Brighton lecturer wins Biomedical Scientist of the Year award
Dr Sarah Pitt has won a major award from the Institute of Biomedical Science for virology research and media engagement around Covid-19. The IBMS Biomedical Scientist of the Year award celebrates an exceptional biomedical scientist who has advanced practice in an innovative and impactful way, making a real difference to patients’ lives and inspiring those around them. It is one of the most prestigious categories at the annualAdvancing Healthcare Awards, which took place on 21 May.
As well as being Principal Lecturer in Brighton’s School of Biomolecular Science, Dr Pitt has been the IBMS’s leading expert in virology during the pandemic, sharing fact-checked information about Covid-19 for the benefit of the public. She has become a trusted interviewee with a host of leading media outlets, noted for combining professional expertise, measured responses and reassuring pragmatism.
Dr Pitt is credited with having a major positive impact on public safety and patient care during the pandemic. In addition to writing many well-researched but easy to understand articles for the public, she has provided valuable insights into the virology of COVID-19, and helped produce guidance documents to assist laboratory staff in hospitals, the public and schools involved in lateral flow testing. This work included helping to script an animated video explaining the testing process to the public.
Dr Pitt said: “I was very surprised to be nominated for this award and stunned, but delighted to have won. All my biomedical scientist colleagues have changed their working practices in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, whether they are working in diagnostic laboratories, the pharmaceutical industry or academia. Everyone has been called on to react quickly to the rapidly changing situation with SARS-CoV-2 and we have all found skills and talents that we did not know we had. In my case, I have been happy to try to explain virology, epidemiology, diagnostic testing and how vaccines work to general audiences.
“I would like to thank all my colleagues at the university for their understanding and support during the last year. Particular thanks are due to the Biomedical Science and Biological Sciences students that I have been teaching for their patience. I have spent my whole career trying to convince people that biomedical science is a valuable profession, and I think that this year has proved my point!”
Dr Pitt has also been a driving force for continuous positive change in of biomedical science education, improving teaching and assessment practices. She was a key figure, for example, in the development and launch of the University’s Healthcare Science Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship, in response to local NHS training needs. On the broader medical stage, Dr Pitt has been working to solve the antibiotics crisis via research into the antimicrobial properties of snails and molluscs. This has led to the discovery of a potential new antimicrobial treatment based on a protein called aspernin in the mucus of the ordinary brown garden snail Cornu aspersum (Helix aspersa).