Strathclyde academic wins prize for inclusion and diversity
A University of Strathclyde academic has won the Royal Society of Chemistry Inclusion & Diversity Prize for her science education work with school pupils with Additional Support Needs and her impact through preparing student teachers to work with diverse learners.
Dr Jane Essex of the Department of Education will be presented with a medal and a £5,000 prize at a ceremony in London in July in recognition of her lifetime spent furthering the active engagement of everyone in science, regardless of their identity or individual circumstances, and maximising impact through work with teachers.
A former teacher, Dr Essex runs a number of science education events aimed at school pupils with Additional Support Needs, including the Young Chemical Ambassadors Day and Salters’ Institute Festival of Chemistry events.
Dr Essex, who lives in Lanark, said: “Recognising and countering the exclusion of certain learners has been a career long interest of mine, both in my own classroom and with the student teachers I work with.
“There are many assumptions made about who and what science is for, and I have often examined and critiqued these in my work. I intend my work to ‘nudge’ policy and practice in science education in order to address the barriers to inclusion, many of which are attitudinal rather than inherent in science.
"I am deeply honoured and humbled to be chosen as the recipient of the Inclusion and Diversity award. I am especially proud to be recognised by the Royal Society of Chemistry at a time when it is working so strenuously to promote inclusion in all aspects of its work.
“However, the award is not mine alone. I feel I am also accepting it on behalf of the diverse young scientists with whom I have had the privilege of working over the years.
"I would like to acknowledge my deep gratitude to those colleagues who have generously supported my work, and who have understood my dream of access to meaningful science for all learners.
“I am delighted to have joined the University of Strathclyde, where inclusion and access are seen as integral to good education.”
Originally from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, a major influence on Dr Essex’s life was her sister who suffered a brain injury at birth that left her with serious learning difficulties.
She said: “My mother’s fight for her to access to any form of education was the soundscape of my young life and has shaped much of my subsequent work. I remain a tiger sister!”
Last year Dr Essex won the Innovating in STEM Education prize at the Herald Global Game Changer Awards for her work.
Dr Robert Parker, Royal Society of Chemistry chief executive, said: “Over the years, our lives have been significantly improved by the chemical sciences, from medicines and food to the environment itself.
"We are proud of the contribution the chemical sciences make to our global community, which is why it is right for us to recognise important innovations and expertise such as these.
“Our prizes and awards recognise people from a range of different specialisms, backgrounds and locations. Every winner is an inspiration to the chemistry community and will play an incredibly important role in enriching people’s lives for generations to come.”
Dr Essex's work focuses on science as social practice. Her research questions include why people choose to learn science and what they learn. It is hoped that by gaining the answers to these questions, she is able to influence policy and practice in inclusive science education.
The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Awards and Prizes are awarded in recognition of originality and impact of research, or for each winner’s contribution to the chemical sciences industry or education. They also acknowledge the importance of teamwork across the chemical sciences, as well as the abilities of individuals to develop successful collaborations.
Of those to have won a Royal Society of Chemistry Award, an illustrious list of 50 have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their pioneering work, including 2016 Nobel laureates Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Ben Feringa.
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