Chemical engineer to advise Parliament on chemical weapons policy

A bioenergy PhD student at the University will advise MPs on chemical weapons policy issues as part of a fellowship in the UK Parliament.

Jennifer Spragg, who will be advising Parliament on chemical weapons policy issues

Jennifer Spragg October 2018

Jennifer Spragg has been awarded the Ashok Kumar Fellowship 2018 by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) and the UK Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST)

The three-month fellowship provides the opportunity for a graduate chemical engineer operating in research to work at POST and produce a parliamentary briefing note for MP’s on a relevant subject. 

Jennifer will begin the fellowship in November, researching and writing a briefing note on chemical weapons. It is a topical issue around the world, with reports of chemical weapons being used in alleged criminal attacks – such as the Novichok poisoning of a former Russian spy living in Salisbury – or accusations of them being deployed in international conflicts, such as in Syria. 

The topic is particularly timely as the Government announced a £48 million investment in a new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre, and has said it will re-evaluate its chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear capability, as part of its Modernising Defence Programme.

Jennifer graduated with a Masters degree in chemical engineering at the University of Bath, during which she completed an industrial placement at BP. After graduation, she returned to BP for a year at the Central Area Transmission System (CATS) onshore gas terminal in Teesside. Now, she is working on her doctorate at the University, examining novel process designs for extracting hydrogen from bioenergy resources to be used as a renewable energy source.

Jennifer said: “I’m delighted to be awarded the Fellowship and work with experts in academia and Parliament.

"One of the things I enjoy most about chemical engineering is the opportunity to tackle societal challenges through an understanding of technical aspects, alongside commercial and social considerations."  

The Fellowship is an example of how the expertise of chemical engineers can help provide important information that will allow policymakers to make evidence-based decisions.

Dr Lydia Harriss, Senior Physical Sciences Advisor at POST, said: “We’re really pleased that Jennifer will be joining POST. Her briefing will provide MPs and Peers with an introduction to chemical weapons – a topic that has featured prominently in parliamentary work this year. Jennifer’s research experience and chemical engineering background puts her in a great position to lead this piece of work and to ensure it draws on a wide range of expertise from across the research community.”

IChemE’s Director of Policy and Publications, Claudia Flavell-While, said: “Jennifer has shown a great ability to identify key points and communicate them in a clear, unbiased way.

“The Fellowship provides a great opportunity to bridge academic research, engineering and politics. She will gain great experience in seeing how Parliament operates and using her expertise to write the briefing note.”

The fellowship was created in memory of Ashok Kumar, a Fellow of IChemE and Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East, who died suddenly in 2010. At the time, he was the only Chartered Chemical Engineer in the UK House of Commons.

Visit the Ashok Kumar Fellowship website for more information.

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