Sciences

Summer Reading (and Writing)

Pile of booksCredit: Pam loves pie

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.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 15 July 2014

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The Life Scientific

Julia Lohmann, Co-Existence (2009). An art work made of petri dishes commissioned and exhibited by the Wellcome Trust. Credit: gwire

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.

 

Date posted: 

Tuesday 15 July 2014

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BODY WORLDS Vital - the exhibition of real human bodies (Newcastle, 17 May - 2 November)

Life Science Centre

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).

Date posted: 

Sunday 13 July 2014

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Wrexham Science Festival (17 - 25 July, North Wales)

St Giles Church, Wrexham

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!

Talks include:

  • 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?
     

Date posted: 

Thursday 10 July 2014

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Engineering - how to prepare for an application

A bulk superconductor

A bulk superconductor over a magnet

King's Electrical Engineer, Mark Ainslie, is looking at how superconductors can make electric motors work better, and is part of a team that has just broken the world record for the strongest trapped magnetic field in a bulk high-temperature superconductor:

Listen to Mark Ainslie giving advice about how to prepare for your application to study Engineering, and what to expect in your interviews.

 

Finally, do read about the maths and physics that you need to make a competitive application.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 9 July 2014

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What makes a good question in mathematics?

Question marks

Credit: Roland O'Daniel

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):

Date posted: 

Thursday 3 July 2014

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James Dyson Foundation Challenge: Geodesic Domes

Geodesic dome

Biosphere in Montreal. Credit: Nic Redhead (cropped)

Do you know what a geodesic dome is? It is a structure named in 1949 by an American Engineer called Richard Burkminster Fuller. Amongst the interesting features of geodesic domes is their structural strength and that they are relatively easy to construct.

To build your own geodesic dome out of jelly sweets and cocktail sticks and explore the structure, see this challenge designed by Neil, an electronics engineer at Dyson. Can you describe in as much detail as possible why the geodesic dome is a strong structure?

Date posted: 

Saturday 28 June 2014

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Precision: the Measure of All Things

Big Ben

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:

Date posted: 

Thursday 26 June 2014

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Medicine essay competition (Year 12)

Laptop and notebook

'I have three supervisions every two weeks, requiring me to write an essay for each.' Shedeh (Medicine).
Photo credit: rhodesj

Are you interested in studying Medicine? As well as needing a strong grounding in your sciences/maths subjects (which is likely to need most of your focus), it's worth remembering that the course requires you to write regular short essays for supervisions. Robinson College is holding an essay competition for prospective Medicine students. The deadline for entries is 1 August 2014, and you can choose between three essay titles.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 25 June 2014

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Tails You Win: The Science of Chance

There is another opportunity to watch David Spiegelhalter's Tails You Win: The Science of Chance documentary on the BBC iPlayer. David Spiegelhalter is "Professor Risk," or more properly Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. He shows us how to use (or how not to use!) statistics to understand the risks we face in everyday life.

Read more of David Spiegelhalter's work on his Understanding Uncertainty website and in the archive of his columns for Plus magazine.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 18 June 2014

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