London student wins diary competition

by Rachel Smith

Ever wondered what it would be like to study at Cambridge? Last week 58 high school students had the chance to find out on a three-day Easter Residential Science Masterclass.

DSC_0004Pembroke’s Science Masterclass aims to give students a taste of life at Cambridge and to encourage their enthusiasm for the sciences. This year the students were invited to keep a diary of their experiences in a diary-writing competition.

The winner was Maisie from St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School in Southwark. In her diary entry, Maisie explains her ‘nerves, pride and, of course, excitement’ at receiving a place on the Masterclass before going on to talk about her time at Pembroke:

‘When I arrived at Pembroke, I was nervous of what my stay would entail. What if I missed home too much? What if I struggled to make friends with new people? Despite my fearful “what if” thoughts, before I knew it I had said goodbye to my Mum and our group, led by our student guide Victoria, embarked on a tour around the spectacular and beautiful buildings of Pembroke College. The day continued with an icebreaker session which helped me to speak with a wider range of people. From here onwards the day went immensely quickly and I was relieved to get to my room, eager to get some sleep.

‘After an amazing breakfast and another brain teaser session, I felt exhilarated (partly from the breakfast and partly from completing Einstein’s puzzle) and ready for another day. We started with an activity in the Botanical Gardens and the Sedgwick Museum, where in both we were looking at the idea of evolution. Furthermore, we continued with a visit to the Department of Physics after lunch, and this was followed by a talk with Dr Caroline Burt back at New Cellars, which I found incredibly useful for finding out about getting into university. On Wednesday evening, we were required to dress up and attend a formal dinner, consisting of three courses of delicious food. I felt it was an honour to dine so formally in Pembroke and after this we had a fun, exciting “Evening with Isaac Newton”. It was fascinating in both a scientific sense as well as a historical sense, not to forget it was also highly entertaining.


‘Following the usual routine of meeting for breakfast, (even after staying only two nights at Pembroke I felt very comfortable and settled there) my group attended a plant sciences workshop, which was the activity I think I most enjoyed. Using complex, precise apparatus we were able to eventually examine chloroplasts under a microscope, as well as finding out the length of one – between 5 and 10 micrometres! We also related our experiment to the effect of herbicide on plants, as well as reflecting on the way biology is necessary for solutions to world problems.

‘In many ways I felt some sadness in my departure from Pembroke College. I left Cambridge with the hope that I would return again in the future and achieve my ambition to study medicine at a top university. Overall, I cannot put my enjoyment of the experience into words, and the memories of experiencing life as a Cambridge University student will stay with me throughout my education and career. Thank you Pembroke for having me!’

Pembroke’s Schools Liaison Officer, Emma Paulus, says: ‘It was an absolute pleasure to work with all of the students who attended the Masterclass. The event would not have been possible without the support of our excellent student helpers – Patrick, Victoria, Peter and Chloe – who were brilliant at sharing their experiences and leading the groups and activities. Thank you all so much!’

Four other entrants were highly commended in the competition:

  • Rudo from Lealands High School in Luton: ‘All in all the Masterclass was a wonderful, new experience which I won’t be forgetting any time soon. It pushed my science knowledge beyond the classroom and added to my heap of knowledge (as Bill would say). The brainteasers pushed me to think outside the box to find the answers to my problems. But the thing I am most happy that the Masterclass showed me was my potential. Before coming to the Masterclass, Cambridge was a dazzling image I’d sometimes see in my dreams. Now I know that it is well within my grasp.’
  • Megan from Robert Smyth Academy in Market Harborough: ‘When I was awarded the place I was excited, but the nerves began as the date got closer. I had no idea what to expect! All my nerves soon went as I discovered that everyone was really nice and welcoming and I fitted in well. I feel that I now know so much more about both university life and the study of sciences at this higher level. This Masterclass has helped me to realise that I wish to continue along this route. Since arriving back home, I have been exploring different university courses and their entry requirements, including Cambridge!’
  • Temitrope from Bacons College in Southwark: ‘I got to my room and my jaw dropped, it was MASSIVE! Way bigger than my room at home. It even had a built in sink! The food was amazing and there were so many options that I never left the dining room hungry! The Masterclass really helped me shape my future because since I was a kid, I’d always wanted to become a doctor but kind of gave up on that idea in Year 11, but the Masterclass gave me the confidence to go after my academic dreams and pick the correct A-Levels to do so. I am so excited about the future and the prospect of university. Hopefully I’ll see Cambridge in a few years. Hopefully I’ll be at Pembroke College.’
  • Asher from Robert Smyth Academy in Market Harborough: ‘The three days were not only about science as a subject, at least for me. They offered an opportunity to experience university life, life at Cambridge in fact, as a student. We engaged in many aspects of a new undergraduate’s days: from meeting new people and attending lectures to relaxing at Café Pembroke and, of course, learning every day more about the subject you hold a passion for. At the culmination of our “Evening with Isaac Newton”, he referenced a genuine quote from the man himself which, for me, helps sum up the trip: “To myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” We learnt a little and were exposed to a whole lot more, all the while experiencing it with child-like joy.’

This was the 29th Easter Residential Science Masterclass to be held at Pembroke. All of the students, aged 14 to 16, came from the College’s link areas of Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and the London Borough of Southwark.