Science Live!

The U4 were treated to a Science spectacular at the New Theatre, Oxford.

From the vertigo-inducing heights of the upper circle, girls got a splendid view of the UK’s top scientists as they engaged their audience, covering a variety of fascinating subjects and tales from their own careers.

In full, eccentric and esoteric character, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock immediately captivated the crowd with the opening question, ‘Who, here is a self-certified lunatic?’ to which, confidently most of the Headington group raised a hand – obviously our U4 knew she was referring to her fascination and admiration for the moon? The audience of more than 2,000 pupils was taken through an exciting video and photo montage of arctic research work being carried out by Dr Helen Czerski in her quest to discover just how important ocean bubbles can be in the global recycling of life supporting molecules and energy flow.

Lord Robert Winston’s appearance on stage drew exceptionally-loud applause as pupils recognised the prominent figure from so many school biology videos. The renowned scientist used his innate ability to clearly illustrate and explain complex biological functions and Headington pupils were transfixed during endoscopic journeys through the reproductive organs and even the real-time capture of a bacterium trying to outrun a determined phagocyte.

Peppering the excitement on stage, the U4 were given a great opportunity to see how best to tackle GCSE Science exams from a chief examiner, many of the Headington girls scribbling down notes in the semi-dark.

For the canine lovers attending the show, Prof Alice Roberts gave a high level but lucid account of her work as a genetic anthropologist, unravelling the myths and mysteries surrounding ancient humans and the domestication of the dog. As a finale, Prof Andrea Sella roused the audience to fever pitch with his counter-intuitive and thought-provoking live chemistry demonstrations. His energetic and impassioned delivery sparked avid debate amongst the U4 as they saw carbon dioxide in its bizarre triple point state. There was much to ponder as U4 returned to school.

Alexandra, said: “I thought the talks were interesting and I have learned a great deal about science in the natural world around us.”

Emily added: “It was an inspiring and entertaining day where we learnt about science in the real world. I especially liked learning about how water is the only substance that can float in its own liquid form and they presented in an interesting and exciting way.”

And Sasha said: “Science Live was an enjoyable experience, which exposed us to several different areas of science, as well as giving us advice and tools to succeed in our exams. I found the talk from the ocean physicist Dr Helen Czerski particularly interesting, as she had been out on expeditions in search of data herself. She introduced us to interesting concepts such as gas exchange from the air into the sea through bubbles. The talks were all very different and it really opened up my eyes to how diverse science is and to a small range of the careers available. Overall, it was a very worthwhile experience.”