Shrewsbury School

Lower Sixth Darwin Presidents present Science Lectures

Friday 14 May 2021

Four of our Lower Sixth Darwin Presidents gave talks on various topics to the Fourth Form in an evening as enjoyable as it was informative.

The Darwin Presidents are a select group of students in the Sixth form who assist in the promotion of Science subjects in multiple ways throughout their tenure. This year, among other behind-the-scenes ventures, this group have been instrumental in producing the inaugural STEM Magazine and, on Friday 7th May, presented short talks on Science to an audience of more than 50 Fourth Form students and teachers.

Kicking off the evening by posing the question ‘Is Laughter the Best Medicine?’, Marco C (O, LVI) had the audience laughing from the off before delving into research by Norman Cousins, who promoted laughter’s miraculous pain-relieving effects, and the biochemical reasons behind this.

Annie F (M, LVI) gave her talk on neuroscience and clinical depression, which was particularly fitting at the end of Mental Health Awareness Week in School. She spoke with clarity and compassion on a sensitive subject, bringing in research into both behavioural and physical symptoms, with explanations provided in terms of the hippocampus and other brain regions’ functions.

A discussion of the wide range of ‘Nature’s Economists’ was provided by Ellie L (M, LVI) in her exploration of research into Symbiotic Relationships. From coral and algae to forest-wide networks of trees and fungus mycorrhiza, Ellie delivered a well-structured whistle-stop tour of the processes and theories behind these inter-species dependencies. Ellie ended with a stark warning on the interdependency of lots of ecosystems and the far-reaching effects of climate change.

Finally, Ella H (MSG, LVI) delivered her talk on the research into why Thalidomide causes the life-changing birth defects seen in the later 1950s, with some new theories added to the literature on the topic as recently as 2018. The talk ended on a happy note as she focused on the advances in medical ethics and stringent drug-testing procedures that stemmed from the consequences of thalidomide use.

All the talks were delivered with incredible professionalism, yet each speaker demonstrated their own ‘style’. It is hoped that the experience will have helped to prepare these talented Sixth Form scientists for future public-speaking and research projects over their further studies and careers, and also inspire the top Fourth Form scientists to engage in similar academic challenge in the future.

Very well done to Marco, Ellie, Annie and Ella! If other students wish to view these talks, they may be made available via eStream; please contact Mr Wray for the links.


Mr David Wray

Head of Science Outreach

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