Sussex physicists named science Student and Lecturer of the Year

Sussex physics graduate Debbie Hill and lecturer Dr Michael Hardiman have been named best overall student and best lecturer of the year in the 2009 Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) awards.

Debbie won the BP Award for the Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year, while her supervisor, Dr Michael Hardiman, who nominated her, was announced lecturer of the year.

Debbie also won the National Physical Laboratory Award for the Best Physics Student.

Molecular medicine graduate Alastair Copland, meanwhile, won the AstraZeneca Award for Best Biology or Biotechnology Student.

Heather Campbell was runner up in the Physics category, completing a the raft of accolades.

Each student had to be recommended by an academic supervisor, then submit a project to make it to the final, where they were interviewed by a panel of judges on the day of the finals. The winners were announced at a special gala evening in London last night (Thursday 24 September).


Debbie Hill applied with her project to design, build and use an experimental set-up as paDebbie Hill with her two SET Awardsrt of a major physics experiment in Grenoble, France – the Cryo-nEDM (neutron electric dipole moment) experiment. The nEDM experiment ultimately aims to answer the question of why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. Debbie was a student on the University’s Research Placement programme, and will now go on to study at doctoral level.


Debbie says: 'I'm absolutely delighted. I've worked really hard and I feel that reaching this stage shows it paid off. I received a huge amount of support, too, from my supervisor, Mike Hardiman, and the Sussex neutron EDM group, in particular Andrew Davidson.”


Alastair Copland’s project involved studying the role certain proteins play in the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Alastair used computer programming to identify ten small proteins (peptides) that stick together to form disease-causing fibres (amyloids). These fibres were tested further using X-rays and highly organised amyloid structures were identified. Such information is used to design drugs that could prevent or reverse amyloid formation.


Alastair says: "It was a huge privilege to be nominated for a SET Award. The project was both challenging and rewarding – and wouldn't have been possible without the excellent support of all the laboratory members. Since completing the research, I have embarked on a PhD studentship in London following my interests in the role of proteins in disease and virus pathology."


His tutor, Dr Louise Serpell, says: "I am really very pleased for Alastair and I think this is the beginning of a promising and impressive scientific career. As a supervisor, it is very gratifying to see your students do well and go on to great things."


Heather Campbell’s project involved thAlastair Copland with his tutor Dr Louise Serpelle search for and potential discovery of new Isolated Neutron Stars (INS), one of the rarest types of stars in the Galaxy. Only seven of these ISNs had been found since their initial discovery. Heather has now found 11 more very strong candidates for ISN status – a remarkable achievement for a young physicist completing an undergraduate degree.

Heather says: “I couldn't have done it without having a great supervisor, Kathy Romer, who always made the project fun. The highlight was going observing in Arizona, a chance not many undergraduates get!"


Sussex has had several SET winners in recent years. In 2007, physicist Paul Skrzypczyk won the best Physics student title, while fellow Sussex graduate Robert Zietal was runner-up. In 2000, physics student Emma King made history by winning both the Physics Student of the Year award and the overall SET Student of the Year award.  


Notes for Editors

The Science, Engineering & Technology Student of the Year Awards are established as Britain's most important awards for science and engineering undergraduates.

Visit Physics and Astronomy for information about courses at Sussex

Visit Biochemistry for information about courses at Sussex.

For award ceremony photos, interviews etc, contact the University of Sussex Press office



Last updated: Monday, 12 October 2009