BIOLOGY: How students are stretching their minds

Students in our thriving biology society have been enjoying talks and debates on a wide range of topics, from anxiety, sleep and memory to the world of retroviruses and how worms could help solve the mysteries of ageing. Head of biology JON LINKLATER explains how the society has given students a richer appreciation of their subject

AMONG the highlights of my year has been the expansion and growing success of the RGS Biology Society, with numerous speakers giving talks on a vast array of topics. Students meet every Friday to listen, discuss and debate themes from across the biological world.

This year’s topics have included the world of retroviruses, the evolution of anxiety, the effects of cortisol, how Alzheimer’s develops, how to train your memory, optical illusions and the brain, why we sleep, genetic conflict and faecal matter of the animal kingdom, to mention just a few.

Invited speaker, Dr Dave Weinkove, a researcher and lecturer at Durham University, also gave an inspiring talk on his work in ageing in worms and the potential future medical applications.

Following their own interests, students research their talks using books, journals and TED talks and have benefitted from a much richer appreciation of the science, not to mention the fact that some topics have come up in the A-level exams.

The standard of the talks, mainly given by sixth form students, has been exceptional, with many forging into undergraduate understanding.

From the interactive, the serious and the thought-provoking, the society has also seen several students from lower school in attendance, with Neja Mirando and Anna Bradley of 2A giving a wonderful exploration of the biology behind emotions in animals in the last talk of the year.

During our next academic year the new committee of George Exley, Evie Hoskison, Rose Cottrell and Clara Dammann hope to continue the success, develop other projects, including re-establishing our journal, and invite more external speakers.

Many thanks to all involved in giving and attending talks.