Public Science

NOBELini Awards

Winning design proposals

The NOBELini scheme paired 30 young scientists with 30 design students in a bid to celebrate scientific discovery. Pairs competed for a £2000 prize to create design products that communicate and celebrate science.

A specialist panel of judges including Senior Editor of Nature, Ursula Weiss, and Associate Editor of Wired Magazine UK Edition, Ben Hammersly, pored over the entries and submitted their decisions on the 18th of September. The winners were announced at the CSC and LMCB Retreat at the IET on the 25th of September.

The winners of the NOBELini award for the best proposals were Ioannis Gousias and Elaine Ng for “Albert in Neuroplastic land”, Jay Stone and Berit Greinke for “The Good, the Bad and the Negative” and Ev Yemeni and Celine Marcq for “Emotional Patterns: Feedback and Development”. Also highly commended were Marta Archanco and Solenne Morigaud for “Nature Hates Emptiness” and Tara Mooney and Matthew Waugh for “From Photons to Footprints”. You can view a video slideshow of the entries here:

Nobelini: The Background

“What we’d really like is to foster a long-term dialogue between professionals in the arts and the scientific community,” explains Amanda Fisher (Director, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre). Together with Carole Collet (Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design) Amanda has pioneered new initiatives in bringing design professionals together with scientists.

Nobel Textiles, a marriage of Nobel prize winners to leading fashion and textile designers, showcased at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2008. And then there was Nobelini, where a new generation of scientist-designer pairs competed for £2000 prizes to create their designs for science.

Pairs were matched up through a speed-dating event at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre. Prizes were awarded for the design proposals that best celebrated or communicated across four themes: stem cells, energy and recycling, synthetic and systems biology and imaging. Participants were encouraged to bring an object; an item to help explain their research interests.

The resulting collection, ranging from gastric bands to sculpted gourds, provided an interesting starting point for conversation and an aide memoire to the very brief encounters that each scientist had with their prospective design collaborators. Participants then logged their preferred collaborators and a series of pairs were devised.

A public blind-date style event showcased the project to the public on Tuesday 26th May 2009 in the Dana bar. Hosted jointly by Steve Nurrish (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UCL) and Carole Collet, panels of scientists and designers responded to questions from potential collaborators. After reviewing their responses, the audience was invited to vote for their favourite scientist-designer pairs. Luckily both of the pairs elected in this manner agreed to work with each other.

“The whole point,” Amanda clarified, “is to celebrate discovery and engage the wider public in a dialogue between scientists and designers.” In fact the motto for so-called Fabrics of Life projects has become ‘marrying design to discovery’. As Tim Hunt recalls of the Nobel Textiles project, “It’s such a deliciously silly idea to marry a designer to a Nobel prize winner that it’s quite irresistible.” Documentary film-maker Holly Stead created a short film about the Nobelini project.