Dr Chenying Liu wins two national prizes for science engagement

Christ Church Lecturer in Engineering Dr Chenying Liu has received two national awards for her outstanding science communication and research. The British Science Association (BSA) has chosen Dr Liu as this year’s British Science Festival Award Lecturer for Engineering, Technology and Industry, and BIG – the UK’s foremost network of STEM communicators – has presented her with the Josh Award for Science and Showmanship. 

Dr Chenying Liu
Dr Chenying Liu

Dr Chenying Liu is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Podium Institute for Sports Medicine and Technology, prior to which she completed her DPhil in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford. In her research, Dr Liu explores how origami (i.e. paper folding) gives rise to remarkable mechanical properties and how insights drawn from this investigation leads to new applications in the fields of healthcare and sustainability technology. In the past, her study of origami has inspired designs for grippers and millipede-like crawlers, and her focus has since shifted to personal protective equipment such as helmets and exoskeletons that can offer enhanced protection and more personalised design. 

Dr Liu first began communicating her pioneering research to the general public when she was selected as a member of the first cohort of Oxford Sparks Ambassadors – researchers tasked with boosting the University of Oxford’s digital science engagement. 

In the Oxford Sparks video below, Dr Liu sets out the subject matter of her DPhil completed in Oxford’s Special Structures Group and Soft Robotics Lab.

Dr Liu has received two national awards in recognition of her impressive science engagement efforts. The British Science Association (BSA) has made her one of this year’s Award Lecturers. The annual award celebrates a small number of researchers for their groundbreaking research and commitment to sharing it with a non-specialist audience. Past Award Lectures have been presented by such acclaimed scientists as Professor Brian Cox, Professor Richard Wiseman and Dame Maggie Aderin-Pocock. 

A second award comes from BIG, the UK’s leading network of communicators in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). BIG presented Dr Liu with the Josh Award – a prize for an outstanding early-career science communicator who is committed to continuing their work in science engagement.

It has been a great pleasure working with Professor Brassart and my other colleagues at Christ Church.

Responding to news of her awards, Dr Liu said: ‘It is an incredible honour and pleasant surprise to be recognised with both awards alongside other science communicators across the UK. I am very grateful to the British Science Association and the BIG Network for acknowledging my dedication to public engagement.

‘My heartfelt gratitude goes to all my academic mentors, collaborators, colleagues, and peers who have bolstered me along this journey, particularly Professors Zhong You, Perla Maiolino, and Liang He at Oxford. I must also express my deepest appreciation to Professor Barbara Rossi who ignited my passion for outreach and has always been an inspiring role model.'

Dr Liu joined Christ Church in October 2022 as a Stipendiary Lecturer in Engineering, covering part of Professor Laurence Brassart’s teaching allotment. Since then, she has shared her passion for structures and mechanics with students through tutorial teaching: ‘It has been a great pleasure working with Professor Brassart and my other colleagues at Christ Church. Tutorial teaching is a truly rewarding experience, allowing me to practise and communicate science with my students. Participating in the College’s Open Days offers me a new insight into the needs and concerns of our prospective students. 

'Last but not least, this award would not be possible without the nomination and unwavering support from Dr Michaela Livingstone-Banks, Dr Fiona Suttle, and the entire Maths, Physics and Life Sciences (MPLS) engagement team. I look forward to sharing my insights on origami robots this summer!’