A group of London-based healthcare scientist volunteers running the annual science4u.info event have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
science4u.info is an annual event with an accompanying website, now in its 17th year, which targets students from less advantaged backgrounds from schools across London to encourage them to study science.
science4u.info highlights scientific careers with a focus on the range of disciplines the NHS and other public and private sector organisations can offer, from Cardiac Physiologists to Microbiologists. Hosted by the University of Westminster on its science-focused campus, the event provides a fun-filled interactive educational day for pupils and teachers which is curriculum related as well as a careers and personal development session for teachers. science4u.info is run entirely by volunteers and relies on sponsorship for its activities. Beside the University of Westminster, it partners with the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) who runs an interactive workshop, and volunteers from across the NHS and other organisations who provide active demonstrations in their fields allowing pupils to engage in experiential learning. The pupils also get to mix with current students during their visit from a number of institutions.
This year the annual science4u.info conference could not take place due to the coronavirus crisis. However, although most of the 100 or so programme volunteers are at capacity fighting the COVID-19 pandemic across their organisations together with the Royal College of Pathologists, the organising group and volunteer scientists have been able to develop an interactive online resource that can be rolled out to students remotely. science4u.info has already launched the RCPath ‘Split Your Genes Online Workshop’. Later in June-July, they will be sending out other healthcare science modules which can also be done remotely, and there is a prize for some of the interactive elements. The online activities particularly benefit those pupils who face school closures due to the pandemic.
science4u.info is one of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on the 2nd of June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.
Representatives of science4u.info will receive the award from Mr B Sethia and Lord Lieutenant of Greater London later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers from science4u.info will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.
Dr Kimberly Gilmour and Dr Stuart Adams, Co-chairs for science4u.info, said: “It is an honour and a pleasure to receive this prestigious award on behalf of all the organising committee, our enthusiastic volunteers, our partners, sponsors and the University of Westminster. This award is very much a recognition of all the parties involved who give their time to ensuring such a successful and worthwhile event and to the schools that support this event. We hope it will enable us to continue running this event for many years to come.”
Paul Hampson from the University of Westminster said: “We were the first polytechnic in London and one of the first in the UK, established 180 years ago to educate the working people of London. We have become known for the many ways in which we help our students to realise their full potential, regardless of background. We are proud to host and contribute to the fantastic science4u.info event every year thus inspiring the future generation to choose sciences as their future career and so to make the world a better place for themselves and others.
“Beside all of our partners, we would also like to thank the teachers in the schools that have enabled their pupils to benefit from first-hand knowledge of discovering the many opportunities and careers that science can offer and hope that we may meet them in the future.”
Professor Brendon Noble, Head of the School of Life Sciences at the University, said: "We are very proud of both our students and staff and to have hosted this event. Their contribution to the Science4u conference and activities has resulted in the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and is a testament to their energy and enthusiasm for their scientific subject. Students in the School of Life Sciences do so much more than just study their subject with us. They contribute to society while they are with us and when they leave us to take up work. We look forward to welcoming new students this year as they join our existing students to study their scientific subject and to become familiar with the needs of the industry sector within they wish to work."