Strathclyde Chemistry PhD student wins Carnegie Trust medal

Carnegie Trust Robertson Medal. Image by Carnegie Trust

Chemistry PhD student at the University of Strathclyde has won a prestigious Scotland-wide award from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

Lauren Evans is the 2020 recipient of the Robertson Medal, presented annually by the Trust to the most outstanding student on its PhD scholarship programme.

Lauren was chosen from the 12 students awarded scholarships from an original list of 62 applicants. Her research focuses on developing treatments for pancreatic cancer, which is the fourth largest cause of cancer death in the world and for which current therapies are effective on fewer than a quarter of patients.

Lauren, who is from Alexandria in West Dunbartonshire, gained a first-class MChem degree in Forensic and Analytical Chemistry from Strathclyde in 2020 and took a placement with pharmaceutical company GSK during her degree course. Her award was announced in an online ceremony led by the Trust’s Chair, Professor Dame Anne Glover, on Wednesday 20 January.

Lauren Evans with the Carnegie Trust Robertson Medal

Lauren said: “It’s fantastic to receive this recognition of my work in research to improve lives of pancreatic cancer patients.

“This research is urgently needed. It’s about developing tiny particles to carry drug molecules directly into cancerous cells. The problem with chemotherapy is that it often contacts good cells, with serious side effects, and I want to develop more effective treatments.

“I’m considering different possible options for my career. I’m a chemist at heart but there have been biological aspects to my studies. I enjoy being in a multidisciplinary environment and overseeing various stages of the drug development timeline, from drug discovery to clinical trials, is ultimately where I want to end up.

“Whatever I do, I want to have a positive impact and be in a position where I can help patients and their families to live better lives.”

The selection committee for the award recommended Lauren as winner on the basis of her outstanding academic record and the excellent quality of the planned research project, together with its potential significance.

The reviewer of Lauren’s proposed research observed: “This is a very innovative project that aims to develop and characterise multifunctional and stimulus-responsive nanoparticles for tackling drug resistance in pancreatic cancer.” It was also observed that this work could have a considerable impact on the treatment of a wide variety of different types of cancer.

Professor Andy Walker Secretary & Treasurer (CEO) of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, said: “The Trust is delighted to be awarding this Medal to Lauren Evans. Her nomination clearly demonstrated how she has been an outstanding student.

“She is now embarking on an exciting research career, with a project that could lead to major advances on the treatment of pancreatic cancer and cancers more widely. We congratulate her and wish her every success. We shall be following her progress as one of our Carnegie Scholars with great interest.”

Lauren was also the winner of the Salters Graduate Award for Chemistry in 2020 and her success in the Carnegie Trust Robertson Medal is Strathclyde’s third in the past decade. She follows 2016 winner Dr Damien Anderson, now a Teaching Associate in Strathclyde’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences, and twins Carol and Claire Forsyth, joint winners in 2013 and both Chemical Engineering alumnae.

Each year, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland invites nominations from the Scottish universities for a limited number of PhD Scholarships; the students put forward for these awards are amongst the very best of recent graduates.

As part of the Trust’s selection process, members of the panel of academics assessing the nominations are invited to identify the strongest application of the year for the receipt of the Robertson Medal – named in honour of past Chair Sir Lewis Robertson.