The two-year funding will give the Fellows the freedom, resources and environment to enable innovative public engagement projects that examine, explore and debate the big scientific challenges faced by society. The aim is to raise the profile and prestige of public engagement in both the Fellows' field of work and the biomedical sciences more widely.
Kevin Fong is a consultant anaesthetist at University College London Hospital. He is an honorary senior lecturer in physiology at UCL, holds degrees in astrophysics, medicine and engineering and has worked with NASA's Human Adaptation and Countermeasures Division at Johnson Space Center.
He is a columnist for the Times Higher Education magazine and, in the past year, has presented television medical documentaries for BBC2 and Channel 4 and a radio documentary about life in the Universe for BBC World service. He is currently writing and filming a BBC documentary about the last space shuttle mission.
On hearing of his success, Kevin said, "I'm gobsmacked to have been awarded this fellowship; especially so given the list of formidable nominees. It's going to be fantastic to have the chance to immerse myself in public engagement work over the next two years; it's a voyage of exploration I'm very much looking forward to."
Richard Barnett studied medicine in London before becoming a historian. He has taught at the universities of London and Cambridge and was a judge for the inaugural Wellcome Trust Book Prize in 2009.
In addition to writing for numerous popular magazines and academic journals, he received the 2006 Promis prize for poetry. His first book, 'Medical London: City of Diseases, City of Cures', written with Mike Jay, was published by Strange Attractor Press in 2008 and was a Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4.
Richard said: "I'm honoured and delighted to receive one of the first Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowships. This is a wonderful opportunity to get a host of new audiences involved with pioneering work in the medical humanities, and to give a generation of young scholars the chance to hone their skills in public engagement."
Both Fong and Barnett were nominated for the Fellowships by their peers before being invited to apply for the programme.
Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, commented: "The calibre of nominations that we received was extremely high. We are delighted to have found two Fellows who encompass the breadth of activities of the Trust: science and medicine, as well as history and humanities. We hope that the freedom and flexibility offered by these Fellowships will enable them to establish some exciting and innovative activities."
The Wellcome Trust prides itself on supporting the brightest and the best minds, whether in biomedical research or the medical humanities. Through the Engagement Fellows, the Trust hopes to accelerate and enhance the careers of talented people to create the public engagement leaders of tomorrow.