A GENERATION of students aspiring to follow in the footsteps of inspirational figures like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Marie Curie have been celebrated at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre.
A total of 71 teenagers from 31 schools across the county were picked for their science skills as Oxfordshire Young Scientists of the Year and praised for their efforts at the ceremony on Wednesday night.
Up to three children from each school were chosen by their teachers for talents in biology, chemistry and physics.
Oxford High School student Ellie Dunstone plans to play her part in the future of drug cures and treatment by becoming a researcher after university.
The 17-year-old was chosen by her teacher for top marks and enthusiasm in biology.
She said: “I would love to go into research. There is so much going on in medical research and it would be amazing to work on something that helps people.
“I’m not sure what area of research yet, but maybe looking into stem cells and cancer and what happens when cells go wrong. I remember loving science since I was in junior school. It was the class I looked forward to most.
“I remember seeing diagrams of eyes and a heart and thinking it was amazing something like that was going on inside everybody.”
The students, all from year 13, received certificates labelling them Oxfordshire Young Scientists of the Year 2013.
Some of the students were awarded prizes for two of the sciences.
They then heard talks from experts in the fields of each of the sciences.
The celebration was only the second year the awards have been run by charity Science Oxford.
Organiser Brian Macken said: “There could well be the next generation of science leaders from that group, particularly because we are in Oxford, which has the two universities and all the companies and science parks around Oxfordshire.
“It is great to be able to do something to celebrate their achievements.”
WITH STARS IN HIS EYES, MAX HEADS FOR THE FINAL FRONTIER
THE science of space, planets, black holes and stars first sparked curiosity in Abingdon schoolboy Max Herring aged four.
The 17-year-old Larkmead School student took up astronomy and hopes to study data collected by space missions.
The physics winner said: “When I was younger I looked up at the sky at night and there is so much to look at. It is different every day and it’s really exciting.
“I really like the idea that it is so distant but you can study so much of it from here, and we have been able to since the 1930s.”
The teenager wants to study astrophysics, perhaps at Cardiff University.
He added: “I’d like to interpret space data.
“I don’t particularly want to go into space but I do like studying it.”
WINNERS ARE ALL CALLED CHRIS
A TRIO of teenage boys each called Chris snapped up the science prizes at Witney’s Wood Green School.
Chris Shelley, 17, from North Leigh, claimed the physics award, Chris Jones, 17, from Witney, chemistry, and Chris Blakey, 18, from Botley, biology.
All three were chosen for achievements and keen interest in science.
Bird watching and walks around Farmoor Reservoir sparked a curiosity in animal behaviour and diversity in Chris Blakey.
The teenager likes zoology — the study of animals — particularly in amphibians, reptiles, insects and birds.
He said: “I love looking at the diversity and behaviour in animals, mainly in small animals.
“I do some wildlife photography too around Oxfordshire and go for walks every so often.”
Chemistry winner Chris Jones said: “I like how things work. That sounds a bit mechanical but I like organic chemistry.
“It is important. One example was the chemical nobody knew about in the 1950s and 1960s, Thalidomide, which was in a morning sickness pill given to pregnant women.
“It meant babies were born with abnormalities. It’s that kind of thing which proves how important it is.
“I might like to do some lab research but I’m not 100 per cent sure yet.”
A love of science by Chris Shelley was boosted by his dad firing physics questions across the dining room table.
His dad Clifford Shelley said: “We were surprised as it came out of the blue. We’re hoping it is the first of many.
“We don’t know yet what he will go on to do but I have no doubt he will do a good job of it.”
LET'S INVEST IN YOUNG PEOPLE
THE keynote speaker for the evening was the head of the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Professor Fiona Powrie.
The Headington-based biochemist is a fellow of the Royal Society.
She said: “It is all about investing in our young people and making science come to life for them.
“It is about making a difference. Everybody who goes into science has the opportunity to make a difference.
“We could have future scientific leaders. It is up to them. The opportunities are there for them and they have already been picked out.
“And it is great to see a fairly even mix of girls and boys.”
FOR FULL LIST OF AWARD WINNERS, SEE MONDAY'S OXFORD MAIL