Cambridge interviews are very similar to the supervisions that you have every week as a student here (see how you are taught).
If you apply to Cambridge, you send your UCAS application by the 15 October deadline (Cambridge and Oxford have an earlier deadline than for most UK universities), and most (though not all) applicants are invited for interviews, which take place in early December.
We don't suggest that you worry too much about the details of the application process when you're in Year 10, Year 11 or at this stage of Year 12, but it is useful to get a sense of what interviews are about (they are academic interviews). The important point to understand when looking at interviews, is that if you would like to study at Cambridge in the future, you may already be thinking about whether you can achieve the grades we require (see our entrance requirements), but it is equally important to enjoy your studies and explore and develop your academic interests.
When you come for interview, we will be looking for intellectual ability, aptitude for the subject, curiosity and commitment. So the interviewers (specialists in the subejct you have applied for) ask a range of questions relating to the work or reading you have done, both at school and outside it. We we will encourage you to talk about your academic interests and ideas. We encourage you to watch this film about Cambridge interviews.
Word of the Day
There are a few online dictionaries that post a 'word of the day' to help broaden your vocabulary with less common words as well as suggesting some more familiar words whose meanings you might not be so sure on. You can even sign-up to have these emailed to you daily. Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster are just two of the websites that offer these free subscriptions.
And if you're studying a modern language you might want to sign-up for the French, Spanish, Italian or German word of the day. You can find even more languages here.
Posted: 18 September 2015
European Day of Languages (26 Sept)
Credit: Council of Europe
The European Day of Languages on 26 September is fast approaching, and offers a good opportunity to think about linguistic diversity and the advantages of learning to communicate in other languages and gain more direct access to and understanding of different cultures.
Amongst the website resources there are some fun and interesting facts and lists:
Language skills are in demand and can lead to a wide range of careers. They also allow you to persue a range of interets in your university degree - depending on your course choices, you may study linguistics, literature, film, history, politics, philosophy, sociology, art criticism, and religion, as you will be able to read and study texts of all kinds in the original form.
Inspired? Why not watch some of the films about languages courses at Cambridge: Modern and Medieval Languages; Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Linguistics, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, Classics, Theology and Religious Studies.
Free and Discounted Theatre Tickets
Many theatres across the country will offer a small discount off ticket prices for students. But did you know that there are also some free membership schemes for students and under 26s that offer an even greater discount, and in some cases free theatre tickets? Here are just a few theatres and schemes:
- Darlington Civic Theatre - ArtsSpark Membership Scheme - free to join, and available to anyone under the age of 26.
- Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester - every Friday night they set aside 100 £6 theatre tickets for students and people under 26
- Young Barbican, London - for ages 14-25, over 50,000 discounted tickets across art, film, music, theatre and dance for just £5, £10 or £15.
- Young Vic, London - offering a number of £10 tickets for every production for full time students and people aged 25 and under.
- Tricycle Theatre, London - a limited number of £10 theatre tickets for under 26s
- Royal and Derngate, Southhampton - free and inexpensive tickets to under 26s
Or if opera is more your thing (or just something you're curious about!), Opera North have a membership scheme for under-30s that offers free or £10 tickets to select performances.
There are, of course, many more theatres with amazing student discounts so check out what's on offer at your local theatre.
Image: Matthew Paulson
For quite a few of the essay courses at Cambridge, there are opportunities to work on a dissertation. This would normally be in the later years, and sometimes you can choose to write a dissertation to replace one of your exam papers (see the structure of your chosen course). As Fiona, one of our History students says, 'it’s a good way to spend time studying something that you’re particularly interested in, and to research material which has hardly been studied before'. Many students enjoy researching and writing their dissertation so much that they decide to go on to further research after their degree, and they apply for Masters and PhD courses.
Christ's College has produced a very interesting resource with accounts of what some current undergraduates are studying for their dissertations. Do visit their website to find out more:
King's students write about a typical day
Do you want to know what it's like to be a student at King's? King's College Student Union (KCSU) is keen to help you out - they are collecting short accounts written by current students of what it is like to study here. Do look at A Day In The Life Of.... and click on the subject you're most interested in, or start with Scott's general description of life as a fresher.
Did you find this useful? Then do also look a our King's Student Perspectives section for more student writing.
What else might be waiting to be discovered?
Toni Bray - Robin and his Bow
You might have read recently about a discovery by a PhD student at Leeds Trinity University which reveals a darker side to Robin Hood’s reputation in the eighteenth-century. Stephen Basdeo found the long forgotten work, Little John's Answer to Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster (1727), in the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds after reading a footnote referring to the ballad, which had previously been assumed to be a plagiarism of a known work. The ballad is a satire of the first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole (1676-1745), in which the Duke of Lancaster attempts to expose Robin Hood’s corruption to King John. Stephen puts his discovery in context: “our favourite outlaw hero really emerges with a tarnished reputation in the text. He is not noble or gallant but simply a 'thief,' a 'vast cunning man,' who 'abuses his good king.'” This discovery shows that the famous outlaw was not always as popular with people in the past as he is today – and it has remained unchecked and unanalysed all these years!
There may well be Special Collections near you, either in your town library, a nearby university library, or connected to a local museum or heritage site.
King’s College Library has its own Special Collections, as well as the Archive Centre which offers an online introduction to archival research.
The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford currently holds 11,746,808 printed items, 25,314 miles of archives and manuscripts, and 1,250,000 maps. The newly launched Digital.Bodleian aims to open some of this extraordinary collection to users from around the world for learning, teaching, and research.
