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£10,000 will be distributed between eight projects through the University’s Public Engagement Starter Fund scheme.

The Public Engagement Starter Fund scheme offers University of Cambridge researchers and postgraduate students small grants to undertake innovative public engagement activities inspired by their research. The scheme was run for the first time in 2016.

In 2017, there were 55 applications to the fund, up from 50 in 2016, and eight winners have been chosen, up from six in 2016. The winning projects were characterised by innovative engagement methods, a strong focus on the community to be engaged with, and clear links between the proposed engagement activity and research. The projects, which will take place in the next calendar year, include a series of podcasts on the science of bones, a mobile app to understand the neurodevelopment of very premature babies, and a ‘Philosopher in Residence’ programme at a local school.

The successful applicants will be given advice, training, and support by the University public engagement team to help them carry out their projects.

The eight winners and their public engagement projects are listed below. All activities must take place by the end of December 2018.

Researcher Department Project


Laura Kerslake Faculty of Education Philosopher in Residence: Philosophy as a School Culture
Laura will become ‘Philosopher in Residence’ at a local school to trial the development of philosophical discussion as a whole school culture. Activities for children, their parents, and teachers will explore different ways to engage with philosophy questions both inside and outside the classroom.
Stephen Kissler Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics The Mathematics of: An interactive exploration into the mathematics of, well, everything!
Stephen will introduce late secondary school students to mathematical modelling by creating a web portal where students can access material on how mathematics can be used to model all sorts of real-world phenomena. The content will include a series of podcasts describing the history and key mathematical theory behind particular models of physical systems, and related online materials which will allow students to get some hands-on modelling experience.
Dr Philipp Braeuninger-Weimer and Punt Seq team Engineering Punt Seq – River water DNA and microbial analyses for everyone: How to screen DNA at home, and everything you need to know about DNA sequencing
Philipp and his cross-disciplinary team aim to promote public discussion of the opportunities and challenges presented by the emergence of cheap, accessible DNA sequencing. Their proposed activities include: producing a series of YouTube videos and resources, running a public workshop on DNA sequencing, and sequencing the microbial DNA pool of the river Cam.
Dr Hilary Wong Paediatrics Using a UNICORN app to understand neurodevelopment of infants born very preterm after hospital discharge
Hilary will produce UNICORN, a mobile app to help increase our understanding of the neurodevelopment of very preterm infants after their discharge from hospital. The app will provide information to support parents, and will also prompt them to record data about their child’s development through the app, giving researchers access to a data pool that will help them to study the neurodevelopment of babies born very prematurely.
Michael Rivera Archaeology The Science of Bones podcast
Michael will produce a podcast on the science of bones. This will explain how researchers derive information from bones, including information about human biology, social organisation patterns, and how cultural changes influenced the wellbeing and evolution of humans in the past.
Charlotte Payne Zoology Shea caterpillars in Southwestern Burkina Faso – pests or profit? Training workshop, talks and discussion groups in a rural village
Charlotte will conduct a collaborative project with local people in a village in Burkina Faso to raise awareness of her research into the effects of shea caterpillars on harvests and food security. Her team will train members of the community to lead scientific education workshops about the caterpillars, empowering the villagers to do their own studies in future and enabling them to make more informed decisions about their livelihoods.
Dr Sophie Seita Faculty of English Emilia Galotti’s Colouring Book of Feelings – workshops and a series of contemporary performances
Sophie is interested in how philosophy can enter a creative work and, conversely, how creative practice can inform scholarly projects. She will explore these questions through two workshops based on her own play, Emilia Galotti’s Colouring Book of Feelings, which explores both enlightenment philosophy and contemporary community-building through performance.
Courtney Froehlig Faculty of Education Bringing it home: promoting parents’ shared reading practices through community-based workshops in Cambridgeshire
Courtney works with primary school teachers to explore the effects of group reading activities on the development of social attributional thinking in children. Her public engagement activity is to extend this work to the home, helping parents in Cambridgeshire to understand and support the development of healthy social attributional thinking in their children through community based workshops and an online forum.


The Public Engagement Starter Fund is supported by the RCUK Catalyst Seed Fund and Wellcome Trust ISSF, and managed jointly by the University’s Research Strategy Office and the Public Engagement team in the Office for External Affairs and Communications.




30 November 2017


One of the projects funded by the Public Engagement Starter Fund this year is a podcast on the science of bones.