.”  

Dame Sue Hill DBE, Chief Scientific Officer for England and Lead Ambassador at WISE, commented: “These women have made an astounding impact during the pandemic, going above and beyond to help keep our population and communities safe during a truly challenging time. 

“As an ambassador for WISE, I am continuously amazed at the achievements of the women we represent, and hope that these awards will go some small way in demonstrating our gratitude for their efforts.” 

CUHA22: The Finalists 

WISE Tech Award (sponsored by Pfizer)  

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.  Read more >>  

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. Read more >>  

WISE New Educator Award (sponsored by PA Consulting) 

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, sadly Zoe was unable to attend the ceremony owing to illness but we wish her well and thank her for her work. Read more >>  

Tanya Howden: Computer Science Teacher 

Since receiving a Computer Science degree from Heriot-Watt University, Tanya has 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. Read more >>  

WISE Responsive Hero Award (sponsored by AWE) 

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. Read more >>  

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. Read more >>  

WISE Data Solution award (sponsored by IQVIA) 

Ruth Studley: Nominated for her work in the role of Deputy Director for Infection Survey Analysisat 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. Read more >>  

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). Read more >>  

WISE Community Champion Award (sponsored by NHS) 

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. Read more >>  

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. Read more >>  

WISE D&I award (sponsored by Hyper Recruitment Solutions) 

Kathryn McKenna: Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland and 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. Read more >>  

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. Read more >>  

WISE aims to work with our finalists on an ongoing basis. We will showcase their careers and work as part of our drive to highlight the types of careers that girls and women with a passion for STEM can pursue. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them again for their work.  

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