British Science Week at St Mary's

This week has been a busy one, with the Science Department celebrating British Science Week.

On Friday 13th March, Mrs Ballard gave a talk in Chapel on the chemistry of smells and perfume. The girls had ten ‘smells’ in vials to test during the course of the talk. The first two were a molecule called Carvone which exists in two mirror image forms, one smells like mint and the other caraway. The students were then introduced to some of the main ingredients of perfumes and the art of blending to make a commercial fragrance.  For Mrs Ballard's full presentation, see the Science Blog.

On Monday 16th March, Mrs Ballard was back in Chapel with six LVI Form students who are nearing the end of the Engineering Education Scheme. These students have been working with a local electronics engineering company to design a universal PCB tester. Their design has been manufactured by the company and will be used in the testing of circuit boards. This is a huge achievement and represents hours of hard work. Dr Kirk also presented prizes to the winners of the school Science Competition. The theme was ‘Chance’ and the winning entries included a model of Isaac Newton and his apple, a poster on the chance of being a redhead, a video animation of chance discoveries, and a stunning board game on the chances of survival of a species during the course of evolution. The winners were presented with Lego figurines of female scientists and their equipment.

Students from across the school have been taking part in extra Science activities. Portable equipment was hired from the Science Museum in Bristol to give the students hands-on practical experience in a number of different fields of Physics. Students have also had the opportunity to take part in squid and rat dissections that have been going on during the lunchtimes. BOC Gases visited the school on Tuesday to give three demonstrations on the properties of gases. Students watched liquid nitrogen boil, froze oranges and smashed them and witnessed the explosive nature of hydrogen and oxygen.

The school's celebrations for British Science Week culminated in a lecture on Epigenetics given by Dr Nessa Carey, author of the very popular Epigenetics Revolution – a key text for those studying Biology at A Level. Epigenetics is a very new field of Biology and looks at modifications made to DNA and how they can affect organisms. Epigenetics explains why genetically identical organisms eg worker bees and queen bees, maggots and flies, and identical twins can have very different characteristics. Dr Carey went on to discuss future research in this field and the possibilities for medicine. The lecture was fascinating and very much enjoyed by all who attended.

Mrs Alexandra Ballard, Head of Science