You can now browse...
... among many other collections.
The Cambridge University Library has its own Cambridge Digital Library. Most recently, a first selection of items from the Royal Commonwealth Society Library and the entire Lewis-Gibson collection of medieval Jewish manuscripts has been added to the online collection.
Eva Berendes, 'Untitled (Osaka)', part of a Bold Tendencies exhibition at the Peckham multi-storey car park. Image credit: Loz Pycock
Multi-Story is a project that brings classical music to unexpected places, run by (former King's student!) composer Kate Whitley and conductor Christopher Stark.
The Multi-Story Summer Programme 2015 takes place in a disused multi-stor(e)y car park in Peckham. On 1 and 2 July, the Multi-Story Orchestra will be joined by more than 200 local children to perform I am I say, a new commission by Kate and British Egyptian poet Sabrina Mahfouz.
See the full Multi-Story line-up this Summer, part of a wider programme of visual art, architecture, music, theatre, film, and literature produced by Bold Tendencies at the same venue.
New Stone Circle Discovered on Dartmoor
The newly discovered stone circle dates from the same Neolithic Age as Stonehenge, and may be even older. Image credit: Howard Ignatius
The discovery of the first stone circle on Dartmoor in more than a century has been confirmed. A preliminary excavation by volunteers from the Dartmoor Preservation Association has revealed a ring of 30 stones, each 1.5 metres tall, with a diameter of 34 metres, near Sittaford Tor. The stones are believed to complete a chain of eight stone circles that forms a ten-mile crescent across the northeast of the moor. The stones have lain undisturbed since they fell about 4,000 years ago during the Neolithic period. This will give archaeologists the first chance to excavate a stone circle on Dartmoor since the Victorian era, using the newest techniques and technology. The newly recorded 'Sittaford Circle' has already been added to this Guide to Dartmoor Stone Circles.
If you live in or near Devon...
... if you live further afield:
You can study Archaeology at Cambridge within our Human Social and Political Sciences degree course, whether you choose to focus on Archaeology from the beginning, or study it alongside related disciplines such as Social Anthropology and Biological Anthropology.
Explore the History of Science
At Cambridge, you can study the History and Philosophy of Science as an optional paper in the second year of Natural Sciences, Psychological and Behavioural Sciences, or Human, Social and Political Sciences if you choose to. If you choose this option, you will benefit from the world-class collection of scientific instruments and models at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, one of the university's teaching collections.
Use the Whipple Explore website to delve into the collection:
If you have chance to visit Cambridge (perhaps in the summer?) and would like to see some of these items and much more in person, remember that admission to the Whipple Museum is free of charge. See the opening times and location (it's just a couple of minutes from King's!).
ELECTION - The Cambridge Politics Podcast
Spot the First Minister?! Nicola Sturgeon campaigning in Edinburgh on 3 April 2015. Image credit: hockadilly
Can democracy adapt to our strained political system? Who (if anyone) will ‘win’ in 2015? What can the lessons of the past teach us about the future?
David Runciman, Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies here in Cambridge, puts these questions and more to philosophers, historians, scientists, and political thinkers in a weekly podcast in the run-up to the general election.
In recent weeks, he's talked to:
The ELECTION team publish a new episode every Wednesday.
#CambTweet Q&A: Saturday 21 March
A message from Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) to all prospective students:
Interested in a quick, easy way to find out what life is really like as a student at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge? Here's one that won't even involve you leaving your computer - it's on Twitter! #CambTweet and #OxTweet are student-run Twitter-based schemes: student volunteers tweet daily about their lives at the universities - everything from what and how they’re studying to getting involved with clubs/societies and hanging out with friends. This Saturday (21 March) from 9-10pm, we are running a joint online Question and Answer session: many of our volunteers will be online especially to answer your questions about becoming and being a university student, so if something is on your mind that you want answered, tweet us with it!
CUSU also publish an Alternative Prospectus.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Architecture
Scottish Architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh is one of the leading figures of late 19th and early 20th Century architecture. The majority of his buildings are located in Glasgow (Scotland) and the surrounding area.
Hwæt! We Gar-Dena in gear-dagum, þeod-cyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!
(Arguably translated into modern English as "Listen! We have heard of the might of the Kings.")
Are you interested in early languages? Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. More than 3,000 lines long, Beowulf relates the exploits of its eponymous hero, and his successive battles with monsters.
You can study Beowulf, among other Old English texts, as part of our Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic degree course, which centres on early and Medieval languges and history.
Bookings are now open for the Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic Year 12 masterclass on 21 March. The next Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic departmental Open Day will take place on 24 June 2015.
British Science Week: 13 - 22 March
British Science Week is a ten-day programme of science, technology, engineering and maths events across the UK for people of all ages. You can find an event near you on the British Science Association website.
Take a look at the programme of events planned at your local university:
Converse: the literature website
Chaucher's The Canterbury Tales in a modern age. Image credit: david_jones
Would you like to broaden and deepen your experience of literature, perhaps with the thought of studying English at university?
Try the Converse website, which is packed full of resources developed by the University of Cambridge's English Faculty in collaboration with teachers and schools.
You'll find resources to support you in your GCSE studies, your A Level studies, or in researching and making an application to study English or a related discipline at university.
Legal History: 1215 and all that
Magna Carta, 1215. Image credit: anselor
"To no one will we sell, to no one deny, or delay right or justice."
