On Thursday, 26 June an awards ceremony was held in London to celebrate the achievements of students for their impressive results in the 2014 Biology Challenge. The competition, run by the Society of Biology, consists of online multiple choice questions which test pupils’ knowledge of biology and stimulate their enthusiasm for the natural world.
One of the Top Biology Challenge winners was Cheltenham College pupil Alexander Thorpe (4th, BH). In total, 32,500 students from across the UK competed with Alexander finishing in the top 40.
According to Alexander "Competitions such as the Biology Challenge are not so much about what is studied in lessons, but about the context of certain topics on a far broader spectrum, from wildlife, disease and physiology. It is not possible to know everything in the paper but it is the practical application of knowledge, gleaned from teaching and gleaned for knowledge’s sake, that makes such competitions both educational and rewarding".
The ceremony’s guest speaker was Professor Alice Roberts who gave a fascinating lecture on how our development as an embryo echoes earlier stages of evolution, harking back to very ancient ancestors.
"Biology is one of the most relevant subjects to today’s school curriculum", says Isabella Mech "our students are going to have to cope with global problems such as climate change and providing food for an ever-growing population. Ethical issues such as the use of stem cells for research will also need debating. Biology provides our students with the tools necessary to deal with these issues. Competitions such as the Biology Challenge inspire students to read beyond the confines of the curriculum and stimulate lateral thinking, a vital characteristic required for the scientists of tomorrow."
The Biology Challenge is a junior version of the British Biology Olympiad and is organised by the Society of Biology's UK Biology Competitions Special Interest Group. Both competitions are made possible through the dedication of volunteers and are supported by funding from the Biotechnology and Biological and Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
After the ceremony Alexander commented: "The lecture was particularly enjoyable to me as it gave a real insight into existence and how fascinating the process of conception is as well as the profound significance of evolution and how our understanding of these has changed and improved over time. This was followed by some short presentations and then the prize giving."
Our congratulations to Alexander on this impressive achievement.