On Wednesday, nine budding Academic Scholars in the Lower Sixth made their way through the puddles and showers to Bloomsbury Baptist Church for a day of academic enrichment. The Big Ideas for Bright Minds conference runs annually and affords students the opportunity to hear from leading experts who are interested in the intersections between academic disciplines. Julie Arliss delivered the morning lectures, the first of which was on ‘Truth, Beauty and Justice’. Julie took us through a dazzling array of penetrating questions on matters of fundamental importance. Her talk was wide-ranging, making reference to political and philosophical theorists from the past and current thorny ethical dilemmas. Her second lecture discussed Oxbridge interviews in detail and she deconstructed some baffling questions about moving statues and how to communicate the death of a cow to a farmer.
The next lecture was given by Dr Christopher O’Niell on ‘The Psychology of Outstanding Achievement’. Arguing against an innate limit on a person’s IQ, Dr O’Niell’s winning fourfold formula for outstanding achievement was: deliberate practice, self-control, a growth mindset, and the importance of emotional energy and drive. He certainly gave us a lot to aspire to!
The final lecture led us into the fascinating research of Dr Mark Lewney, who is described by the Times Higher Education Supplement as “a cross between Einstein and Jimi Hendrix”. Living up to expectations, Dr Lewney uses the science of electric guitars to explore the nature of reality and string theory. The students heard a sonic boom, used a slinky to demonstrate waves and understood some of the mechanics of guitar amplification, finishing with a romp through the foothills of string theory. All in a day’s learning.
The series of lectures introduced the Sixth Form students to an undergraduate style of teaching and an approach to study which transcends the sometimes ‘siloed’ approach to A Level learning. Following a somewhat drier and more leisurely stroll back to Charing Cross, we arrived back in Sutton Valence with whirring minds and tired feet.