This week, the British Library marked the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta by bringing together the four remaining original documents for the first time. Radio 4's Law in Action recorded a special programme at the exhibition. Presenter Joshua Rosenberg asked a former Lord Chief Justice, a current lawyer, and the Head of Mediaeval Manuscripts at the British Library:
- how much of our current law actually comes from the Magna Carta?
- how much of its legacy is little more than myth?
- to what extent are the protections attributed to Magna Carta under threat?
How can legal history enrich our knowledge and understanding of the law? Roman Law has been taught at Cambridge for over seven hundred years. Indeed, Civil (Roman) Law I is a compulsory paper for all our first years. Dr. Matthew Dyson explains why it remains important and offers a sample supervision sheet. Second and third years can choose to take a further paper in legal history.
A Good Read?
How do you make the reading you do in your own time count? One way to help yourself think independently and engage critically with your reading is to start or join a reading group. Take your inspiration from Radio 4's A Good Read, where the presenter and her two guests each choose a book they've enjoyed reading, introducing it to and discussing it with the others. Why not swap recommendations with a friend and meet to discuss your responses to each other's choice?
BBC Taking Liberties Season
The Houses of Parliament, Westminster. Image credit: Treye Rice
2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The BBC is leading commemorations with its Taking Liberties season of programmes on Britain's democracy: past, present, and future.
Ask yourself: are the democratic freedoms manifest in the Magna Carta or the de Montfort Parliament real or imagined, either then or now?
The French Revolution: Tearing up History
The death of Marat. Credit: paukrus (cropped)
There's an interesting documentary on BBC iplayer, which explores the history of the French Revoution through the story of its art.
The programme is presented by Dr Richard Clay, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Birmingham.
What is the Earth made of? What processes shape and change it? What's happened to it in the past 4.5 billion years, and how do we know? What will happen to the Earth's climate in the future? The Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences has released a very useful introductory film:
If you'd like to find out more about physical and biological aspects of the Earth, here are two books that provide a good way into the subject:
Earth Sciences is just one of the many options available in the Cambridge Natural Sciences course, and no previous knowledge in geology or geography is required. You can combine it with your interests in other sciences, and you can specialise in it if you later choose to. Do explore the Department of Earth Sciences website for more detail.
Science Week at the University of York
The University of York is offering science events as part of Science Week (16-22 November).
The events are open to all, so do go along to a talk if you live in or near York:
Preparing for interviews
We recommend that you explore topics that interest you further (there are a lot of ways to do this).
We interview most (but not all) students who apply for a place at Cambridge. The interviews are with subject specialists who ask you academic questions to explore your potential for the course you have applied for.
How do you prepare for a Cambridge interview? Here are some tips:
Long-term preparation (before you apply)
- If you enjoy learning, the good news is that you shouldn't need to change anything significant to prepare for interviews at Cambridge. The most important thing you can do is to develop your academic interests (which you're likely to find that you've already been doing!)
- Find a Cambridge course that genuinely interests you so that you have natural curiosity and enjoy developing your skills and finding out more.
- Look at the resources section on the relevant subject page for specific suggestions (e.g. Engineering), but also feel free to follow your own interests or use other resources and books that you find helpful.
- Understand that Cambridge interviewers will be interested in your academic interests and how you think and work, not only what you know. The interviews are academic interviews, designed to test this. This film shows what Cambridge interviews are about.
Short-term preparation (after you have applied)
- See this advice and our interview guidelines.
- Watch Film 1 and Film 2 to get a sense of what will happen if you are invited for interview.
- Carry on developing your academic interests. Use the resources section on the relevant subject page if you are looking for suggestions.
- Don't neglect your normal school work - if you are currently at school, we know how busy you are, and you can develop your interests within your school curriculum by putting your best into your homework assignments. Remember that most of your interview preparation has already been done at this stage.
- Don't worry excessively about the interview itself. Know that the interviews are not a test of how good you are at being interviewed (we're not looking for polish or perfection). They are about your subject(s), so the only way you can improve your chances is to carry on focusing on your academic work and interests.
- Try to trust your interviewers if you can! They are all teachers and they want you to achieve. They will know how to ask further questions to tease what they need out of you, and they know that interviewees are nervous so they are looking for raw ability and academic commitment, not perfection.
Cambridge Subject Films
Are you exploring the courses available at Cambridge? One way to get a quick overview is to look at some of the subject films.
The films are only short, but they explain the structure and opportunities in each course, show you some of the faculty facilities, and have current students giving their views and reasons for choosing each subject, tips for applying from the lecturers, and information about what students go on to do when they graduate.
You may also find the advice about choosing a subject useful, and there are lists of transferable skills for most courses (or options within courses). These lists set out the advantages that each subject gives you for your future career.
The most important question to ask yourself, is what would you enjoy studying in depth?
Why Study Economics?
Are you considering university courses in Economics? If so, do explore the Economics Network's website:
The website has a useful blog too!
Dylan Thomas poetry
If you enjoy language and thinking about how it can be used and the effects it can create, you might like to explore some of Dylan Thomas's work. It's a particularly good time to do this, as 2014 is the centenary of his birth.
Do you like one or more of these? Why? How would you describe Dylan Thomas's writing to someone who has never read any? Can you see any connections with other poets & poems that you have read?
Further reading & events
The Cycle of Terms
'Parking problems': bicycles pile up outside King's. Credit: Phil Shirley
Full term began for our current Cambridge students last Thursday. To celebrate the new academic year, join them in their morning pedal to lectures by watching this video.
A number of our current students write about a typical day during termtime in their King's Student Perspectives.
All the best for the new academic year to everyone!
Faith and religion at Cambridge Festival of Ideas
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.
