Members of Oakham’s Biology Society enjoyed a virtual ‘café scientifique’, where they listened to four accomplished Old Oakhamian scientists discuss their broad experiences working in science and reflect on their post-Oakham journeys. The online event, hosted by teacher of Biology, Dr Andrew Nicoll, was attended by pupils from Oakham School, Harrington School and the Loughborough Schools Foundation. Dr Nicoll was joined by Dr Lotty Brand (09), Florence Schanschieff (14), Abi Mustard (15) and Dr Jamie Blaza (06) whose expertise extended from molecules to ecosystems, and spanned from laboratory research to the commercial world via field work.
Abi Mustard, recently appointed the Opsrey Project Information Officer for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, described how she undertook a project (an ‘EPQ’) on conservation with Dr Ingles whilst at School, studied ecology at Aberystwyth University, and trained to become a nature reserve manager. Dr Nicoll impressed upon the audience the international importance of Osprey rewilding, and the global standing of Rutland itself as a wetland bird habitat.
Florence Schanschieff, a scientific and health policy recruiter, answered questions on the use of psychometric testing in ‘head hunting’ as well as her earlier research on plant circadian rhythms. Dr Jamie Blaza, a lecturer in Cryo-Electron Microscopy at the University of York, engaged in a spirited discussion with Drs Nicoll and Ingles on open access publishing in science and the role of universities in training the next generation of scientists.
Dr Lotty Brand, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Exeter, described the nature of speciesism in primatology, and her current interest in human societies. One of the more light-hearted issues she talked about was a radio broadcast she had given, based on research she co-authored that revealed how popular songs have become sadder over a 50-year period.
“It was a fun meeting,” said Dr Blaza, and all pupils who attended the event were impressed with the idealism of the four guests. A big thank-you to all our participants for their time; we wish Florence well as she begins a Masters degree in Public Health in September, and hope Dr Jamie is successful in his grant application to the Medical Research Council. The next meeting of the Society will be in the Winter Term and will commemorate 90 years of Biology at Oakham School.