Making it Brain founder awarded BNA Public Engagement Prize 2022

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We are delighted to announce that Sophie Sanford (UK DRI at Cambridge) has today been awarded the British Neuroscience Association (BNA) Award for Public Engagement of Neuroscience 2022, for her work pioneering Making it Brain: a free, online careers event for students. The award aims to recognise those that make an outstanding contribution to engaging the public in Neuroscience.

Sophie is a final year PhD student at the UK DRI at Cambridge, passionate about promoting inclusivity and diversity in science. In her own words, ‘As a female PhD student of mixed East Asian descent, seeing dementia researchers who look ‘like me’ in positions of leadership has been rare…’, so she set up Making it Brain – a mini-conference specifically aimed at students aged 16+ who are at a critical stage in their careers and may be considering higher education.

It's been so fantastic to see Making It Brain grow over the past two years, thanks to the contributions of so many brilliant people across the UK DRI. I am so thankful to the BNA for the honour of this prize and for their continued support of the event! Sophie Sanford, UK DRI at Cambridge
Sophie Sanford

Set across two afternoons in September, the conference has been an incredible success in showcasing a range of experiences and careers in STEM from a diverse panel of presenters. Attracting over 240 viewers from across the world in 2021, the event grew further in 2022, with viewer numbers jumping above 340.

Crucially, the initiative is achieving its aims with reach – 50% had no previous exposure to research - and impact – 92% would say they now know what scientific research ‘looks like’ on a daily basis, and 80% agreed that they are now interested in pursuing a career in scientific research.

Sophie’s PhD supervisor, Dr Will McEwan, said:

“Sophie has done an extraordinary thing in organising the Making It Brain event. She was committed to making it as inclusive as possible, drawing from her own experience to demonstrate that science can be for anyone. As her PhD supervisor, I was truly inspired by her dedication to this cause. She did all the work without fanfare, in her understated but meticulous way. I can think of no one more deserving of this prize.”

Earlier this year, Sophie was awarded the UK DRI Engagement Prize at our internal conference, Connectome, for her tireless work establishing Making it Brain as such a successful event.

This prize was announced at the BNA's festive symposium in Edinburgh. The full list of prize winners can be found on their website.

Article published: 12 December 2022