If you are interested in faith and religion, you might enjoy some of the following events:
Beginning New Testament Greek
Theology and Religious Studies students at Cambridge study a scriptural language in first year, choosen from New Testament Greek, Hebrew, Qur'anic Arabic or Sanscrit. You don't need to have studied foreign languages before, and this is a great opportunity to learn one of the original languages in which the texts of a major world religion were written.
If you are interested in New Testament Greek, we hope that you will find the new website launched by Cambridge Divinity Faculty useful:
Open House London (Sat 20 & Sun 21 September)
On the weekend of 20 and 21 September, there's a chance to explore building design and architecture in London. This is Open House London, which encourages you to explore buildings and spaces, including ones that aren't normally open to the public.
Economic Success Drives Language Extinction
Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia, named by the local Pitjantjatjara people. The Pitjantjatjara language is classified as vulnerable by UNESCO. Image credit: Sjoerd van Oosten.
A new study has revealed that economic growth and globalisation are driving the loss of minority languages.
The researchers, including Cambridge Zoologist Tatsuya Amano, used the criteria for defining endangered species (as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to measure the rate and extent of language loss. They then analysed the geographical distribution of the endangered languages in order to draw conclusions about how and why they have gone into decline. Dr. Amano explained that:
As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation's political and educational spheres. People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold - economically and politically.
The researchers argue that conservation efforts should therefore be focused on minority languages in more economically developed regions, such as northwestern North America and northern Australia.
Read the researchers' findings in full in Tatsuya Amano et al, 'Global Distribution and Drivers of Language Extinction Risk,' Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (October 2014).
Consult the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.
Look into the conservation efforts of the Endangered Language Alliance in New York City and the online Endangered Languages Project. National Geographic's Enduring Voices project has produced eight online talking dictionaries in an effort to conserve minority languages.
- What are the benefits / risks of applying the criteria for defining endangered species to minority languages?
- How best can minority languages be protected? Or should they be protected at all?
As well as the podcasts, there is also a book. Credit: Mark Larson (cropped)
Philosophy Bites is a good source of short interview podcasts with professional philosophers on all kinds of topics.
Recent interviews include:
If there is a particular area that interests you, you may like to look at this list organised by theme.
The Baroque in Britain
Radio 4 iplayer has a useful series of 15 minute programmes on the Baroque in Britain presented by Tim Marlow:
- Klaus Carl and Victoria Charles, Baroque Art (New York: Parkstone Press International, 2014)
- Ernst Hans Gombrich, The Story of Art (several editions)
Are you struggling to access Radio 4 iplayer? Click on 'How to listen' in the menu on the left of this help section. If you are outside the UK, see the iplayer access information.
Young Geographer of the Year Competition
The annual Young Geographer of the Year Competition is run by the Royal Geographical Society in conjunction with Geographical Magazine. There are four categories for different age groups including 14-16 (Years 10 and 11) and 16-18 (Years 12 and 13), as well as younger pupils.
This year's question is: How can Geography help you?
- Students in Years 10 and 11 are asked to produce an annotated diagram or map to answer the question
- Students in Years 12 and 13 are asked for a 1,500 word essay, which can include illustrations, maps or graphs.
The deadline for entries is Friday 24 October 2014.
If you might like to enter, please read the full information on the Royal Geographical Society website.
Have you read George Orwell's Animal Farm (first published in England in 1945)? It is just under 100 pages and is widely available in local libraries - why not read the book (or listen to it) without reading anything about it, and see what you make of it. Can you briefly jot down your impressions of what is important in the book? If you are able to get to a local library, you could then do some research about what other people have written on the themes in it.
- George Orwell, Animal Farm (Penguin, 1996)
Thames Tideway Tunnel
London City Airport and the Thames. Credit: pencefn
According to King’s Engineer Mark Ainslie, ‘engineers are people who apply Maths and Physics to solve problems … in a creative way.’
So try applying your own Maths and Physics to a real life engineering problem: how to tackle the problem of overflows from London's Victorian sewers. Designed for up to 4 million people 150 years ago, the sewers are not big enough to serve 8 million Londoners today, causing 55 million tonnes of raw sewage to wash into the tidal Thames every year.
Thames Water's proposed solution is the Thames Tideway Tunnel, running for 25 kilometres, at a depth of up to 65 metres below the river. Tunnelworks is an online resource put together by Thames Water, in which you are asked to apply your Mathematics and Physics to the project.
Taking place for the first time throughout September 2014, Totally Thames is an exciting new, month-long celebration of the river across its 42 London miles:
CREST Awards: for project work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
The British Science Association supports, assesses, and awards students undertaking project work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You can register and work towards one of their CREST Awards either through your school / college or independently. You could build a pin-hold camera, design a bespoke fitness regime and diet for an athlete, or investigate the effect of natural and chemical additives in bread.
Look at the British Science Association website to find:
Good luck and enjoy!
'The words on the page': practical criticism
Practical criticism is a skill required in all three years of the Cambridge English degree. Developed by Cambridge literary critic I. A. Richards in the 1920s, the exercise is designed to make you focus on 'the words on the page.' You are given an unseen text and asked to respond to its form and meaning.
This year, Cambridge students hit the headlines when they were asked to analyse Morrissey's Autobiography (2013) and Andre Letoit's (Koos Kombuis) 'Tipp-Ex Sonate' (1985) (a poem with no words, only punctuation) in their practical criticism papers.
Why not try your hand at practical criticism yourself? The Faculty of English's Virtual Classroom provides a good starting point:
You can also read I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism (1929).
