A couple of weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to take part in an outreach event ran by Trinity College, which is part of the University of Oxford. The event was a ‘Women in Science’ day, and aims to encourage more girls into studying STEM subjects at a higher level.
The day consisted of a series of lectures led by DPhil (PhD) students from Oxford university. We were timetabled lectures based on our particular interests within STEM, which were on a great variety of topics encompassing earth sciences, maths, computing and more.
One of the talks I attended was on improving the efficiency of solar cells, which I found highly informative. I enjoyed learning more about the significance and behaviour of silicon as a semiconductor in solar cells, especially as this is not something I knew much about prior to the talk. Katie discussed some of the problems posed by solar cells and the different ways to overcome these issues, highlighting the pros and cons of each solution. With renewable energy becoming increasingly popular, there is a growing drive to enhance its efficiency and so I found this lecture very relevant.
We then had lunch at Trinity college which is reknown for its good food! And I have to admit, it surpassed my expectations – the mango cheesecake in particular… Following lunch, we were given a tour of Trinity college by a couple of students who answered some of our questions about the university. It was nice being able to hear their honest experiences and opinions about student life, despite the cold! I also enjoyed talking to and hearing from other students my age who were as enthusiastic about science as me.
Lunch was followed by another lecture, this one about the progression of computing from algorithms to artificial intelligence. Dr Maryam Ahmed talked about the significance of women in technology over history in an engaging and fun way. She discussed how technology has progressed from manual punch-card inputs to the seemingly intelligent devices of today, capable of machine-learning. She talked to us about the achievements of individuals such as Ada Lovelace, who wrote flawless algorithms for Charles Babbage’s ‘analytical machine’, and Grace Hopper, who built the first translator (and introduced the concept of ‘debugging’!) And of course, the mathematicians – such as Katherine Johnson – who were key contributors in calculating trajectories for the Apollo 11 during the Space Race. Dr Maryam Ahmed finished her lecture by highlighting the importance of diversity within computing, and how it provides us with a diversity of thought which fuels innovation and drives us forward.
The last lecture was about computational medicine – more specifically, modelling medical data using computing. Though I do not study biology, I found this very interesting from a computing perspective, as it demonstrated an application of computer science that I had not given much thought to before. Again, this was a presentation of a PhD student’s research into using models and simulations to diagnose heart problems, which are one of the leading causes of death. Dr Elisa Passini spoke specifically about inter-subject variability and how better understanding of this can be used to improve diagnosis. One question someone raised at the end was whether computer models of organ systems could eventually eliminate the need for animal testing.
To end the day, we were given a talk on admissions into Oxford and how to prepare for the process. We also received some tips on writing personal statements, which I found very useful… though it also made me realise how I was halfway through my first year of sixth form already!
If you got to the end of this, I’m impressed – and thank you for reading!
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