The inaugural Northern Young Scientists Journal Conference has been hosted by Bolton School Boys’ Division. The day brought together students aged 14-18 with an enthusiasm for science and related subjects for a day of lectures, workshops and more.
Boys’ Division Headmaster Philip Britton opened proceedings with a welcome for all those attending the conference, both pupils and presenters. He spoke of the rigour required to be published in the Young Scientists Journal, which emulates the process of scientific peer review journals, and added that the conference expands this by modelling real life and allowing students to experience what it would be like to be a part of the scientific community. He also encouraged pupils to speak to members of other school groups about their ideas and interests throughout the day.
There were a series of keynote speeches during the day. Adam Brownsell, editor of Chemistry World, gave a talk entitled ‘Trust me, I’m an editor: the highs and lows of science media’. He discussed how magazines like Chemistry World disseminate information to the scientific community and the issues and challenges involved.
Laura Waters asked ‘Can we replace animal testing when creating new medicines?’ She challenged assumptions about animal testing, discussed how both make-up products and drugs are tested, and the alternatives that are now being developed.
Becky Parker gave a presentation about the Institute for Research in Schools and fired up the audience about the fascinating real-world research that they can get involved with. Projects include annotating gene sequences to help to develop new treatments for tropical diseases, becoming Higgs Hunters and searching for unusual particles, and monitoring and investigating radiation levels on the ISS.
There were also two Kitchen Chemistry presentations from Dr Stephen Ashworth. Using readily available materials, he delighted his audiences with his demonstrations of chemistry at work.
The workshops represented a wide range of scientific topics. Adam Brownsell stayed after giving his keynote speech to present a workshops about the best and worst practices in science media, and the challenges that editors, journalists and consumers face in separating science fact from science fiction.
Alison Coffer from All About STEM asked ‘What is soggy crisps could be made crispy again? And other questions that really matter!’ She introduced a range of programmes, projects and events to enable students to explore the relevance of STEM subjects to their lives, futures and the world. This allowed them to discover more about CREST Awards, Big Bang Fairs, STEM Ambassadors and more.
Nnamdi Nwaokocha from GHD Engineering offered ’30 minutes as a Chemical Engineer’, placing pupils in teams and tasking them with rearranging the shuffled processes involved in manufacturing a lifesaving drug such as penicillin.
Anna Murphy and Fraser Scott from the University of Huddersfield gave an insight into what it’s like to be a biologist and how to become one.
Alison Beech and Rebecca Lefroy from Keele University compressed five or more years of medical training into 30 minutes and discussed life as a medic, giving plenty of opportunities for questions.
Michael Daniels and Kirsty McIntyre from Manchester University showed pupils how to go ‘From Amateur to Attenborough’ with a fun, engaging introduction to Science Communication which allowed pupils to have a go themselves.
Sam Illingworth from Manchester Metropolitan University held an interactive workshop on the Poetry of Science, discussing poems written by scientists and about scientific topics ad, allowing pupils to write some of their own.
Anna Harper from UCLAN shared her PhD research on spider webs and how the intensity of soil cultivation of wheat affects spiders’ ability to weave them.
Peter He, the Chief Editor of YSJ, also spoke about how to get involved with the Young Scientists Journal, hopefully inspiring pupils to contribute in future.
Throughout the day there were opportunities to speak with the various exhibitors. There was also a student presentation on particle physics. The day drew to a close with parallel panel discussions on careers and Higher Education: one on Physical Sciences and Engineering, and another on Biosciences and Medicine. Both audiences were very engaged and asked lively questions of the panellists.