John Locke Institute Summer School

By Eben Macdonald, 6.1 and Academic Scholar

Over the summer holidays, I had the privilege of attending the John Locke Institute Summer School at Balliol College, Oxford, to study an academic course in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). Competition for a place on the summer schools is intense, and to be considered for a place, we had to write a resumé and attend an interview (via Zoom, of course), where we were asked to articulate our most controversial idea and defend it against the interviewer, who challenged us rigorously.

At the summer school, we were put into small groups and our day consisted of three kinds of lessons: seminars, which were lessons with professors, in our groups; lectures delivered by professors, which all groups attended together; and critical response precepts, where we discussed recent lectures in our groups.

We enjoyed the presence of some fascinating people – Bryan Caplan, Professor of Economics at George Mason University; David Schmidt and Cate Johnson, two world-renowned experimental economists; John Filling, Doctor of Philosophy at King’s College, Cambridge; and Jamie Whyte, a philosophy PhD and former leader of ACT New Zealand. We even got to meet the former Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbot!

The faculty never failed to give exciting and, often, provocative lectures. I really enjoyed discussing them with the intellectually vibrant student body.  

At the end of the course, we went to the Oxford Union to be subjected to Bryan Caplan’s Ideological Turing Test – where we’d have to argue for or against a certain proposition, regardless of our actual position on it, and if the student body believed we were genuinely arguing our true position, we’d have shown we were able to accurately represent a view which we had not necessarily agreed with. 

The summer school was a life-changing experience for me and I urge people to register next year.

Students hear from leading Oxford researcher on cell regeneration

By Liz Stacy, Head of Chemistry

Giving students the opportunity to see science in action is not easy during these strange times, but the University of Oxford did a brilliant job this week by holding a virtual chemistry conference.

Sixth Form chemists and biologists were treated to an excellent talk by Professor Angela Russell, on the subject of ‘Cures from within: can we use chemistry to teach the body to heal itself?’ Her research is looking into creating a molecule that can stimulate the body’s own ability to regenerate cells. Her target disease is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which primarily affects boys; those with the condition are unlikely to live beyond their early twenties due to the muscle degeneration that affects organs, including the heart and diaphragm.

Angela took us through the breakthroughs and setbacks she has experienced, as well as the direction in which the research is currently heading, which looks very positive. It is a hugely significant area of research as it opens up the door to being able to use the same kind of treatment for diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Angela talked about setting up a private company, highlighting the importance of the link between academia and the private sector in being able to bring this kind of research to life.  Most importantly, when asked about which degree is best to study, she said that in her opinion Chemistry was much more useful than Biochemistry or Medicine for this particular area of research. Please make a note of that all Sixth Form chemists!