Two Sixth Formers shortlisted for national EPQ competition

Sixth Form students Rebecca (Year 12)  and Loic (Year 13) were two of only 10 students nationwide to be shortlisted by the Peter Watson International Scholarship to present their Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) research to a distinguished panel at Queens’ College Cambridge, on Saturday, 25th February.

The Peter Watson International Scholarship is a national award open to all students undertaking a science-related EPQ, and the prize for the winners is an opportunity to visit the National Institutes of Health and the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC.

The 10 shortlisted finalists were from all over the country and we were the only school to have two finalists invited to present their research at the event. The presentations were diverse and were given to a panel of professors, consultants and members of the Wellcome Trust.

In the first session, Loic presented his work on the feasibility of generating electricity from rainwater collected on residential roofs. While this is possible, Loic proved that, despite how it might feel at times, there is not enough rain to generate significant levels of electricity in this country. However, he did suggest possible applications for this technology in remote and low-light level environments.

“Going to Cambridge was a surreal experience, and gave me an insight into what an amazing place it is”, Loic says. “Taking up the opportunity allowed me to share ideas with other students who are studying a wide variety of topics, and present my ideas to fascinating professors and scholars. This opportunity is certainly not one that should be missed!”

Rebecca presented her findings on the antibiotic effects of aspirin, detailing her methodical planning, and demonstrating that she had proved that aspirin was an effective antibiotic in a lab setting. She also explained what further work could be undertaken to extend her research and its potential use to combat the crisis in antibiotic-resistant disease. Rebecca was presented with some very challenging questions from the panel, which she handled with aplomb.

“It was a real privilege to share my findings with such eminent researchers at Cambridge”, Rebecca says. “The event was incredibly exciting and I really enjoyed it”.

Other presentations included discussions on investigating the heat of different chili varieties, the source of river pollution on the Isle of Man, treatments for breast cancer, and the use of adrenalin in cardiac arrest.

Following the presentations, Professor Keith Martin outlined his ground-breaking work in preventing sight loss through gene therapy, how they are working on an inkjet-style printer to ‘print’ replacement cells on a damaged retina, and his ground-breaking research into re-growing nerve cells to repair damaged optic nerves. The afternoon ended with a meal in the senior common room of the college, followed by a talk from Matthew Hickman of the Wellcome Trust, before the announcement of the panel’s decision.

The panel congratulated the finalists on an excellent set of presentations, stating that their decision had been an incredibly difficult one. Rebecca was singled out for her excellent work and was awarded the Runners-up prize, missing out on the trip to the US “by a hair’s breadth”, according to the Chair of the panel.

Head of Biology Mr Colville, who, together with our EPQ Coordinator, Mr Baker, attended the event with Loic and Rebecca, commented: “Overall an excellent experience for these outstanding Blue Coat pupils, and a fascinating insight into some of the fantastic research going on at Cambridge in the field of vision. Rebecca and Loic were superb ambassadors for the school – and it was a great day out”.

The Peter Watson International Scholarship was set up to continue the work of Peter Watson, founder of the Cambridge Eye Trust, a partnership to link scientists from many different disciplines with Clinician researchers in Ophthalmology to encourage the sharing of scientific ideas to build on a history of innovation in the field at Cambridge.

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