28 February 2022

Dr Amy Thomas, a Research Associate at Bristol Medical School and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol, has been awarded an ‘Unsung COVID Heroes’ award from WISE, an organisation that promotes women in science, maths and engineering (STEM), for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Amy Thomas receives her award from Princess Anne

After identifying very early into the pandemic that collecting samples from children was challenging, Amy proceeded to design and validate a simple saliva spit test to roll out to schools across Bristol. The antibody test is still contributing to national decision-making for outbreak control and has already been used in more than twenty outbreaks in Bristol.

What made Amy’s work particularly remarkable was that it was conducted shortly after her PhD studies in an unrelated field. She used her initiative to source laboratory space, pre-pandemic saliva samples (from researchers in Portugal) and set up a pop-up clinic in the car park of a local hospital to collect saliva samples. The project secured £1.8 million in funding.

Amy received her award from Princess Anne at a ceremony held at Windsor Castle ceremony earlier this month.

Dr Thomas said: “WISE is a fantastic organisation that promotes women in science, maths and engineering. It was a great honour to have been recognised and inspiring to learn about the activities of all the award finalists. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to conduct this research in a such a supportive team, and I hope this award inspires others to pursue their ideas.”


Further information 

About the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit [HPRU] in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol is one of 14 HPRUs across England, part of a £58.7 million investment by the NIHR to protect the health of the nation.

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation is a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and University of Bristol, in collaboration with MRC Biostatistics Research Unit at the University of Cambridge and University of the West of England.

Each NIHR HPRU undertakes high quality research that is used by UKHSA to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.

About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is the nation’s largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.


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