Photo of Syrian refugee using VR scoops top science photography prize

Photo beats more than 160 other entries aiming for the prestigious award.

A photo showing a Syrian refugee using virtual reality has won a prestigious science photography prize.

The image, taken by University of Bath research associate Dr Dima Albadra, shows a woman taking part in a workshop at a refugee camp in Jordan, assisting researchers in the design of a shelter.

Taken in October 2018, refugees were asked to take part in a design workshop using virtual reality headsets to provide feedback and suggestions on shelter typologies.

The photo was named overall winner out of a selection of 169 entries, organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

“Participatory design is a two-way process allowing refugees to be part of the research team,” Dr Albadra explained.

“It is credited with higher satisfaction in design outcomes and is an obvious way of encouraging socio-culturally sensitive solutions.

“This is usually difficult to achieve in a refugee camp context due to many practical and logistical issues.

“Over 160 refugees participated in our workshops, giving feedback on both design typologies and the participatory methods used, such as physical models, architectural drawings and virtual reality.”

Natalia Jawiarczyk from Cranfield University won the Weird and Wonderful category, with ‘fatbergs’ showing the effect of fat, oil and grease deposits separated using organic solvent (Natalia Jawiarczyk/PA)

Other entries won awards for specific categories, depicting Innovation, Weird and Wonderful, Eureka and Discovery, and Equipment and Facilities.

“The striking photographs in this year’s competition reflect the real breadth and ingenuity of engineering research supported by the EPSRC,” said Dr Hayaatun Sillem, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering and one of the competition judges.

New crystal form
Finlay Walton from the University of Glasgow won the Eureka and Discovery category, showing the moment a new crystal form was discovered, alongside a known crystal, using a polarisation microscope (Finlay Walton/PA)

“Many of the projects captured in these images will go on to transform our world for the better, improve people’s lives and the economy.

“It is fantastic to see such creativity, both in the images and the research projects, captured in the winners’ work.”

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