Science Week

23 March 2022

Science Week Collage

Growth was the theme of this year’s British Science Week and here at Canons we had a plethora of lectures, activities and interactive sessions to celebrate all things Science. Below Medical Society and Pure Sciences Society write about all the activities organised over the week.

MedSoc were delighted to host a range of vibrant activities relating to the theme of ‘Growth’ for this year’s Science Week. On Tuesday, Middle School Science Club enjoyed a Vaccine Hunt, organised by Dr Silverman. The students matched different vaccines with their respective diseases, hidden around the school.

On Wednesday, Medical Ethics discussion group discussed whether it was ethical to use data that has been sourced unethically in science and healthcare. This was held in the form of a carousel with different cases at each station, such as the smallpox vaccine.

Meanwhile, Young Medics club did a cauliflower experiment to demonstrate cloning, before exploring the science behind Dolly the Sheep. This was a great opportunity for budding Middle School scientists to explore a topic beyond their current curriculum!

Middle School Science Discussion Group

This week we had fun discussing the mysterious title “Drugs, Chemistry and Mirror Images”. As hard as it is trying to understand chirality (even in year 12!), the middle schoolers seemed to take it in their stride, being interested in visualising different compounds and how they would look when rotated. After covering the significance of chirality due to how specific drugs have to be and how side effects come about, we went on to have a discussion regarding any fears to do with chiral compounds. Having talked about the case of Thalidomide, the discussion had an interesting balance of points which not only argued that all science has an element of uncertainty, but also that cases like these provide more reason for clinical trials. Overall, it was a learning experience for everyone!

Upper School Chemistry Club

This week Dr Browning led a fascinating session on the theme of ‘Growth in the Context of Chemical Reactions’. We discussed the importance of certain organic compounds, such as glucose, in human growth and conducted and learned much from various fun experiments. For example, we explored the changes in the mass of a piece of steel wool after connecting it to a power bank and how we can dissolve large amounts of polystyrene in a small volume of acetone.

Science Café

This week’s talk was given by Dr Gowsihan Poologasundarampillai and, fitting in with the theme of “Growth”, was focused on the topic of regenerative medicine including the synthesis of artificial tissues and organs! This fascinating interactive talk not only discussed both the benefits and limitations of organ transplantations but also introduced concepts such as the development of techniques combining both organic and inorganic materials in order to produce more stable structures, as part of “sol-gel” chemistry. In addition to this we were shown some of the various compounds and pieces of equipment used in the research of bio-inks and hydrogels – we’re sure everyone left the talk a lot more interested in biomaterials!

Senior Societies

At Pure Science Society’s Senior Society this week, we were delighted to welcome Dr Zerrin Atakan, who gave a talk focussed on the effect of cannabis on teenagers’ brains. Dr Atakan is a consultant psychiatrist and an honorary senior lecturer and senior researcher at the Neuroimaging Section of the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London. In her captivating talk, we learnt about the strongly contrasting effects of the two main chemical compounds in cannabis, THC and CBS and their effect on a number of body systems. It was eye-opening to hear about the effect of cannabis on synaptic pruning, the elimination of synapses, during the teenage years, and how this may change how cells communicate and how the endocannabinoid system in general, functions. It was also intriguing to hear and learn more about the nervous system, a topic covered recently in the classroom.

Middle School Science Club

In this week’s session, we explored how experimental design can be developed and how multi-coloured ion migration can occur through conducting an electrolysis experiment. It was extremely interesting to observe how as a result of the electrolysis of copper (II) chromate (VI), we could see two bands of colour, with blue copper cations and yellow chromate anions, and thus the clear movement of ions towards the electrodes. It was very satisfying to see the results we hypothesized come to life in front of us!

Space and Astronomy Club

This week astronomy club had a mind-blowing discussion about the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang, even using a balloon to demonstrate! There was the opportunity to shed a little light on the topic of dark matter, including how it could influence the expansion rate to increase!

We discussed the growth and expansion of the universe from the Big Bang right up until today, including about why expansion is accelerating today, dark matter and modelling universal growth with balloons. The most intriguing fact of the session was just like balloons, one day far in the future the universe will pop, but that is a mystery to be solved in eons.

Nicholson Lecture

Mr Reeve rounded off a wonderful Science Week with a Nicholson lecture on a subject he is passionate about – blue whales.

The lecture entitled “The Blue Whale, the past, the present and the future of the largest animal that has ever lived”, was very well attended by both students and staff, interested to find out more about the largest creature ever to have lived on our planet.

Mr Reeve shared stunning videos and photos from his own trip to Iceland that first piqued his interest in whales. He revealed all sorts of fascinating facts and figures about blue whales, such as how much they weigh (the equivalent of 36 African elephants) and how many calories they consume (450,000 in one mouthful of krill), as well as explaining how such amazing animals evolved over 54 million years.

The lecture also examined how human commercial activity, climate change and excessive hunting of whales (banned since 1966) have contributed to a massive reduction in blue whale populations worldwide, but there was a hopeful note at the end with the revelation that numbers now seem to be slowly climbing again, which may move blue whales from the ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable’ category in a few more years.