Tim Tierney – Rising Star in Public Engagement 2019

Tim Tierney – Rising Star Award Winner

Tim Tierney won the Rising Star in Public Engagement Award for 2019, in recognition of his willingness and enthusiasm towards public engagement within the centre.

Tim is a postdoctoral researcher in Gareth Barnes’ MEG group, who are currently developing a wearable MEG brain-scanning helmet, using optically pumped magnetometers (OPM). This emerging technology will allow a millisecond by millisecond picture of the electrical activity changes in the human brain on walking, talking subjects, distinct from the current MEG technology which requires participants to sit still in a large machine as they are scanned.

Tim’s award was given in recognition of his previous public engagement work, which includes partaking in the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, the Science Museum Lates, and multiple open days that welcome school groups to the centre.

When asked if he expected to collect a prize, Tim said, “Yes and no. No, because I had never done any public engagement before joining the centre and the idea of winning an award for public engagement seemed like something that “other researchers did”, but not me. However, under the public engagement team’s guidance, I found myself enjoying public engagement but never feeling overwhelmed by the extra work it required. As a result, by the end of year, I realised that I had participated in quite a lot of public engagement events unintentionally! So maybe winning an award was no longer an unrealistic expectation.”

As well as his participation on smaller projects, Tim is also a key individual in a significant public engagement project that is currently in its planning stages. This project will see Tim, PhD student Steph and PI Gareth in the MEG group collaborating with children with epilepsy – the eventual beneficiaries of their developing OPM-MEG scanning technology – to develop helmets, testing protocols and testing environments that are comfortable and enjoyable. This will hopefully go some way to removing the intimidating nature of testing protocols, and to ensure that this is done in a way that is directly beneficial to participants.

The project will partner with Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and Young Epilepsy charity, as well as collaborating with play specialists, artists and designers to help bring young children’s visions of OPM-MEG helmets to life through a series of pilot events and workshops. As Tim explains, “The project offers the opportunity to bring the science directly to the people that will benefit from its development.”

Tim’s previous work in public engagement, and his willingness to take on a large future project alongside his colleagues Steph and Gareth, makes him an ideal Rising Star, who we are sure to see much more of in our Centre’s public engagement activity.

Awarded March 2019

  • Tim Tierney photo
  • An image of people in an exhibition