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Generating geniuses at Oriel

Oxford’s colleges can seem abstruse places. All the more reason, then, for Oriel to reach out beyond its walls and support students from backgrounds underrepresented at the University at large.

Last Thursday eighteen year 12 students on the STEM@Oxford programme spent a day at Oriel College to get a glimpse into what the admissions process is like.

The STEM@Oxford programme is organised in collaboration with Generating Genius, a charity, and aims to help sixth-form students from Black African and Caribbean backgrounds develop the key skills needed to enter STEM courses at the University of Oxford.

Outreach Officer Arron O’Conner has been working with the same cohort of students over the past seven months. “The STEM@Oxford cohort never stops amazing me with their subject passion and insight,” he said.

“Seeing the students’ presentations on such pressing topics in the world of STEM and beyond assured me that there are so many developments and discoveries to come — led, of course, by these young people.

“I am so glad that Oriel had the chance to support these students along the way.”

The application preparation day began with subject taster sessions in engineering, medicine and mathematics.

The engineering session was led by Dr Phil Grünewald, a College lecturer in Engineering at Oriel and Research Director of the Energy Demand Observatory (funding for which was won jointly by Phil and Professor Charlie Wilson, Oriel’s Jackson Senior Research Fellow in Energy).

He said it was a “pleasure meeting with such brilliant and inspiring students,” adding that their thinking and interests are at the “cutting edge” of 21st Century challenges — “just the kind of students Oriel likes to teach.”

The medicine taster session was run by Tishan Wellalagodage, a DPhil student and College’s junior dean.

After lunch, which was had in College’s dining hall, students delivered group presentations on a number of topics, from dark matter to the social impacts of AI. Subject representatives listened to the presentations and asked questions to give students a taste of what admissions interviews are like.

“They demonstrated an excellent aptitude to respond to challenging questions, and articulated creative and thoughtful responses,” Phil said.

At the end of the day Arron held a Q&A to offer information and guidance on applying to Oxford.

Other events attended by students on the STEM@Oxford programme include a visit to the House of Lords in March and a first visit to Oriel College in April.