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Outstanding young scientist a finalist for COVID Unsung Heroes Awards

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An inspiring young scientist who invented a tech solution to transform COVID-19 testing has received special recognition from a senior royal.

Eloise Wells, molecular geneticist and analyst at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, created a special program to locate positive COVID-19 samples amongst the tens of thousands of swab extracts received daily, amid the first waves of the pandemic. 

The 26-year-old managed to save 200 crucial hours a month by coming up with a way to scan large blocks of tests, rather than struggling manually with one at a time. Not only did her tech solution speed up the pace and result in more tests being located, it managed to ease some of the massive pressure on her team to cope with the unprecedented demands of the pandemic. 

Eloise’s outstanding work led to her being a finalist for a WISE COVID Unsung Heroes Award, and she was invited to Windsor Castle where Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal congratulated her in-person. 

The prestigious awards ceremony was run by the UK’s leading diversity and inclusion organisation WISE, which works to increase the number of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 

Being a finalist for the Pfizer Tech Award, says Eloise, was a huge surprise, and an unforgettable experience.

In an interview with Health Tech World, she said: “When I found out I was nominated for the WISE Tech Award, I was absolutely thrilled and quite taken aback. 

“I created this program on a needs-must basis, as we found ourselves in an unexpected situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. So the idea of a celebration or to be recognised for it didn’t ever enter my head. It was a surprise and a real honour.”

Being invited to the royal grounds and introduced to HRH Princess Anne, says Eloise, was both a warming and inspiring experience.

Windsor Castle

She added: “I had no idea what to expect, I’d never met a member of the royal family before, and certainly never been inside Windsor Castle. I thought that perhaps it would be a quick curtsy and greeting, but she was really interested in the topic and we had a full conversation. It’s not something I’ll ever forget.

“We had a chat focused around how university can give you a grounding in a field, but being at the WISE event would expose me to lots of different pathways.”

Although Eloise didn’t win the tech award, she was given an award for being a finalist and was more than happy with the result, and the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Kay Hussain, chief executive of WISE, said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to witness the work of these amazing women over the last two years. Each nominee has a made a superb contribution during the pandemic and we truly wish that we could have celebrated them all as winners.

“Since being appointed CEO of WISE in the height of the pandemic, I have been so impressed by the tenacity, excellence and vision demonstrated by so many women in STEM, and none more so, than those recognised last night. We want to personally thank each of them for contributions they have made to our society.”

More about COVID Unsung Heroes 

The WISE COVID Unsung Heroes Awards was split into numerous categories, in which women in STEM were awarded for making a difference in the pandemic. As WISE works towards getting more women into STEM, it was an opportunity to champion those already working in the field, and to help inspire the STEM women of tomorrow. 

The winners of each category were:

  • Tech Award (sponsored by Pfizer)Dr. Amy Thomas, research associate at the University of Bristol.
  • New Educator Award (sponsored by PA Consulting)Dr. Anna Young, lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of Bath.
  • Responsive Hero Award (sponsored by AWE)Fiona Bennington, product design engineer and head of entrepreneurship and growth at Catalyst in Belfast.
  • Data Solution award (sponsored by IQVIA – Ming Tang, interim chief data and analytics officer at NHS England and NHS Improvement
  • Community Champion Award (sponsored by NHS)Susan McDonald, energy lead at Deloitte
  • D&I award (sponsored by Hyper Recruitment Solutions)Tolulope Oke, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Customer Engagement Leader at Amazon Web Services.

Read more about the COVID Unsung Heroes Awards 


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Get in touch with Health Tech World editor Kirsty Rigg: [email protected] 


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