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Last week, Highgate hosted its annual STEM conference for over one hundred Y12 pupils, in collaboration with our partner school London Academy of Excellence, Tottenham, and welcoming participants from three more local state schools.

The day encompassed a range of seminars and keynote speeches catering to all pupil’s interests across the STEM spectrum, including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science, Engineering and Maths. This year’s seminar topics included The Science of Smell, Astrophysical Black Holes, Race and Ancestry, Being a Scientist in Intellectual Property, The Psychology of Decision Making and The Power of Air, among others.

Stuart Hindle, Physics Teacher and part of the team coordinating this event, explained: “Pupils are encouraged to challenge their boundaries and try something new. They are exposed to ideas that they wouldn’t have come across before, which hopefully inspires a newfound interest, as well as helping them make more informed decisions on their future path in STEM.”

The keynote speakers for the event included Michael de Podesta, a distinguished physicist who is renowned for his pioneering work in measurement science at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), who spoke about the need for practical action to address climate change and the energy transition. With an exciting talk based around the principles of heat pumps, he explained that massive reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are possible right now, without the need for any new inventions or discoveries, and without the need for degradation of our quality of life.

Biochemist and multi-award winning author Nick Lane, who has earned widespread recognition in his field, particularly on his insights into the origins and inner workings of life, and is described by Microsoft Founder Bill Gates as one of his favourite science writers. Nick talked about how anaesthetics gives an unexpected clue into the neuroscience behind feelings and also showed pupils that science research can be highly multidisciplinary, requiring experts from across a range of science specialisms, for example working with quantum physicists as well as biologists, medics and chemists.

“It is useful for pupils to understand that the lines drawn by A Level science (biology, chemistry, physics) are not true representations of the research side of science,” Stuart explains. “To make progress in answering some of the biggest questions in science at the moment, scientists from across many highly specialised fields will need to work collaboratively”.