Silver and Bronze STEM for Britain award winners

17 March 2022

Congratulations to Georgia Shillito and Ancy Anna John, who won the silver and bronze medals respectively in the Physics category of the STEM for Britain awards 2022 held on the 7th March at the House of Commons. Both presented their research to politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of the annual poster competition, on Monday 7 March 2022. Held in the House of Common, STEM for Britain involves some 200 or so early career scientists and they were judged against other shortlisted physicists from across Britain, in a competition that also includes categories for researchers who are chemists, biologists, engineers and mathematicians. There are only three winners in each category though.


STEM for Britain awards 2022 winners Ancy Anna John and Georgina Shillito.

Georgina said:

“The ability to translate, the often, raw and exclusive language of scientific research into something that everyone can understand and engage with is of particular importance nowadays.  STEM for Britain provides an ideal opportunity through which to hone these scientific communication skills and I was encouraged to enter by a colleague who was a previous medallist.  I met several other young researchers and was particularly happy to see such a high proportion of women at the event. I am absolutely delighted and to have won Silver and I would encourage anyone eligible to enter to do so. It is an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people and it encourages you to look at your own research and its presentation from a different perspective.”

 Ancy Anna's poster explained how she is helping astronomers to determine whether they are detecting an exoplanet or the activity of a star. This could improve the ability to find ‘Earth-twins’  - planets with a mass that is very close to the Earth’s - around stars other than our Sun.

An exoplanet is a planet orbiting another star, so is beyond our Solar System. Planets create very little light, compared to their parent star. Our star is our Sun, and it is about a billion times as bright as the reflected light from any of the planets orbiting it. It can therefore be very difficult to visualise smaller planets, so they are detected in other ways.  Stars use their gravity to keep the planets in orbit, which in turn exerts a gravitational pull back. This makes the star wobble. One way of detecting planets therefore is by measuring the change in frequency of the light waves from the star as it wobbles due to the planet’s gravitational pull. The problem is that the star's visible surface is also covered in millions of blobs of gas that is rising and falling at high speeds, and it is easy to mistake the effects of this activity, for a planet signal. Telling the difference between signs of the presence of a planet or activity on the surface of a star is even more challenging for the low-mass Earth-like exoplanets. So Ancy Anna and her colleagues have developed a way of stripping the confusing signals away, enabling precise detection and characterisation of Earth-mass planets around bright stars. 

 Ancy Anna said:  “I am interested in discovering Earth-like exoplanets, in a vision to help humanity to answer the thought-provoking question – ‘Are we alone in the Universe? I believe this science should be accessible to everyone; regardless of age, colour, gender, background and place of origin. I saw STEM for Britain to be an unparalleled opportunity to display my research and show that science is truly approachable.”