Corpus Christi College Oxford

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Schools Science Prize 2013

Each year, we look for bright and talented students to enter our annual science competition. This year's categories were Biomedical Sciences, Experimental Psychology and Materials Science and the winners were presented with their prizes at our Open Day on 27 June. The Tutors were very impressed by the standard of the entries and enjoyed reading the responses to the questions. We would like to congratulate the following students:

Biomedical Sciences

Joint First Prize: Sarah Ives - Royal Grammar School Worcester
                               Gerald Roseman - Malvern College
Highly Commended: Elizabeth Hardy - St Robert of Newminster, Tyne and Wear

Winners of the Biomedical Sciences Prize with Dr Pawel SwietachTutor feedback: Students were given the task of explaining how four key technological breakthroughs, involving the measurement of light, radioactivity, magnetic spin and electric current, have contributed to our understanding of how the body functions in health and disease. The best essays showed evidence for in-depth research into the techniques and how these have addressed specific issues and limitations in biomedical research. Top essays scored on structure, originality and a good balance between basic research and clinical benefits of the techniques. A key challenge in producing the written work was to summarise in an orderly and coherent manner the vast amount of information that can be obtained from sources such as books, journals and internet.

Experimental Psychology

First Prize: Susanna Diver - Alton College
Second Prize: Rhiannon White - Chepstow School
Highly Commended: Chaya Kupperman - King David High School, Manchester

Tutor feedback: Most of the essays took the task of trying to explain the psychology of personality and the individual as a serious challenge for psychology. Theories of biological origin and environmental input were covered by most entries. Many made reference to solid introductory or advanced literature sources and where this was done it was done very well. The best essays were also able to write about either personal thoughts or bring to bear sources of evidence that were relevant but not obviously from standard sources. So for instance explaining the relevance of the philosophical work of Aristotle at one extreme or the effects of pharmaceutical manipulations on personality at the other showed an interesting ability to take on the challenge of the question and ask the reader to go on a critical voyage of the material.

Materials Science

First Prize: Samuel Bonsor - The William Allitt School, Derbyshire
Joint Second Prize: Adam Wigley - Colchester Royal Grammar School
                                    Clare Rees-Zimmerman - Sheffield High School

Tutor feedback: The subject of this year's competition was heterogeneous catalysis, and in particular the analysis of an electron microscope image of a core-shell Pt/Pd nanoparticle. The initiative to explore beyond the scope of taught material was particularly impressive, with some students referring to science magazines, online resources, and research journal articles. Many entries gave wonderful accounts of the field of catalysis, and its importance in modern civilization, showing good understanding of the applications to industrial processes. Several excellent, detailed accounts were given of the importance of Pt and Pd as catalysts, particularly in hydrogen fuel cells. The increased surface to mass ratio offered by nanoparticles was noted by many, and several entries also noted that quantum confinement effects additionally come into play for small nanoparticles. Many entries realised that the electron microscope image showed that the Pt had formed a shell around a Pd core, and that this would be beneficial by reducing the amount of Pt required, yet still allowing Pt to be present at the surfaces and exposed to impinging gas molecules. A few entries noted that Pd and Pt have similar atomic radii, and that the reason that a homogenous alloy had not been formed was essentially because of the synthesis method (deposition of the Pt after the formation of a Pd core), followed by the lack of a thermodynamic driving force to drive the alloying process. A few entries noted that the presence of Pd could enhance the longevity of the nanoparticle, and made the suggestion that charge transfer effects at the interface may be responsible for a further enhanced catalytic activity of the nanoparticles.

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