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British Science Week: Celebrating Science at Christ Church

Written by Eleanor Sanger, posted on Friday, March 15, 2019

A scientist in the labIt's British Science Week! Running from 8th -17th March, it's a celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths. So what better time to also celebrate science at Christ Church!

There are a wide range of courses on offer at Christ Church that feature science, such as Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Experimental Psychology, Mathematics, Medicine, and Physics – many of which can be studied in combination with other subjects. You can find out more about studying all of these subjects at Christ Church on our course pages.

Looking back, we’ve had some pretty impressive former students in the sciences. There was Robert Hooke (1635-1703), who made important contributions to fields such as mechanics and astronomy, and particularly microscopy, with his work Micrographia being published in 1665. Many of his inventions are still in use today! Read more on this page about a previous exhibition in the Library.

At one point Christ Church was also a temporary home to Albert Einstein! He stayed in Oxford for three short periods between May 1931 and June 1933, and was housed in Christ Church. You can see the blackboard he used whilst lecturing here in the History of Science Museum in Oxford. He was offered a research studentship here, accepting the appointment on 29th October 1931. After 1933 he could not return to the college, so he proposed that his stipend be used to fund posts for Jewish academics dismissed from German universities by the Nazis.

Coming back to the present, and our current research staff and students are achieving some pretty impressive things too! You can look back at news articles featuring achievements in research and academia on our website, and we recently turned the spotlight onto our brilliant women in science as part of features on International Women’s Day and the International Day of Women and Girls in Science – you can find out more about these amazing women on our blog. There’s also some fascinating work on space being carried out by Christ Church academics – read more about research into galaxies, asteroids and black holes in our post celebrating Star Wars day last year!

Sir Tim Berners-LeeMarch 12th marked the birthday of the World Wide Web! Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web 30 years ago, and we’re delighted that he’s currently a Research Student (Research Fellow) here at Christ Church, alongside being a Professor in the Department of Computer Science! Find out more about his research in Oxford in this article from when his position at Christ Church was announced. In 2017 we also admitted our first undergraduates in Computer Science and Mathematics & Computer Science, and we’re glad to see the field of Computer Science start to develop further at Christ Church.

Last year saw plenty of successes for our students as well. In Chemistry, one of our students was awarded a Turbutt Prize for 2nd year Practical Organic Chemistry, whilst a final-year student was awarded the fortieth Brian Bannister Prize in Organic Chemistry for his performance in the Part II examination and the first prize in a set of awards instituted by GlaxoSmithKline for the highest ranked Oxford graduates who continue into postgraduate research in Organic Chemistry at Oxford. Two students finished in the university top ten, while another came first in the year!

Valentina Gifford being awarded her poster prizeIn Medicine, one of our biomedical graduate students won the Gotch Memorial Prize in Physiology, and back in September Dr Michael Kohl and Professor Stephanie Cragg organised a medical sciences study retreat to Italy for medical undergraduates and graduates! One of our graduate students, Valentina Gifford (pictured right, holding her certificate, with Professor Afsie Sabokbar), was also awarded first prize for the best poster at the Medical Science Division DPhil Day in Oxford! Her poster, entitled 'Intracellular trafficking of the invasion promoting cell surface proteinase MT1-MMP', covered research she's carrying out as part of her DPhil project, which relates to the progression of different diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.

Of 12 science courses with students taking their final exams last year, 7 saw at least half of their students achieve firsts! There were particularly high proportions of firsts in Chemistry, Maths and Maths and Statistics, and one of our Maths students who switched to a Masters in Maths and Physics for his final year gained a distinction! But whatever the grade, gaining an Oxford degree is a brilliant achievement, and we’re very proud of all of our finalists for their successes both in their final exams and throughout their degrees.

Science at Christ Church is a vibrant and exciting field, thanks to our inspirational academic staff, fascinating discoveries made both recently and further back, and the students here today who make their own valuable contributions to the field. Who knows what today’s Christ Church scientists might go on to discover?