2018 Max Perutz Science Writing Award shortlist announced


Ten outstanding articles have been shortlisted for this year’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award, the MRC’s annual writing competition.

The winner, who will receive a £1,500 prize, will be announced at the awards ceremony on 25 October at the Royal Institution, London.

This year’s judging panel is made up of:

  • MRC Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt 
  • Stephen Curry, Professor of Structural Biology at Imperial College, London
  • Dr Jennifer Rohn, cell biologist at University College London, novelist and journalist
  • Dr Roger Highfield, MRC Council member and director of external affairs at the Science Museum Group 
  • Dr Claire Ainsworth, freelance journalist and science writer
  • Andy Ridgway, journalist and senior lecturer in science communication at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

The Max Perutz Award asks MRC-funded PhD students to write up to 800 words about their research and why it matters, in a way that would interest a non-scientific audience.

We received more than 120 entries of a very high standard this year, which made the shortlisting a challenging task. Thank you to everyone who took part and many congratulations to the following exceptional writers:

  • Sonja Klingberg, MRC Epidemiology Unit and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research: “Obesity prevention: learning to do no harm” 
  • Briet Bjarkadottir, University of Oxford: “Stopping the conveyor belt – cancer and fertility”
  • Nuzhat Banu Ashra, University of Leicester: “Pregnant women: urine good hands”
  • Helen Parker, University of Edinburgh: “Coughs and sneezes spread drug-resistant diseases”
  • Stephanie Louise Cumberworth, MRC University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research: “The Zika virus and the ‘brain in a dish’”
  • Fraser Shearer, Centre for Cardiovascular Science, The University of Edinburgh: “Keep calm and carry to term”
  • Kevin O’Gallagher, King’s College London: “Heart-Beets”
  • Emily Granger, The University of Manchester: “Confounded by medical data: can we trust what researchers say?”
  • Natasha Clarke, St George's, University of London: “How artificial intelligence, and a cup of tea, could help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease”
  • Gesa Albers, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London: “Immune cell diet, cure for asthma?”

The award is named in honour of one of the UK’s most outstanding scientists and communicators, Dr Max Perutz. Max, who died in 2002, was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work using X-ray crystallography to study the structures of globular proteins. He was the founder and first chairman of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, the lab which unravelled the structure of DNA. 

Max was also a keen and talented communicator who inspired countless students to use everyday language to share their research with the people whose lives are improved by their work.


The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health.

MRC [Medical Research Council]