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Matthew Burns

LOWER SIXTH SCIENTISTS WELCOME PROF. CHRIS GREENWELL AND IZA WALCZAK

Lower Sixth scientists at Sedbergh School gave a warm welcome to Prof. Chris Greenwell and Iza Walczak from the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University. Chris has been admissions director for the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham for the last three years, and gave two presentations to pupils.

Matt McVoy, Sixth Form Coordinator, said: “The first presentation, to the whole year, covered admissions at selecting Universities, such as Durham, demystifying the admissions process and giving insight into the process from an admissions tutor’s viewpoint.

This presentation, which was well attended and avidly followed, covered choosing universities and courses, and what admission tutors look for in UCAS forms, including personal statements.

The second presentation, to a smaller group of the lower sixth, highlighted the opportunities and career choices available to those interested in studying Earth Sciences, as well as giving an overview of the courses at Durham University and what students could expect to study.

Pupils found the presentations very useful and Professor Chris Greenwell said: “The presentations were followed by a laboratory based session, though very much student led, illustrating the kind of research based teaching practiced at Durham, where the students were firstly presented with information about the topical subject of ocean acidification through an entertaining short film, and then required to design experiments to test the claims made in the film.

Our intention was for the experience to give the students insight into the scientific process, covering experimental design, reproducibility, the interpretation of data and evaluating hypotheses against data.  

The students had the opportunity to design an Earth-ocean-atmosphere simulator (also known as a Soda Stream!), used dry ice to change the pH of water and understand the effects of water pH on the surprising complex chemistry of dissolved carbon dioxide. 

At the end of the session, it became apparent that the students, though confronted with very complex natural processes, had, with only occasional steering, reduced these problems to simple tests to identify the main underlying chemical and physical processes at work in global acidification and observed at first-hand how these experiments could be represented through equations to understand and model the interactions in the ocean/atmosphere system.  The pupils were very keen and picked up the concept and rationale of the session very quickly.”

Lower Sixth pupil Oliver Cowen (H), said: “Before the visit from Prof Greenwell I was thinking of applying to universities such as Durham, Cambridge and St. Andrews for courses such as Natural sciences or Chemical Engineering. However, the talk made me realise that the more physical and practical side of chemistry is more applicable and important to society today as it combats actual issues we face in our society. Hence, I am more interested now in applying for a course in geochemistry or pharmacology as these have more practical applications in life.”

However, the talk made me realise that the more physical and practical side of chemistry is more applicable and important to society today as it combats actual issues we face in our society. Hence, I am more interested now in applying for a course in geochemistry or pharmacology as these have more practical applications in life.”

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