Siegfried Sassoon's war diaries published in the Cambridge Digital Library
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). Credit: Pere Ubu
The Cambridge University Library holds the papers of its former student and First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). Now, for the first time, Sassoon's journals are freely available online as part of the Cambridge Digital Library.
Amidst the daily minutiae of life in the trenches, Sassoon recorded:
- the first day of the Somme, 'a sunlit picture of Hell,' on July 1916
- the Battle of Arras, during which he was 'fully expecting to get killed,' but was instead shot in the shoulder by a sniper, causing a dramatic deterioration in his handwriting from 15 - 16 April 1917
- draft and fair copies of his 'Soldier's Declaration' against the conduct of the war, written and issued in June-July 1917
- an early version of his poem 'The Dug-Out,' with an additional, excised verse, written in July 1918 and published in Picture-Show (1919)
The Siegfried Sasoon diaries had previously been edited by Rupert Hart-Davies and published in the 1980s. So how does seeing the original manuscript versions change our perceptions of Sassoon's life and poetry? Does seeing the mud and candlewax on their pages add to a historian's understanding of Sassoon's experience in the trenches? How useful is either textual criticism (the effort to establish a text as nearly as possible to its original form) or genetic criticism (the effort to trace and understand the process of writing a text) to a literary scholar?
You can read Sassoon's poetry and browse related primary documents in the University of Oxford's First World War Poetry Digital Archive Sassoon Collection.
Women in Engineering
According to the Institute of Engineering and Technology's latest skills report
"the number of women in engineering remains very low at 6%, which has not significantly changed in all the years this survey has been carried out."
Why are there so few female engineers? Zoe Conway reported from the Crossrail 2 project on why engineering remains a male-dominated industry for Radio 4's Today programme this morning.
The WISE Campaign (Women into Science and Engineering) offers lots of online resources to young women thinking about studying and pursuing a career in Engineering, including:
The Women's Engineering Society was founded in 1919 by women engineers in the First World World War who wished to continue their work in peacetime. They support prospective women engineers in gaining the Advanced Leaders Award for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).
Here in Cambridge, the Department of Engineering holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, in recognition of its commitment to promoting and supporting the careers of women in engineering. Ann Dowling, Head of the Department, offers the following advice to young women engineers:
- try always to respond positively to opportunites that come your way;
- don't wait for the 'perfect time' before applying for things - sometimes you just have to have a go;
- find a field of resarch that really interests you and has scope to expand in the future.
Biologising the Social Sciences
Spoiling for a fight? Credit: driki
Academics have increasingly turned to evolutionary explanations for the human condition, variously arguing that:
- The male human face has evolved to withstand fist fights. See David R. Carrier and Michael H. Morgan, ‘Protective buttressing of the hominin face,’ Biological Reviews (2014).
- Babies cry at night to prevent parents further procreating, resulting in potential sibling rivals. See David Haig, ‘Trouble Sleep: Night waking, breastfeeding and parent-offsprng conflict,’ Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2014 (2014), 32-39.
- Teen boys develop acne on their faces to deter females from fertile but psychologically immature mates. See Dale F. Bloom, ‘Is acne really a disease?’ Medical Hypotheses, 62 (2004), 462-469.
You can find out more about evolutionary psychology and explore more of its theories in Evolutionary Psychology, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal showcasing work across the human sciences.
But are there limits to the explanatory power of evolution? David Canter, Professor of Psychology at the University of Huddersfield, thinks so. He made a trenchant case against biologising the social sciences in David Canter, ‘Challenging neuroscience and evolutionary explanations of social and psychological processes,’ Contemporary Social Science, 7 (2012), 92-115.
You can listen to David Canter debate the issues with Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, on Radio 4's Inside Science programme (the item begins at 18 minutes).
How far would you take evolutionary explanations of human behaviour?
Mathematical ways to spend your summer
Here are some suggestions (suitable for students at all stages in maths) from Steve Hewson on the NRICH Mathematics website:
NB the 'stages' mentioned on the NRICH website correspond to UK Key stages. As a guide:
- Stage 3 uses maths you would normally meet before the age of 14
- Stage 4 uses maths you would normally meet before the age of 16
- Stage 5 uses maths you would normally meet post 16.
Centre for Computing History
A Centre for Computing History opened in Cambridge earlier this year, which offers a fascinating exploration of the historical, social and cultural impact of developments in personal computing. It is open to visit Wed - Saturday each week, and there are also lots of workshops and talks over the summer that may be of interest. See full details on the website.
Online resources include:
For information about the history of computing at Cambridge, you may be interested in:
Sutton Hoo and the British Museum
The Sutton Hoo helmet at the British Museum. Image credit: Rob Roy
If you would like to explore Anglo-Saxon history and archaeology, you might enjoy visiting the sixth and early seventh century burial mounds and the Exhibition Hall at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, or the Sutton Hoo and Europe AD300 - 1100 collection at the British Museum in London.
The College gardens are regularly used for outdoor theatre in the summer.
In the nice weather, you might enjoy some outdoor Shakespeare if you're visiting Cambridge. The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival is on at the moment and four new plays are about to start their run:
- Othello in Trinity College Gardens (28 July - 16 August)
- Twelfth Night in St John's College Gardens (28 July - 16 August)
- The Merchant of Venice in Robinson College Gardens (28 July - 23 August)
- The Taming of the Shrew in Homerton College Gardens (28 July - 23 August)
Performances start at 7.30pm, and if you bring proof that you're a student in full-time education, you can get a concession ticket for £11. Please see the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival website for full details and booking.
