With Biology Week 2019 being this week, it was appropriate to reflect on my experiences with the Royal Society of Biology. My biological sketch 'The swarm raiding ant army' was highly commended for its entry into the Nancy Rothwell prize, featuring on the RSB's website.

The swarm raiding ant army

The RSB’s annual awards ceremony took place on 28 June, at a swish venue in central London.

47,000 students entered this year’s Biology Challenge, taking online tests at schools around the country. Of those, approximately a couple of thousand won gold medals. Finally, only a Gideon’s Army were permitted to attend the ceremony at Savoy Place, randomly selected by ballot. I was fortunate enough to secure a place.

The event was very well organised, entertaining and a great experience. Starting with tea and cakes, we had a speech from the RSB, the Teacher of the Year Award, the Keynote speech, awards for the RSB Challenge, plus more advanced competitions for senior students; all followed by refreshments. Students from all over the country filed into the front rows of the auditorium - some even journeyed from Northern Ireland and Scotland to be there!

Listening to the opening speech, I was impressed by how actively the RSB promote Biology in schools. Successful entrants for the British Biology Internationals represented Great Britain in Iran in 2018 which sounded like an amazing experience! I myself, am looking forward to entering the Intermediate Biology Olympiad.

The Keynote speech, ‘the Science of Laughter’, was given by Professor Sophie Scott. She was very engaging and a great communicator. Her novel field of research blurs the boundaries between Psychology, Biology and Anthropology. The speech itself gave an easily understandable explanation about how and why we laugh. She said that although Darwin spoke about humour as much as fear, we have spent a lot more time and energy analysing ‘fight or flight’ responses.

Around 100 students went up on stage to collect their certificates. Each of us received congratulations from two RSB Fellows, shook hands with Professor Scott and had our photos taken. We felt honoured!

It was a very rewarding experience to take part in the Biology Challenge, to hear about the RSB’s work and to learn something of Professor Scott’s research into laughter. Many thanks to the DCGS Biology team for entering the school and allowing us to participate.