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Essay on Power of a Womb pockets Writing Prize

1 September 2009

The Medical Research Council has announced PhD student Jackie Maybin as the winner of the prestigious Max Perutz Science Writing Award for her essay The best a man can’t get.


As media debate continues on the link between sex and physical strength, Jackie Maybin’s research explores the idea that although men may be physically stronger, women’s bodies could ultimately be more powerful.


The prize-winning essay focuses on the womb’s power to heal itself without scarring as women go through their menstrual cycles - a healing process unique to the female reproductive system. Greater understanding of this phenomenon could have a huge impact for both men and women, in particular, how we treat inflammation and scarring throughout the body.



Jackie says: “I’m delighted to have won such a prestigious award and hopefully this will encourage other students to talk and write more enthusiastically about science, and generally get people more interested in research.”


The Max Perutz Science Writing Award encourages MRC research students to communicate their work to the public in a compelling way, and is sponsored by the Medical Research Council.


Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, MRC chief executive, offers his congratulations to all those shortlisted:

‘‘The Max Perutz Science Writing Award offers students an opportunity to share their work with a wider audience. The MRC is committed to supporting students to develop the skills they’ll need to communicate their work to the most important people of all - the people whose lives will ultimately be changed by their research.”


Lavinia Greenlaw, celebrated author, poet and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, who was part of this year’s distinguished judging panel, comments:

“These students are clearly passionate about the research that they are doing, and it was thrilling to see how they managed to communicate a sense of wonder about such complex work to their readers."
"These pieces remind us of that the facts of how our body works or stops working are fascinating and full of resonance. I am delighted to see these young scientists embracing the power of good writing as they develop their careers.”


Notes to editors

About the winner: Jackie Maybin is currently undertaking her PhD at the Centre for Reproductive Biology at the Queen's Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh. Jackie’s article is published today (1 September 2009) in The Guardian.


About the Max Perutz Science Writing Award: now in its thirteenth year, it is an opportunity for PhD students who are funded by the Medical Research Council to hone their writing skills by conveying the importance, relevance and excitement of their work through a popular science article. The competition was open to all MRC-funded PhD students and offers a £1000 first prize.


The panel of judges for the 2009 competition were: Lavinia Greenlaw, award-winning poet, novelist and educator; Professor Leszek Borysiewicz, MRC Chief Executive; Professor Jim Smith, Director of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research; Alok Jha, Science Correspondent at The Guardian; Kate Wighton, Science and Health Correspondent at The Sun (co-judged with Emma Morton, Science and Health Editor at The Sun); and Michael Lee, PhD student at the Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) and winner of the 2008 Max Perutz Science Writing Award.


The Runner-up entry went to Alistair Dennison, a student at The Institute of Biomedical Research, University of Birmingham with his essay Blind ignorance. Alistair was also shortlisted in the 2008 awards for his entry The incredible lightness of seeing.


There were also three Highly Commended entrants; Nicola Harris, Northern Institute of Cancer Research at The University of Newcastle, with Will it be worth it?; Karen Mackenzie, MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, The Queen’s Medical Research Unit, with Head above Water: Pitting peptides against asthma and Alejandro Vicente-Grabovetsky, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University, with Memories of a brain cartographer.


The winner, runner-up and three commended entrants received their prizes at an award ceremony on 26 August at The Gherkin, held in collaboration between the Medical Research Council and The Education Guardian


About Max Perutz: Professor Max Perutz (1914-2002) was a world-renowned researcher, a founding scientist and head of the MRC’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. He is perhaps best known for his work on the protein structure of haemoglobin- an achievement for which he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1962. In addition to his own research achievements, Max was known for his interest in and warm support of the work of others, particularly his students. He inspired countless young scientists and encouraged them to communicate their research in plain language to those whose lives are changed through their work.


Cathy Beveridge
Phone: 020 7670 5138


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