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Chenying Liu (Engineering) has won the Josh Award, a national prize for early-career science communicators celebrating science communication that demonstrates fun with a purpose.

Congratulations to Chenying Liu for winning the Josh Award this year. Chenying is a postdoctoral researcher working in the Dept. of Engineering Science. She has worked on modern structures inspired by origami and uses inspiration from their exceptional mechanical properties to design robots and personal protective equipment.

Her Josh award activity -"Sustainable Origami: Art, Robotics, Construction, and Space Exploration” will get audiences creating origami crafts, robotic grippers, deployable shelters and solar panels, using recycled materials.

The judges were impressed by the combination of an accessible activity with contemporary science and engineering.

A huge well done to a very deserving winner!


About the Josh Award

The Josh Award is a national prize for early-career science communicators who are passionate about continuing to work in this field in the future, including students, volunteers, researchers or creatives.

The award is run by BIG the science communicators network, and is supported by the Association for Science and Discovery Centres, and the UK Science Festival Network.

The Award is inspired by and named in memory of Josh Phillips, who was the first Science Communication Officer at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum.  He proposed and ran the first Manchester Science Festival.

Josh was a much loved, much respected and highly talented science communicator, whose outstanding career is commemorated with this Award.  Josh was the Chair of BIG at the time of his death.

The Award is for Science and Showmanship, targeted to help stimulate and lead to a better future: fun with a purpose!



Having practiced origami since childhood, I never dreamed that the paper folding art could be transformed into practical applications and benefit society in different domains.

After finishing my undergraduate studies in Beijing, China, I relocated to the UK to pursue a D.Phil (Doctor of Philosophy, known as Ph.D. elsewhere) in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford. I was fortunate to have two supervisors with complementary expertise: one introduced me to the fascinating world of origami engineering and the other encouraged me to explore its potential in advanced robotics. I ended up with a few exciting projects using origami principles: a gripper that can precisely handle fragile objects, a millipede-like robot that can change its morphology to adapt to the environment, and numerous structures that can morph into given shapes. With origami, the design of those robots has been greatly simplified and it has been much easier and more cost-efficient to synchronise their movements.

Origami also goes beyond robotics and has found its way into other domains such as deployable solar panels and energy absorption materials, the latter of which forms part of my postdoctoral project. I am very keen to impart my passion for origami engineering to the general public via science communication. Having been involved in a series of University's public engagement initiatives and external science festivals, I was awarded an Award Lectureship from the British Science Association and will soon give a talk on my research at the 2024 British Science Festival (BSF)!

Then, how is this related to the Josh Award? It is indeed a tremendous opportunity (both funding and training-wise) for me to further develop my talk into a series of interactive workshops for a wider range of audiences at the BSF and other Science Discovery Centre's programmes. I really hope this project could make science more accessible to the harder-to-reach communities, thereby providing them with fun and informative hands-on experience in engineering.

You can follow Chenying on X @MorningChenying or connect on LinkedIn

Watch Chenying's Oxford Sparks video "Origami Inspiration - 3D Printing and Robots" below: