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Women in Science Residential

 By Emma Paulus, Schools Liaison Officer

Last week, Pembroke ran our first Women in Science Easter residential for students in Key Stage Four (14-16 years old).

The college was joined by 30 young people from 25 different schools in the Pembroke College link areas of Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, Luton, Northamptonshire and Southwark. The participants spent three days living in the College and exploring what it could be like to study the sciences at a higher level.

Day One: Wednesday

On the first day, participants arrived bright and early and after some Human Bingo, a tour of College and lunch, participants were chatting to one another and (hopefully!) keen to find out more about studying the Sciences.Zoology Practical

Following lunch, participants had their first visit to a University department and their first practical. The session was led by Pembroke fellow, Tim Weil and was held in the teaching labs at the Department of Zoology. Participants observed developing chicken embryos, explored the physiological features of fruit flies and had a lesson in comparative mammalian anatomy from Georgie, one of our Student Ambassadors. This was the first opportunity to be inside a full-scale teaching laboratory and to see a lecture theatre. After Zoology, participants had some time to explore the Sedgwick Museum and why we have teaching collections within the University.

The first day ended with a trip to the bowling alley where we learnt that we were collectively terrible at bowling, even with the bumpers up!

Day Two: Thursday

On the second day, the group visited the Department of Engineering where we were given the challenge of making load-bearing cranes out of pieces of paper. We learnt that triangles are a strong shape and these featured heavily in most designs. Huge congratulations go to Katie, Charlotte and Ella-Renée who won the challenge: their crane supported a load of 4.22kg despite weighing less than 300g.

After the visit to Engineering, we went to the Scott Polar Research Institute for a tour of the museum and to find out about the important role that women have played in Polar exploration. We then had a tour of Chemistry with Dr Warren Galloway and saw the inside of some of the research labs in the Department. The group then visited the Sainsbury Laboratory where we found out about Plant Sciences, had a tour and visited the Herbarium. Whilst there, participants saw specimens that Darwin had brought back with him on the Beagle and heard about the way his time at Cambridge may have influenced his thinking about variation.Engineering- making paper cranes 3a

The final academic session of the day was a ‘Women in Science’ session run by Dr Laura Wright. Participants explored what it means to be a woman in research through enthusiastic small group discussions with women who currently work in chemistry and physics. The day ended with a group picture and a lovely Formal Dinner in the hall.

Day Three: Friday

On the final day, we visited the Department of Physics where participants made telescopes, found out about light and space and tried some difficult problem solving. We then returned to Pembroke where the group heard from our Admissions Tutor for the Sciences, Dr Warren Galloway, about post-16 choices and university applications.

The residential ended with an awards ceremony where parents, carers and supporters of the participants were invited to find out about the programme and to watch the participants receive their certificate from the Master.

What did we learn?

The aim of the residential was to inspire and encourage the participants and to demystify Cambridge and student evaluations suggest we were successful in these aims. We would like to thank all those in the College who helped to make the residential possible.

All of the participants were asked what the main thing they would take away from the residential was. Some of these things were:Group Photo before Formal Dinner

  • ‘I can do anything if I try!!!’ Lauren (Leicestershire)
  • ‘That uni life is really fun and not to be stressed when applying.’ Charlotte (Nuneaton)
  • ‘The walrus intestine when dried in the winter is opaque and in the summer, is transparent.’ Ella-Renée (Bedfordshire)
  • ‘How to apply to university and the opportunities that are available.’ Sona (Leicestershire)
  • ‘The importance of fruit flies and chickens and how essential they are.’ Gurleen (Leicestershire)

The participants were an absolute pleasure to work with and we wish them all the best in the future!

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