The Chemistry Team recently arranged for twenty-five A Level students to have a brief respite from their studies to enjoy hearing from a suite of five chemists in London. The talks benefited from being unconstrained by the confines of the A Level specification, enabling the speakers to talk freely about their work which really was at the cutting edge of their specialisms.

The speakers inspired and struck awe, illuminating Chemistry’s place at the heart of the solutions to the problems of the modern world: tackling air pollution, pursuing safer, cheaper and longer-lasting batteries and harnessing the power of nanotechnology to name but a few. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, sadly, as masterfully underscored by Prof. Andrea Sella, exploring ‘chemists’ dirty secret’ – nerve agents. In my opinion, his example of Fritz Haber illustrated most potently the duality of Chemistry’s impact on the world. The Haber-Bosch process to produce ammonia industrially will be familiar to both GCSE and A Level chemists as revolutionising agriculture, saving billions from starvation and acting as the detonator of the ‘human population explosion’. But Fritz Haber also ordered the use of chlorine gas in The First World War, killing around 6,000 in a single battle. His wife, herself a scientist, was so horrified by this perversion of scientific ideals that she shot herself with Haber’s own service revolver. Undeterred even by this, he then led the development of the cyanide-based pesticide Zyklon B used by the Nazis to murder some 1.1 million Jews, which included children of Haber’s own sisters and cousins.

Edward Newhams, Year 12

A Level physics students had the wonderful opportunity to embark on a fascinating journey into the world of physics with the aid of the ‘A Level Science Live: Physics’ event. In this, we were given short lectures by many professionals, ranging from the quantum level to the Big Bang.

My personal favourite was by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili who gave an intriguing talk about his research into quantum mechanics and how this relates to nature. Overall, the day was fantastic and thoroughly enriched our Physics knowledge as well as our passion for the subject.

Arran Dhanda, Year 12

A handful of very lucky A Level Biology students visited the Emmanuel Centre in the heart of London to see Biology Live: a professional lecture-style event, which was an opportunity for students to delve into a breadth of fascinating topics that extend beyond the scope of the specification.

These ranged from the role of genetics in weight, to the advancement of cancer treatment, to the rise of antibiotic resistance. All the speakers were thoroughly engaging, tapping into the curious souls of Challoner’s students and exploring these concepts to a depth that even we were satiated! My personal favourite moment from the day was when Prof. Steve Jones - the Prof. of Human Genetics at UCL - joked that he, as an 80-year-old, was now more dangerous than he was a decade ago pointing to a graph showing murders committed by age group during his explanation of the effect of hormones on human behaviour!

A particularly thought-provoking moment was provided by Prof. Giles Yeo, who questioned if obesity really was a choice. His answer fascinated me as he demonstrated the results of his research into how our genetics predispose us to weight-related diseases. To those of you who would like to further look into this topic, I propose listening to his podcast “Dr Giles Yeo Chews the Fat”; I’m certain you will find him as entertaining as I did.

Prajesh Adapa, Year 12