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Young Oxfordshire Scientists Celebrate under the T-rex

Thursday 18th October 2018

There’s nothing like taking a step back from our busy schedule of school outreach visits, work placements and careers day to enjoy an evening of celebration. The Young Scientists of The Year (YSOY) is one such opportunity – our annual evening of canapés, rapturous applause and inspirational speakers that celebrates some of the county’s best young biologists, chemists and physicists.

And so it was, earlier this week, we found ourselves amongst dinosaurs, dodos and the odd yellow orb spider at the University of Oxford’s Museum of Natural History (OUMNH) for the 2018 Oxfordshire Young Scientists event. YSOY is all about saying a big ‘well done’ to year 13 students from schools across the county who have gone the extra mile in the name of science, whether that’s through amazing exam results, progress made during the their course or in recognition of their enthusiasm and commitment towards their chosen subject. Teachers can nominate up to three of their exceptional students, and the criteria used to select them left up to each school.

This year, twenty-two secondary schools nominated students and 67 students gathered under the gaze of the T-rex and Iguanodon with their very proud teachers and parents to enjoy the special drinks reception at OUMNH.

An important element of the YSOY celebration is for the students to meet and listen to career scientists talk about their journeys beyond A-level science – how did they get to where they are now? And it turns out that those journeys can take unexpected turns. We heard from Dr Phillip Fowler, who did a degree in physics, then went in to banking before pursuing a PhD in Chemistry and now works on antibiotic resistance at the John Radcliffe Hospital. In his spare time, Phillip runs BashTheBug, a Citizen Science project focused on tuberculosis.

We also heard from apprentice Emma Hancock. Emma talked about her brave decision to skip the university experience (and debt) in favour of a salary and an apprenticeship. She has been working in the technology industry for three years and is currently completing a BSc in digital and technology solutions. Rather than having a student loan and crippling overdraft, she has a car and is saving for her first house.

Host Bridget Holligan, our director of Education & Engagement, was master of ceremonies for the evening and led the applause as all the student’s names were read out and they collected their certificates. We also got the chance to read just some of the teacher’s generous dedications to their students:

“She is an exceptional biologist who has demonstrated a genuine passion and curiosity about the natural world. She has dedicated herself to pursuing opportunities to extend her understanding of biology and experience biology beyond the classroom.”


“He is a rare find, a student that is not only innately brilliant but also one who is prepared to work hard at anything they find challenging. He listens so intently as if he is trying to ensure he understands literally every little aspect of an explanation. He seem to have a true desire to understand the world around him NOT just get an A Level!”

It was real privilege to watch in awe at these amazing young people, who have embraced science in all its guises and are thriving. We wish them all the best for the career path that they choose. And best of all, we get to do it all again in November, when we celebrate the Buckinghamshire Young Scientists of 2018.

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