Imperial Business School

Mechanical engineering alumni Geena Rait has won a competition to write political blogs for the Times through the autumn.

"The best op-eds often have a single bold point to make, and her entry achieved that with flair." Esther Webber, Co-editor of Red Box

Geena, who recently completed her PhD, competed against 30 fellow Imperial students for a chance to be a guest writer for a three-month stint on Red Box, The Times’ award-winning political newsletter.

Her first blog, ‘Obesity: let’s all tune in for a keep-fit half-hour' has been published this month.

Exploring obesity and COVID-19

The Red Box competition, which ran throughout the summer exclusively for Imperial students, challenged entrants to write a 500 word response to the question: 'How can the government get people to change their behaviour, for the health of the nation or the health of the planet?'

Geena’s winning submission was written in April, while the nation was in the full throes of lockdown and evidence was just beginning to emerge over a link between obesity and serious complications from COVID-19.

“As a result, I decided to discuss a solution to tackle the nation’s forced inactivity,” Geena explained.

“I proposed a daily televised exercise slot to encourage people to be active in their homes and to associate exercise as something that should be completed daily. I thought this would be especially beneficial for the 'offline' proportion of the older population.”

The submission not only secured the win for Geena – it also laid the groundwork for her first blog which has just been published this month.

“It feels amazing to have won”

Writing has long been an interest for Geena, but has been mostly taken the form of scientific writing for coursework, conference papers and her PhD thesis. So it was a pleasant surprise when she was selected by the Red Box team:

"I would love to discuss how young people are innovating in the face of adversity." says Geena Rait

“It feels amazing to have won the essay competition. When I saw the competition question, I knew I had to submit an entry as it touched on topics that I think about regularly, especially in regards to the planet. I didn't think I stood much of a chance of winning however, so when I received the news I was overjoyed.”

In her future blogs for Red Box, Geena said she would like to focus on the impact of COVID-19 and the economic downturn on students who have recently graduated. This is a topic close to her heart, given that since graduating she has launched her my own small business – ‘garmi’ – transforming South Asian fabric waste into quality handmade products such as face masks and bags.

“I would love to discuss how young people are innovating in the face of adversity and the surge in small businesses over the lockdown period,” Geena said. “I would also like to discuss the positive and negative impact of COVID-19 on the environment and whether we can carry any positive changes into a post-COVID world.”

Beyond the competition, Geena said she intends to keep up the writing: “I would like to combine my passion for science and engineering with science communication and outreach, especially to encourage women into STEM subjects.”

Imperial and The Times

Co-editor of Red Box, Esther Webber said Geena’s competition entry was selected for its clarity and pragmatism: “Geena's entry stood out because it zoned in on a practical solution and presented a neat case for its implementation, rather than getting bogged down in wider philosophical questions. The best op-eds often have a single bold point to make, and her entry achieved that with flair.”

The Red Box competition marks the conclusion of a two year partnership between Imperial and The Times. The successful collaboration has comprised a series of live panel events plus free digital subscriptions to The Times, The Sunday Times, and the Times Literary Supplement.

Last year, the Red Box competition was won by biomedical sciences student Joanna Wormald.

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