Meet the celebrity judges

The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Competition is delighted to announce a fantastic line up of celebrity judges who will help to choose the UK Young Engineer and the GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year 2017 on Thursday 16 March at The Big Bang Fair held at the Birmingham NEC.


Tom Whipple, Science Editor, The Times

"The last time I was involved in this competition I was astonished by the quality of entries - to the point of feeling a bit inadequate myself! I look forward to seeing what students come up with this year."

After studying maths at University, Tom began a career as a journalist and is now the Science Editor at the Times. In the course of his job Tom has reported from the inside of the world's hottest sauna and the top of Europe's highest mountain!




Nikki Yates, General Manager GSK UK, SVP UK & Ireland Pharmaceuticals

“I’m delighted to take part in this year’s Big Bang Fair and to lead the judging panel that will decide the 2017 GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year. It’s always a great pleasure to see how opportunities that inspire and engage young people in real world discovery can spark so much enthusiasm and ingenuity; so I’m especially looking forward to hearing more about this year’s projects and meeting our next generation of talented young scientists and engineers.”

Nikki Yates is Senior Vice President UK and Ireland Pharmaceuticals and UK General Manager for GSK, a science-led global healthcare company that researches and develops a broad range of innovative medicines and brands. Nikki has held numerous leadership roles working in pharmaceuticals in the UK and overseas.  Most recently she led the European Commercial Strategy and Operations function for GSK and previously was General Manager of the Belgium and Luxembourg pharmaceutical business. Nikki is also a member of the Government Equalities initiative, the Women’s Business Council, and leads on the STEM action group aiming to support initiatives that increase the proportion of girls in STEM careers.


Dr Sophie Acton, Immunologist and cell biologist at University College London.

“I can’t wait to meet the Big Bang Competition finalists. As a scientist, I’m really looking forward to being involved in selecting the Young Scientist(s) of the Year 2017.”

Sophie is an immunologist and cell biologist working at University College London. She runs a research group funded by Cancer Research UK, working to understand how different cell types interact and communicate to control immune responses, and how we can use this information to help our immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.  First trained in Pharmacology at the University of Bath. PhD at Cancer Research UK London research Institute, and postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA. Sophie was one of the winners of the 2016 L’Oreal-UNESCO UK & Ireland For Women in Science Fellowships.

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, MBE Space scientist & TV presenter

“I am very excited to be judging this years’ competition. I’m looking forward to meeting the next generation of curious minds and big thinkers. They are our future leaders and we proudly celebrate their achievements.”

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE is a space scientist whose passion is presenting science to a general audience. Her BBC 2 programme “Do We Really Need the Moon?” earned Maggie the talkback Thames new talent award. She went on to present “Do We Really Need Satellites?” and Channel 4’s “Brave New World”.  She is currently Presenter of  BBC 4’s ‘Sky at Night’.  Maggie studied at Imperial College where she obtained her degree in Physics and PhD in Mechanical Engineering.


Ian C Ritchie, CBE non-executive Chairman of Iomart plc, Computer Applications Service, and Krotos

“I am looking forward to judging the Big Bang competition and along the way helping to encourage young people to pursue a career in engineering. The UK has a critical need for engineers of all specialities both now and for the foreseeable future in order to power the innovative new businesses that we need to ensure our future economic success. It is essential that all young people who have the capability are encouraged to pursue studies which can lead to a fulfilling engineering career – helping to design all of our futures.”


Ian Ritchie is the non-executive Chairman of Iomart plc, Computer Applications Service, and Krotos.  He founded OWL in 1984 which pioneered hypertext application development (a forerunner to the world wide web) and sold the company to Panasonic in 1989. Since then he has been involved in over 40 start-up high-tech businesses. He serves on the board of Red Fox Media, the Edinburgh International Science Festival, the National Theatre of Scotland, and Chairs the Board of Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh's Science Centre. He is a Trustee of the Saltire Foundation and The David Hume Institute.  He was a board member of Channel 4 TV (2000-2006), deputy Chairman of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (2002-2011), Vice President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2012-2016) and Honorary Treasurer of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2012-2016). He was awarded a CBE in 2003 for services to Enterprise and Education.


Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills and Culture, Media and Sport

“I am delighted to have been invited to judge at The Big Bang Competition Finals. I’m looking forward to meeting the scientists and engineers of the future, and to finding out more about their achievements in STEM.”

Chi is the current Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, as well as Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport. Before becoming an MP Chi studied electrical engineering and enjoyed an exciting career in engineering which involved working in many different countries around the world.

Abby Hutty, Spacecraft Structures Engineer, Airbus Defence and Space

“I’m very much looking forward to meeting the Big Bang Competition Finalists. As an engineer, it will be great to meet young people who are, like me, inspired by STEM.”

Abbie is Spacecraft Structures Engineer at Airbus Defence and Space. She works on the ExoMars rover vehicle, which is part of the European Space Agency’s programme to investigate the Martian environment, and search for evidence of life there. Abbie won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Rising Star Award in 2014 & was named as the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year in 2013.


Andrew Smith, Aerospace Engineer, Rolls Royce

“I am really looking forward to judging at The Big Bang Competition Finals. As an engineer and STEM Ambassador at Rolls-Royce and as someone who enjoys competitions, I am inspired by looking at new ideas and innovation. I cannot wait to see all the finalists’ projects and meet more aspiring engineers and scientists!

Andrew is originally from Northern Ireland and studied Engineering at Cambridge University. He currently works as an Aerospace Engineer at Rolls-Royce, where he tests and analyses jet engines. Andrew is a keen baker and in 2016 he reached the finals of the BBC’s Great British Bake Off with an eye for precision and some engineering-themed bakes.

Jason Bradbury, TV presenter & gadget guru

“I am really looking forward to judging at the Big Bang Competition Finals. As a scientist/engineer I am inspired by looking at new ideas and experiments. I can’t wait to see all of the finalists.”

Jason is a TV presenter and has appeared on hundreds of shows in a career spanning more than 20 years. He is best known for hosting the Gadget Show. When it comes to gadgets, science and all things tech, Jason is a force of nature. His own inventions, which include the World’s first working jet-powered hoverboard, has become lengendary. Jason is now a burgeoning Youtube star!

Dr Shini Somara, Mechanical Engineer & TV presenter

“What I love most about judging at The Big Bang Competition Finals is meeting young, enthusiastic and inspiring individuals that have a genuine interest and passion for STEM.  The seeds of tomorrow's technologies have already been planted in the brilliant minds of the participants and I feel privileged to be part of a process which will help those seeds grow.”

Engineers are passionate about finding solutions and Dr. Shini Somara is no exception.  She qualified as a Mechanical Engineer and Fluid Dynamicist at a very young age, but her thirst for knowledge and curiosity for human advancement sent her traveling around the globe discovering cutting-edge science, technology and innovation.  Shini translates what she finds into inspiring and engaging television for all ages, and is a spirited advocate for the fascinating work being done to push the boundaries of human scientific progress.