From stroking cockroaches to exploring quantum materials, 29 Year Ten girls explored the variety of a science education at Oxford during an annual residential programme hosted by Somerville College.
The teenagers all come from non-selective state schools and were taking part in the Girls into Science programme, encouraging girls to explore their passion for science and technology.
Somerville, which was named after the Victorian polymath Mary Somerville, has a proud tradition of female scientific achievement, including alumna Dorothy Hodgkin who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964.
The girls’ two-day visit to Oxford included a trip to the university’s Museum of Natural History, where the pupils encountered cockroaches, an elephant’s tooth and the skeleton of a barn owl. They were also shown how archaeologists use scientific techniques to investigate ancient remains, and visited departments including engineering, physics, chemistry and mathematics. Dr Priyanka Dhopade, senior research associate in engineering, gave the girls a talk on aerospace engineering and her route into a science career.
This is the fourth year running that Somerville has hosted the programme. The girls stayed overnight at the college and enjoyed a quiz night and a tour of the city.
Nazanin Osmani, 14, from Brentford School for Girls, said she found the university reassuringly down to earth. Nazanin said: “Before I came, I thought – it’s Oxford, people are going to be posh, but people are friendly and they do help.”
The girls were guided around the university by seven student ambassadors, who shared insights into Oxford life.
Lucy Phillips, 14, also from Brentford School for Girls, said: “I got talking to the student ambassadors and there were some nice anecdotes about how they applied and how they pursued their interests.
“You can take a subject and then change to a different subject. They were talking about people who had started in engineering and then gone into law in the second year – it was patent law, so related to engineering.”