Bourne End PhD student nominated to present 'dark galaxies' work to Parliament

Reporter:

James Harrison

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A light is being shone on the universe's 'dark galaxies', thanks to the efforts of a researcher from Bourne End.

Olivia Keenan, an ex-pupil of Sir William Borlase's Grammar School, has been shortlisted for the opportunity to present her work in Parliament as part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for Britain project.

She said she was 'honoured' to have been nominated for the opportunity.

"Early career STEM researchers in this country do fantastic, inspiring work," she added, "and it’s extremely important that we get the chance to share this with policy makers.

“Discussing my work with parliamentarians will give me the chance to display the progress and innovation that is possible though scientific research, and give me a platform to share my findings.”

The 26-year-old, a PhD student at the University of Cardiff, was among thousands of aspiring scientists who entered and hundreds who made the shortlist for the competition to design a poster to be displayed in Parliament.

The submission details her efforts to discover hidden galaxies, which tend to have few stars and are mainly made up of gases.

Using the Puerto Rico-based Arecibo radio telescope, she has been attempting to find more evidence of such so-called 'dark galaxies' and is currently studying a large ring shaped cloud of gas that may be one.

Professor Roy Sambles, president of the Institute of Physics, said: “STEM for Britain provides a great opportunity for some of our outstanding young scientists to present aspects of their research in parliament, allowing Members of Parliament to find out first-hand about some of the ground breaking research taking place here in the UK.

“I wish the best of luck to all the exhibitors, who should feel very pleased with what they have achieved and I hope that they will value sharing the excitement of their research with key politicians and policy makers.”

The event, which is due to be held in Parliament's Portcullis House on Monday (March 13), has been described as the best opportunity for British politicians to meet and understand the work of the country's best young engineers, mathematicians and scientists by Stephen Metcalfe MP, chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee.

The contest, which was started in 1997, includes gold, silver and bronze awards in five categories - Biological and Biomedical Science, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering and Mathematics.

An overall winner will also be selected to received the Westminster Wharton Medal, named in honour of Dr Eric Wharton, the competition's founder, who died in 2007.

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