‘Don’t plan too much’, advised the world’s leading Malaria research scientist Professor Janet Hemingway CBE, talking to Sedbergh School pupils in the School Library on Friday evening. Her lecture, ‘Mosquitoes, Malaria and Me’ was intended for Lower Sixth but all senior Biology pupils were invited.

Professor Hemingway featured on BBC Radio 4 The Life Scientific last year and this interview prompted an invitation to the School. As well as directing the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, she works closely with the Bill Gates Foundation. Though she does not anticipate seeing an end in sight during her lifetime, she predicts that this generation of pupils will see the end of Malaria.

She said: “It is always gratifying to come face to face with those young people who will become the next generation of scientists and researchers, especially if I can play my part in encouraging them to follow their dreams.

There is a lot to be done, particularly in the field of vector biology, and there are numerous challenges to be faced and overcome. Those young people deciding to study biological sciences will find themselves in an increasingly international environment, working with likeminded individuals around the world on some of the world’s most significant health interventions.

“My interest in biology from an early age set me on a path to become an entomologist, and judging by the many insightful questions I faced during my evening at Sedbergh, I am delighted to report that many of the students I met share a passion that will help them fulfil their academic dreams.”

Head of Biology, Dr Alisdair McMeechan, said: “Pupils attend a programme of lectures covering a wide range of disciplines and we are enormously grateful to Professor Hemingway for sharing her expertise and enthusiasm. A large number of our pupils pursue careers in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Therefore an understanding of current research underpins work in the classroom and is vital for examination success. The Burke and Hare Club is a pupil-led society, which provides a forum to deliver talks and lead demonstrations to their peers. In advance of Professor Hemingway’s lecture, senior pupil Laura Batty delivered an overview of Malaria, which set the foundation for her fascinating insight into this highly complex disease.”

Upper Sixth pupil Grace Shaw (R), from UAE, said: “I am so inspired by the initiative Janet Hemingway took at such a young age. As an undergraduate she sought opportunities to study on programs that weren’t designed her for her level – she branched out, she made contacts, made her own way.

Professor Hemingway encouraged us not to look at our careers with a narrow view but to always look at what we are already doing and see how that fits into the wider perspective and the long term. She said we need to be determined and we must implement ideas when we have them, and be involved in carrying them out till the end.

Professor Hemingway’s aim is to save lives, and it was interesting to hear how the business aspect can get in the way – Malaria is money-making business for so many people.”

Will Player, Yr 11 (SH), from Derbyshire, said: “The lecture inspired me because it was an eye-opener to the severity of Malaria across the world. What surprised me the most was the fact that even though millions are being pumped into the insecticide industry, the problem still persists. I hope other people attending got as much out of it as I did. I am hoping to study Biology, Music and Politics in the Sixth Form.”

Kate Russell, Year 11 (R), from Skipton, said: “I was really inspired, especially how she did A Level Chemistry without doing O Level Chemistry because ‘that’s not what girls did’. I hope to become a Doctor and so I was very interested in what Professor Hemingway had to say, and her lecture has inspired me to look into organising some fundraising for Malaria charities next year.”

For more information on the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine or the Bill Gates Foundation, please visit these links below:

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