Sixth form scientists hit the heights

Sixth Form pupils from Solihull School tapped into the latest advances in scientific and technological research on a knowledge-boosting visit to Chicago.

The 17 A-Level students attended lectures and symposia led by world-leading practitioners at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The boys and girls were able to choose subjects that suited their courses and wider interests, and discussed what they had learned with each other at the end of each day. More than 150 sessions were delivered under the theme of ‘Meeting Global Challenges: Discovery and Innovation’ on subjects that included the energy challenge and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

The roster of speakers included a former US Secretary of State, two Nobel Prize winners and the actor and science advocate Alan Alda, who spoke about science communication. The week-long enrichment exercise, led by Head of Science Andrew Jones and Physics teacher Betty Ford, also included a tour of Chicago with museum visits and night time views of the city from the 108-storey Willis Tower.

The group also visited FermiLab, a national laboratory specialising in high-energy particle physics, where they were given a tour and took part in a question and answer session with a theoretical physicist. Betty Ford said: “The AAAS Conference provided a fantastic opportunity for our students to see the real life contexts of what they have learned in lessons. It also gave them a valuable insight into what it is like to study science at a higher level or to pursue a career in science.”

Solihull School’s Sixth Form scientists have been attending the AAAS Conference, which is held each year in a different city, continuously since 2008. This was their second visit to Chicago, having also been to Boston, Vancouver, San Diego and Washington DC.