Writtle News

Essex scientists selected to present their research to MPs

March 2014

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Two Essex scientists will present their research to MPs after being shortlisted in a major national competition to showcase the country’s best young researchers.

Writtle College’s Dr Zoe Barker and the University of Essex’s Dr Jorge Vazquez will present their ‘cow tracking’ research to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges as part of the SET for Britain competition on Monday 17 March.

They are part of the team using wireless tracking sensors and cutting-edge mathematical techniques to develop a new automated early warning system for welfare problems such as lameness and mastitis in dairy cows.

Jorge and Zoe were shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to appear in Parliament and will compete against 59 other exhibitors in their category.

Zoe, 35, who is originally from Sheffield but now lives in Maldon, Essex, is a research assistant at Writtle College and a specialist in lameness in UK dairy cattle. She said: “Balancing the welfare needs of animals with the need to ensure food security both within the UK and globally is a real challenge. SET for Britain provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how animal science research is embracing new technologies and techniques and developing practical solutions which farmers can use to address these challenges.”

Jorge, 32, who is originally from Mexico and currently a research officer in the University of Essex’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, said: “We applied for the SET for Britain competition because it is a great opportunity to communicate our research to members of Parliament. We want to highlight the inter-disciplinary nature of our research project and show how novel mathematical tools can be combined with practical use of new technology in order to improve dairy cow welfare.”

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.

“These early career scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

Jorge and Zoe’s research has been entered into the Biological and Biomedical Sciences session of the competition, which will end in a gold, silver and bronze prize-giving ceremony. Judged by leading academics, the gold medalist receives £3,000, while silver and bronze receive £2,000 and £1,000 respectively.