I am delighted to share the following news story with you! One of our Lower Sixth students, Selena, has been selected to join the UK team for the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) in Thailand in November 2017 – and will be the only female team member.
Alongside two of her peers, Selena was entered into the AS British Physics Olympiad in March by the school’s Physics department. All three students performed well, with Selena achieving an extraordinary score of 30/50, which puts her in the top 4.6 percent nationally from entrants numbering in the thousands. The quality of Selena’s answers was such that she was one of only 12 students nationally to be invited to the British Astro Physics camp, which took place at the University of Oxford in early April.
A prestigious event running over four days, the purpose of the British Astro Physics camp was for attendees to meet other students, to experience problem-solving scenarios across a range of topics, and for the university to select a team of five to represent the UK at the IOAA.
Selena said: “I was unsure about participating in the Olympiad as I wasn’t planning to read Physics at university, but I discovered the link to Astronomy and that there would be an opportunity to attend the British Astro Physics camp, and that is what piqued my interest – I am fascinated by Astronomy. Our Physics teacher helped us to prepare for the Olympiad in weekly training sessions, but I had no idea that I would do so well. The camp was very interesting; we solved problems and learnt about topics such as spherical trigonometry to do with the earth and air travel. My favourite part of the camp was meeting and spending time with other like-minded young people, sharing my passion for Astronomy with others, and challenging and inspiring each other – and I’m so looking forward to being challenged more and working with the team as we prepare for the IOAA!”
Robin Hughes, Chairman, British Physics Olympiad, said: “Selena is very strong, has the interest and we believe will develop the knowledge and skills to cope with the International competition. We have about seven months to prepare and quite a lot to do.”
The commitment required by the team of students, in addition to individual preparation done remotely throughout the period, includes: attending a five day training camp at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, in early July; attending another five day training camp, observing at the Marlborough College Blackett Observatory and training at the University of Oxford, in late August; and attending the IOAA itself in Thailand from 12 to 21 November.
Robin Hughes continued: “We have never had more than one girl on the IOAA team. We just do not get enough girls taking part in the earlier stages to get this far. If they do get through then they are fine... It is a real problem and very hard for us to dig down to get girls engaged early, after which they might hang on.”
Charlotte Avery, our Headmistress and President, Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) said: “Of the 12 students invited to participate in the initial British Astro Physics camp in Oxford, Selena was one of only two females and from there Selena progressed to earn her place on the team representing the UK at the prestigious IOAA in Thailand. We are especially thrilled, not only because one of our students has made such a phenomenal personal achievement, but also because Selena’s accomplishment showcases what we have always said to be true: that our girls can excel in those subjects and disciplines traditionally dominated by boys, when they are given the opportunity to learn in an environment free from gender stereotypes, and encouraged by their subject teachers to take on challenges such as this. As both Headmistress and GSA President I am investing in opportunities to encourage girls to consider Physics at all ages, by co-ordinating with the charity Physics Partners, and with the Institute of Physics, to promote the teaching of Physics to young women. Selena’s achievement is most exciting – well done to Selena.”