The Furness Prize for Science Communication

This year's Furness Prize for Science Communication is now closed and will reopen in 2021.  

What is the Furness Prize?

The Furness Prize for Science Communication is an award given to a pathology trainee or undergraduate who has shown excellence in their science communication activities throughout the year.

The aims and objectives of the award are to:

  • cultivate awareness amongst pathology trainees and undergraduates about the importance of public engagement 
  • reward and recognise trainees and undergraduates who have undertaken sustained high-quality science communication activities.

A prize of £200 is generously awarded to the winner of the competition, funded by the previous College President Professor Peter Furness (2008-2011). The winner will be invited to receive their prize at the College's New Fellow's Ceremony in London in February 2021. The winner will be able to bring a guest and the cost of travel to the ceremony will be reimbursed by the College.

Furness Prize 2020 winner

Congratulations to this year’s winner, Dr Matthew Clarke, SpR Neuropathology! Read on to find out more about Matt and what inspired him to apply for this year's prize.

Why did you enter the Furness Prize? 

I submitted a nomination for the Furness Prize at the suggestion and with the kind support of Dr Ali Robb (Consultant Microbiologist, Newcastle upon Tyne) who I have had the pleasure of working with for several years as part of the ‘Path to Success’ event and on other projects.

How does it feel to be the winner of this year’s Furness Prize and what effect will it have on you/your career/future science communication activities? 

It is a wonderful feeling to have won this year’s prize! I have been nominated on several other occasions years ago and was not successful so it is a very nice feeling and surprise! Thank you very much to the judges! Also, a huge thank you to the many friends, colleagues and teams I have worked with to enable my various projects to proceed – it could not have been done without all their input and hard work. Winning this prize will encourage me to continue pursuing my science communication projects with the general public, undergraduates and junior doctors. Having been forced to enter the virtual arena of event delivery due to COVID-19, I look forward to exploring and developing this format for other events in the future, helping to extend a wider reach to people who may be interested in knowing more about pathology and research, or who may be considering a career in the specialty.

Why do you think science communication is important for pathology?

Science communication is not just important, it is essential and vital for pathology. Pathology forms the core of all medical and surgical specialties. However, we are not always patient-facing and often work behind the scenes, but that does not diminish the vitally important role we play. Therefore, it is so important for us to be open and tell people what we do. We are privileged to work in a fascinating specialty with so many diverse and interesting subspecialties. Many people are not aware of what we do and it is really enjoyable having the opportunity to talk about this.  With challenging pathology workforce issues facing us, the need to communicate is so important both to recruit more people into the specialty but also to important stakeholders who can help shape policy. Communicating the results of pathology research is also crucial – both the general public and the scientific community are interested to hear the new developments and discoveries that are being made in the field and we need to be able to provide these results to our different audiences. The general public donate a lot of money which helps fund pathology research; all who are involved should take the opportunity to report back how it has been used and what has been found.  

Why did you choose to pursue a career in pathology? 

I chose a career in pathology as a result of spending 4 months in a histopathology post in the West Midlands as a foundation doctor. Although I initially applied for surgery, my experiences and enjoyment of these 4 months could not be forgotten and I reapplied to enter pathology training and haven’t looked back since! I love the medical detective work that pathologists perform every day of their careers, trying to bring all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together to make a diagnosis and help patients. It is also one of the most progressive specialties with digital and molecular pathology (amongst others) making huge strides to help us advance our work. It is also very diverse, with so many different facets to the career including teaching and academic opportunities – there is something for everyone! With less pathology featuring in undergraduate curricula of medical schools, we need to do all we can to promote what we do and the numerous opportunities the career can provide.

Do you have any future science communication activities planned? 

Always!! I am currently planning an academic themed virtual event for undergraduates and junior doctors as part of the International Collaborative of Pathologists. And I am also hoping to do a virtual talk (open to the general public) about pathology and its impact on the monarchy throughout history! Watch this space!

Some of Matt’s public engagement activities

  • A co-organiser of the RCPath/BDIAP Foundation & Undergraduate Taster Event for the past 2 years
  • A founding organiser of the ‘Path to Success’ event in Newcastle since 2016
  • one of four trainees (2 from the UK and 2 from the US) who authored the ‘Future of Pathology’ report and created blogs and tweets to promote the report
  • A speaker for a Liverpool Medical Student Research Committee event
  • Marked science projects written by college students from underprivileged backgrounds
  • Interviewed Professor Sir James Underwood for the College’s video on ‘Histopathology: past, present and future’
  • Facilitated the production of videos for Patient Safety Awareness Week
  • Chaired the College’s virtual seminar series delivered by Professor Jo Martin called ‘The Art and Science of Practical Management’
  • Published many articles in the ACP News and the College’s magazine, The Bulletin

How to apply

This year's Furness Prize for Science Communication is now closed and will reopen in 2021.  

Use the application form below to self-nominate for this prize. There is a space on the form for a referee to provide a supporting statement for your application. Refer to the guidance for applicants document below before you complete the form. You can apply as a team rather than an individual but the maximum number of people that can be included in one prize application is four. Completed application forms should be returned by email to publicengagement@rcpath.org

Judging process

The decision on the Furness Prize winner will be made by a selection committee composed of the Vice President for Communications, Director of Publishing and Engagement and a member of the Public Engagement department. Selection by the committee will be based on evidence of a sustained commitment to high quality public engagement activities – further information is in the guidance for applicants below.

Application form and information

Furness Prize 2020 Application Form

Furness Prize 2020 Guidance for Applicants

Please return your completed application by email to publicengagement@rcpath.org

Furness Prize 2019 winner

This year, the prize has been awarded to Dr Hamzah Farooq. Hamzah is a Specialist Registrar in Medical Virology and Infectious Diseases, currently on secondment as a Senior Clinical Fellow in Whole Genome Sequencing of Mycobacteria at the National Mycobacterium Reference Service-South in Colindale.

Hamzah Farooq - Furness Prize 2019 winner

Hamzah has been involved in a wide range of activities throughout the year, in the UK and abroad, and the judges were particularly impressed by his commitment to delivering pathology-related training to undergraduates, postgraduate trainees, healthcare workers and members of the public, including giving a talk on ‘getting into combined infection training’ and developing educational videos on whole genome sequencing.

He also delivered tutorials on virological conditions to medical students and taught the basics of microbiological and virological laboratory techniques to postgraduate trainees.

In addition, Hamzah has helped to raise awareness of infectious diseases and laboratory diagnostics. He presented several posters on infectious diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and also delivered talks entitled ‘introduction to HIV resistance and clinical cases’.

Here's what Hamzah had to say when he found out he had won this year's prize. 

I feel very privileged to have been awarded this prize and aim to use this motivation to continue honing my skills and deliver further science communication activities in the future. Pathology is a field in which one works with a variety of multi-disciplinary teams and a diversity of patients. Communication between teams is vital in pathology for patients, healthcare workers and for members of the public to fully understand the pathological and diagnostic process. Only by communicating effectively and working together, can we aim to reduce the burden of disease and improve the quality of life of patients and the general public.