Navigation at sea in the eighteenth century
Navigation at sea was a real problem in the eighteenth century. Although ships could work out their latitude from the position of the sun, it was difficult to know how far east or west they were. In 1714 a Longitude Act was passed, offering rewards of up to £20,000 for anyone who could solve the problem of finding longitude at sea.
The National Maritime Museum and Cambridge University have put the archives relating to this period of exploration and invention online - do watch the film and explore the website. If you live near enough to visit Greenwich, you may enjoy one of the Longitude Season events.
How well do you know your local area?
Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland. Image credit: Laszlo Ilyes
The Office for National Statistics has produced an interesting survey based on the 2011 census.
If you live in England or Wales, do have a look:
Further ways of exploring the census data are available in:
Tony Blair: Twenty Years On
Twenty years ago today Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party. Read his first speech on becoming leader and his latest speech reflecting on the twentieth anniversary of his election.
Key figures and commentators from the Blair years have been reflecting on Blair's legacy in the newspapers:
- John McTernan, 'Tony Blair: his legacy will be debated but not forgotten,' Telegraph, 20 July 2014
- John Rentoul, 'Two decades on, what is Tony Blair's legacy worth,' Independent, 20 July 2014
- Michael White, 'Twenty Years of Tony Blair: totting up the balance sheet,' Guardian, 21 July 2014
You could follow up on these assessments by reading more about Tony Blair in his own words...
... and in the view of political scienitsts:
How have assessments of Tony Blair's leadership and legacy changed over the course of the past twenty years and why?
The Virtual Chopin
The Chopin statue in Deansgate, Manchester. Image credit: Mike Kniec (cropped)
Have you come across any music by Fryderyk Chopin that you can think of? He was a nineteenth century composer and is the subject of The Virtual Chopin presented by Professor John Rink from Cambridge University Faculty of Music.
The Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is a flexible low-cost computer. It is great for experimenting with programming and electronics.
The Raspberry Pi website includes an introduction, quick start guide, software downloads and lots of other information to help you get started on all kinds of projects.
There are three models:
- Model A (15 British pounds / 25 US dollars)
- Model B (22 British pounds / 35 US dollars)
- Model B+ (22 British pounds / 35 US dollars)
There are lots of resources available online so if you have a particular interest, do search for it. Here are a few useful sites:
Trainers, pumps, plimsolls or daps?
Plimsolls? No, daps. Credit: dave
How do you refer to the appropriate footwear for a PE class? Trainers, pumps, plimsolls, or daps? The word you use almost certainly reflects where you live, or where you grew up.
Researchers in Linguistics can use lexical variation (our choice of words or phrases), phonological variation (the way in which we pronounce certain words), and syntactic variation (the way in which we construct sentences) to draw maps of dialect variation, such as those produced by the Multilingual Manchester project.
King's teacher and researcher Bert Vaux and his colleague Scott Golder created a dialect survey whilst he was at Harvard in 2002 which went viral when it was featured in the New York Times last year. Bert says:
"What's been most exciting about the newest viral episode is the demonstration over a pool of several million test subjects that it is possible to identify the regional origins of English speakers just from subtle lexical 'tells.'"
You can hear Bert discussing the latest success of the survey and the conclusions he drew from it on National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S. in February.
If you'd like to contribute to Bert's ongoing research, you can take the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes now.
Summer Reading (and Writing)
As you break up for the vacation, you may be resolving to read through the pile of books that has built up on your bedside table during a busy academic year. But how do you make your summer reading count? As the University of Cambridge advises its students:
Reading for a degree requires different reading skills to reading for pleasure. Developing understanding through reading needs to be an active process, whereby you engage with the text, question and develop your ideas in response to it.
Listen to Hanna Weibye (one of the King's Fellows in History) making a similar point, when she recommends that you read as widely and as critically as possible.
The University of Southampton, the University of Manchester, and the Open University all offer useful advice on how to read in an engaged way.
One way to read effectively is to... write! Once you've read a text, why not write and share a review of it? The Wellcome Trust blog offers advice on how to write a news story from a scientific paper. The Guardian's Blogging Students advise on how to blog.
The Life Scientific
In the Life Scientific on Radio 4, Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work, finding out what inspires and motivates them. It is fascinating to hear how their academic interests were sparked and developed as they studied and how this led them to forge a career in science.
This morning's programme featured Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, Britain's largest medical research funding charity. Farrar reflected on how his undergraduate studies in Medicine at University College London took him away from medical practice and into clinical research:
The degree opened my eyes to the fact that you could dream a little bit beyond facts and you could ask questions and you could design things to try and answer them.
As a result of his experience as a junior doctor treating patients infected with HIV in the early 1980s, Farrar was inspired to take a PhD in immunology. For sixteen years he was Director of Oxford University's Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where he researched the outbreak of SARS and avian influenza in the region.
If you wish to pursue a career in clinical research, like Farrar, there is the possibility of combining your clinical studies with a PhD. You can read about the MB/PhD programme at Cambridge here.
The Wellcome Trust works to make inspiring, high-quality science education available to all young people. It publishes the Big Picture, an online journal exploring the implications of cutting-edge science. Its June issue includes a feature on citizen science and makes suggestions of how to get involved in scientific research yourself over the summer vacation.
BODY WORLDS Vital - the exhibition of real human bodies (Newcastle, 17 May - 2 November)
The Life Science Centre in Newcastle. Credit: Samuel Mann
If you are interested in anatomy, physiology and health, there's a fascinating exhibition of real human bodies, specimens, organs and body slices at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. The exhibits have been preserved through Plastination (which you can learn more about at the exhibition).
