Albert Einstein, is quoted as saying “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid”. The Physics Department at Runnymede does not want to create static Physicists but develop problem solvers who know how to imagine their way around a problem and are not afraid to be risk takers. Luckily, this year saw a new member of staff join the Department who reflects this attitude with aplomb, Dr Marta Tello. Dr Tello has brought abundant knowledge (a PhD in Physics no less), passion and, above all, an extremely caring nature, all of which have endeared her to our pupils.
The Physics Department itself has undergone a transformation this year. The new and dynamic AQA linear A Level was introduced for Year 12, Year 9 had a one-term taster course in GCSE Astronomy, Year 10 to Year 13 have been involved in the Oxford Physics Challenge and, finally, more pupils than ever have chosen to study the subject. We must be doing something right. This transformation should boost the already impressive set of IGCSE results from Summer 2016 which improved upon the year before and produced large numbers of A and A* grades. From there 30 pupils decided to embark on the new AQA A Level in Year 12, a course that immediately explores the smallest parts of our universe and requires pupils to study Feynman diagrams, which most of the planet may only recognise as squiggles on a page.
The dynamism and strength of the course allows pupils to select an elective topic to be examined on and stretches pupils like I have never seen before. It is a testament to the hard work of Year 12 that they not only took on this challenge, but involved themselves in several other external competitions as well. A huge congratulations must be given to Eduardo G. and Beatriz V. for achieving Gold awards in the Oxford Physics Challenge with Eduardo (Eddie) being invited to an Astrophysics Camp, one of only 11 pupils to do so worldwide. The Gold awards did not stop there with Jake L. and Juan D. bringing home Gold in the Year 11 competition. Amongst these successes were a flurry of Silver and Bronze Awards, a great talking point for future UCAS applications.
The CERN Beamline Competition, another introduction by Dr Tello, attempted to recreate the famous Rutherford Scattering Experiment, which allowed a group of Year 12´s to discuss particle physics with a CERN Scientist and possibly win a trip to Geneva. We also celebrated the role of women in Science as eight of our Year 12 girls were invited to CIEMAT (Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas) to learn and discuss opportunities for women in Particle Physics. I would like to thank Dr Tello for providing us with these valuable enrichment activities, as without her links to Spanish universities in Madrid and the wider scientific community, they would not have been made available.
Our current Year 13 pupils have been our strongest yet and I hope their exam results reflect their hard work and interest in the subject. As is typical at Runnymede, most of our Physicists are going on to aspirational universities around the world such as Nicolas M. who is off to Brown in Rhode Island and Laura Lain who leaves us for UCL to study Material Science. The Year 13´s have been great to work with, each of them a unique character in his or her own right, and I look forward to hearing about all of their adventures when they come back to visit. The one thing I hope they remember from our time together is that they can do whatever they want as long as they are happy. Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World, about a society controlled by the few, a book with a message which now seems all too familiar in the time we live in, and wrote “…most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.” Remember you are part of the many not the few and your future is in your hands.