Top UK science awards for St Andrews students

Thursday 2 October 2008

Recent graduates Martin Conaghan from the School of Computer Science and Susan Skelton from the School of Physics & Astronomy were both winners at the 2008 Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Years awards.

Martin’s final year Computer Science project which earned him the “Best IT Student” title involved the design and implementation of a Games Creation Tool for African Children.

The project was targeted for use on the “One Laptop Per Child” computer scheme that is now being distributed in parts of Africa.

His final year project supervisor, Dr Colin Allison, commented, “Martin had been motivated by his experience of voluntary work educating children in Africa during his undergraduate vacations.

“His Games Creation application is something he knew would help children engage with ICT and positively complement other initiatives such as those concerned with health and agriculture.”

Martin was awarded a 1st Class (Honours) BSc. at St Andrews in June 2008. He then departed for Africa to carry out more voluntary work and to travel.

Martin’s schedule placed him at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro at the same time as the SET awards interviews, but he was able to rush down in time to catch a flight to London. He returned to Africa shortly after the awards ceremony. The award for the Best IT Student was judged by the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Meanwhile, “The National Physical Laboratory Award for the Best Physics Student in the UK” Prize was won by Susan Skelton who impressed judges from the Institute of Physics with her final year research project.

Supervised by Professor Kishan Dholakia in the field of optical vortices and optical tweezers, her research was entitled, “White Light Takes Hold: Diffraction and Trapping”.

Both winners were presented with their prizes at a gala dinner in the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London last week.

Record numbers of entries were received from every major university in the United Kingdom and Ireland and judges paid tribute to the exceptional quality of this year’s work. 45 students were shortlisted in fifteen different categories.

Katy Robinson of the University of St Andrews was also shortlisted and reached the last three for the “Best Biology Student” award.

Professor Alyson Tobin, Dean of Science said, “This is the first year that we have had any winners from St Andrews and it really is a tremendous achievement.”

The “Science Engineering and Technology Student of the Year” award are organised by the “World Leadership Forum” in collaboration with a number of professional bodies. Universities were invited to nominate top students and include information about a project that the student had worked on.



The SET Awards are Britain and Ireland’s most important awards for science, engineering and technology undergraduates.

The Awards are presented at a magnificent ceremony before an audience comprising hundreds of technology students, academics, senior industry executives; as well as senior figures from government, scientific and technical institutions and the media.

The highest scoring student overall is declared the GKN Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year.

The lecturer who taught and nominated the overall winning student is declared the RPS Lecturer of the Year.

The 2008 Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year Awards Gala Dinner and Presentation Ceremony took place on the evening of Friday, 26th September at the Royal Lancaster, London.

The Awards are multidisciplinary, to reflect the wide range of degrees that British and Irish universities offer.




Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona Armstrong, Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 462529, Mobile: 07730 415 015 or Email: [email protected]

Ref:  SETA awards 02/10
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