If you can get to Newcastle, it's easy to visit as the Life Science Centre is very close to Newcastle train station. You do have to pay for tickets (see ticket prices).
World population day
It was World Population Day this week (11 July). Here are some of the articles published:
Wrexham Science Festival (17 - 25 July, North Wales)
St Giles Church, Wrexham.
Image credit: Alan Myers
Do check the list of public events at the Wrexham Science Festival in North Wales on 17-25 July, and book your tickets if you live close enough!
- Climate Change: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but… what the world’s top climate scientists agree upon
- Black Holes — What are they and why are they so weird?
- Heavy Metal Marine Biology - A Rocking Guide to the Seas
- How well do renewable energy technologies pay back the carbon and energy that is initially invested in them?
Virginia Woolf exhibition (London, 10 July-26 October)
Orlando (1928) is a semi-biographical novel. Credit: crowbot
Virginia Woolf is amongst the most well-known writers of the twentieth century. Do you know what her writing is like?
There is a Virginia Woolf exhibition over the summer (10 July to 26 October) at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It explores Woolf's achievements as a novelist, intellectual, campaigner and public figure.
If you plan to visit the exbibition, you may like to read some of Woolf's work in advance. If you're not sure where to start, here are some suggestions to choose from:
- Novels such as Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), or The Waves (1931)
- Collections of short stories e.g. A Haunted House and Other Short Stories (1944)
What makes a good question in mathematics?
What sorts of questions do you enjoy working on in maths and physics? Read Marianne Freiberger's article on mathematical questions in +plus Magazine.
Here are some questions that +plus Magazine has explored:
...and here are some puzzle questions (and links to solutions):
BBC Radio 3 resources
If you are interested in studying Music, we advise you to get to know as much music as possible, including musical repertoires other than those related to your principal instrument(s). Have you explored the BBC Radio 3 resources? These include:
Cambridge Architecture: exhibition of student work (11-16 July in London)
Preparation in Cambridge for a previous ArcSoc exhibition
ArcSoc, the Cambridge University Architecture Society, invites you to attend its summer show:
- Dates: Friday 11 to Wednesday 16 July 2014
- Location: Testbed 1, 33 Parkgate Road, London, SW11 4NP
- Opening times: 10am-6pm
- Website: ArcSoc
This annual exhibition is entirely planned, built and curated by students. It's a great opportunity to get an insight into the Architecture Department and the work of students from first year to fifth year.
Free public lectures and a day for prospective students are also planned - see the ArcSoc website.
Precision: the Measure of All Things
Big Ben: accurate to one second an hour, but today we can build clocks that loose one second in 138 million years. Credit: Taz Wake
There was an interesting TV documentary last night telling the history of the science of measurement.
Throughout our history, developments in our ability to measure the world around us have changed our lives. In the documentary, Prof. Marcus du Sautoy explores how seconds and metres came to be as two of the most fundamental units of measure, how distance and time are linked, and the quest for ever greater precision in science.
Catch it on BBC iplayer:
Further documentaries in the same series will be on in the next couple of weeks:
One of the challenges of learning a foreign language is that you're constantly learning new vocabulary and grammar, yet you also need to meet words that you've previously learnt regularly enough for them to stick in your mind and become part of your active vocabulary.
Here are some resources that you may find useful and enjoyable:
Reading in your language is an important habit to get into. It is not easy, but the more you do it, the more enjoyable it becomes. Do ask your teacher to recommend texts that you could try at your current language level, and look at magazines / newspapers as well.
There are a range of ways to approach reading, and it's good to vary what you're doing. Sometimes you might read a short passage and look lots of words up, other times you could read to get the gist, and only interrupt yourself to look occasional words up. You may also like to explore parallel texts, as these have the language you're learning on one side and the text in English on the other, which can be very helpful.
In Our Time
A King's supervision in progress
What do we mean when we say that we're looking for students who can think critically and independently?
Listening to Radio 4's In Our Time programme will give you an insight into what Cambridge is looking for in our students, our methods of teaching and learning, and our interviews. Each week, presenter Melvyn Bragg discusses a topic in depth with three academics. You'll notice how in the course of forty-five minutes the guests identify the key questions to be addressed, examine all sides of the debate, frame clear and confident arguments of their own, and engage enthusiastically and flexibly with each other. Much of the teaching and learning at Cambridge happens in similar small group discussions, known as supervisions. In many respects, our interviews model the format of a supervision, so that we admit the students who will benefit most from this style of teaching.
But most importantly, tuning into In Our Time will give you insight into your subject, whatever it may be! The BBC has an archive of 646 programmes and counting, which cover wide-ranging topics in culture, history, philosophy, religion, and science. Last week, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed the philosophy of solitude. This week, they'll discuss the medieval writer and mystic Hildegard of Bingen. Whatever your interests, you'll find a relevant programme. You're just as likely to become fascinated by a topic you'd never heard of or thought about before.
Universities Celebrate the Tour de France in Yorkshire and Cambridge
The Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014 is coming to Britain!
Stage 1: Leeds to Harrogate
The University of Leeds has been counting down to the start of Stage 1 with a timepiece crafted by Engineering students, among other events.
The West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds is showing Maxine Peake's tribute to British cycling champion Beryl Burton from 30 June to 19 July. The theatre is also host to a panel discussion on women in sport on 30 June.
Stage 2: York to Sheffield
The University of York cycled the solar system last weekend in readiness for Stage 2.
