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Lauren McNeill, a PhD researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University, has come first in a competition of more than 200 young scientists in the House of Commons, for the excellence of her biology research, walking away with the coveted Westminster Medal.

Lauren, originally from Bolton, presented her research on developing a cost-effective device for the rapid detection of the drug mephedrone to dozens of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of the poster competition STEM for BRITAIN, on Monday 13th March.

As Gold Medal winner in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Section, Lauren was awarded a £3,000 prize. She was then entered to compete for the Westminster Medal – a competition between the five gold medal scientists, engineers or mathematicians at the event based on their ability to communicate their research. Lauren was judged the best, making her the overall winner out of the 212 early career researchers taking part in STEM for BRITAIN 2017.

On winning the Westminster Medal, Lauren said she was ‘ecstatic’ and ‘completely surprised’ but thought the judges had been been drawn to her work because of its clear real-world applications.

“I wanted to highlight the need for new research into a quick, portable and cost-effective detection method for mephedrone”, she added. “This kind of device could be used for mandatory drug testing in prisons and A&E departments throughout the world by non-specialists. My research is still in the early stages, but intriguing results offer an insight into its potential.”

STEM for BRITAIN aims to help politicians understand more about the UK’s thriving science and engineering base and rewards some of the strongest scientific and engineering research being undertaken in the UK.

Sharon Todd, executive director of the Society of Chemical Industry and sponsor of the Westminster Medal said:

“SCI’s charitable objective is to bring together chemistry-related sciences and industry to promote applied science for the benefit of society. The current global challenges we face are significant and complex and require a multi-disciplinary, innovative approach. Supporting early-stage and early career research scientists, engineers, and technologists is an essential part of that mission. 

“SCI is proud to be part of STEM for BRITAIN and to support the work of past member, Dr Eric Wharton, who initiated SET for Britain.”

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the Parliamentary & 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 STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs the event in collaboration with the Royal Society of Biology, the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Physics, The Physiological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society of Chemistry; with financial support from Research Councils UK, Warwick Manufacturing Group, the Clay Mathematics Institute, the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research, the Institute of Biomedical Science and the Society of Chemical Industry.