Academics from Sheffield Hallam University will lead athletes and commentators in a discussion of the Tour de France's impact on science and techology, health, and economy in its Science of Cycling event on 30 June.
Stage 3: Cambridge to London
The peloton will roll past King's College at the start of Stage 3. The University of Cambridge Museums are marking the occasion. The Polar Museum is holding an exhibition called 'Reinventing the Wheel: Bicyles in the Polar Regions' from 10am to 4pm on 1 - 12 July. The Fitzwilliam is hosting Cambridge Cycle of Songs on the steps of the museum from 11.30 to 12.30 on 7 July. Local school choirs will sing from nine pieces specially commissioned from composers and poets to celebrate iconic locations along the Tour's route in Cambridge.
As the Tour crosses the English Channel again, Britain's celebration of the bicycle continues. The annual Stockton Cycling Festival returns on 11 - 13 July.
Use Your Local Library
King's graduate Zadie Smith (English, 1994-1997) celebrated and defended local libraries in this 2012 essay, explaining that:
"Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay."
At Cambridge, our students have 114 libraries to choose from. You can take a virtual tour of the King's College Library and watch Cambridge students' quest for the perfect desk.
As your exams come to an end and a lovely, long Summer beckons, you'll have more time to read around your subject. If you don't already use your local library, you will find out where it is and what it has to offer here. If your local library doesn't have what you're looking for, you can request an inter-library loan.
Your local university library may be able to help, too. For example, Newcastle University's Sixth Form Access Scheme provides reference facilities for Year 12s and 13s in the North East of England. The University of Reading Library offers similar opportunities to local sixth formers.
Summer Science Exhibition in London (1-6 July)
The Royal Society has an annual display of the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology in the UK, including everything from artifical intelligence and car crash investigation to tropical storms, ultrasonic waves, and immune-bacterial interactions
Do make a note if you live close enough to visit. The dates are 1-6 July this year, and the exhibition will take place at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG (near Charring Cross tube station).
See the exhibition website, which includes details of the events and exhibits.
Fantasy GCSE Set Texts
What set texts did you read for your GCSE English Literature?
In the Guardian this weekend, authors chose the set texts they would like GCSE students to read. Cambridge Classicist Mary Beard took the opportunity to 'bring in the classical world by the back door, via some great works of English literature.' She set William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (1599); Robert Graves, I Claudius (1934); Chrisopher Logue, War Music (1959 - 2011); and Carol Ann Duffy, The World's Wife (1999).
- Which texts would you set GCSE students?
- In making your choice, what is the most important consideration? Introducing students to classic works, or engaging their interests? Representing a range of literary genres and periods, or promoting particular approaches and topics? Capturing the national heritage, or celebrating cultural diversity?
'Eugene' Passes the Turing Test
Sixty-five years ago, King's mathematician and pioneer computer scientist Alan Turing famously asked 'Can Machines Think?' To answer his own question, he conceived a test in which questions would be put to both a human and a machine, in an attempt to distinguish one from another. On Saturday, the Turing Test was passed for the very first time by supercomputer 'Eugene Goostman,' which convinced some of the judges that it was a thirteen year-old boy from Odessa, Ukraine.
- Is 'Eugene' really thinking?
- What are the limits to artificial intelligence?
Find out more about the successful Turing Test 2014, organised by the University of Reading and hosted by the Royal Society.
Talk to 'Eugene' yourself (you may have difficulty accessing this site due to the extent of public interest at the moment!)
Read more about the sixty-five year history of the Turing Test in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Universities Week: 9 - 15 June 2014
Elvet Bridge on the River Wear, Durham. Credit: Tim Rawle
Next week is Universities Week! From Monday 9 to Sunday 15 June, universities across the UK are inviting us to be inspired, get involved and discover the work that they are doing to improve the way we live our lives.
As part of Universities Week 2014, you can...
- Dive into Durham. Find out about the amazing discoveries made by Gary Bankhead, underwater archaeologist at the University of Durham, in the River Wear. The exhibition opens at Palace Green Library, Durham, on Saturday 7 June
- Try to tell a human from a machine at Turing 2014. King's mathematician Alan Turing famously asked 'Can machines think?' The University of Reading is conducting live Turing tests - pitting man against machine - at the Royal Society in London on Saturday 7 June
- View the Cleveland College of Art and Design's Degree Exhibition 2014. The students' work will be showcased to the public at Church Square, Hartlepool from Friday 6 to Saturday 14 June
Find an event near you.
Vice Chancellor celebrates Britain's 'living languages'
Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, yesterday made a persuasive case for learning languages. He was speaking from personal experience; as the Welsh-born son of Polish refugees, he spoke Polish at home and learned English when he began school at the age of five. He has found that bilingualism is an asset, both to the individual and to the nation:
These are real languages: living languages that give people a huge insight into culture and give the children who can speak them additional opportunities.
'I'd love to see more children in Britain having more than one language,' he concluded.
Cambridge offers opportunities to learn and use languages in its Modern and Medieval Languages, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics, and Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic courses.
Whether or not you study a language as part of your degree, you can always take a language course alongside your undergraduate studies. The MML Certificate and Diploma is available, both for students starting new languages, or those continuing a language they studied at school. There are also a range of Language Centre Courses, as well as opportunities to study a language independently using the Language Centre's resources. The Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Department provides free classes in Modern Icelandic and Irish. There are also more informal opportunities to learn and speak a foreign language. Student societies organise conversation meetings, such as the CU German Society's Stammtisch where society members meet in the pub to socialise in German.