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Woodhouse College
Applications open Alica Derome Rebecca Saul

Scientist Sayeed wins Big Bang Competition award

Dated: 10 April 2019

 
 
Woodhouse student Sayeed Ahmed has won a place at the 61st LISYF at the recent Big Bang Competition in Birmingham.
 
The Big Bang Competition is an annual event that recognises and rewards young people's achievements in all areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), whilst providing them with the opportunity to build their skills and confidence in project-based work.
 
 
 
The London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) is a two-week residential student event held annually in London which attracts 500 of the world’s leading young scientists aged 16-21 years old from more than 75 participating countries. It is held at Imperial College London and The Royal Geographical Society – with day visits out to other leading UK research centres and Universities, including Oxford and Cambridge Universities. LISYF aims to give a deeper insight into science and its applications for the benefit of all mankind and to develop a greater understanding between young people of all nations. 
 
Sayeed explains how it all came about…
 
“It’s a bit of a long story, but I initially applied to do a Nuffield Research Placement (the Nuffield Foundation provide over 1,000 students each year with the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists).
 
Having got that I completed a project with UCL at a nanoparticle farm. My project was about investigating the particular nanoparticles that are used in cancer treatments. I was looking at how to make nanoparticles that are best optimised for the purpose of treating the disease. We made the nanoparticles in a synthesis reaction… it’s like cooking… you bung a load of ingredients into a pot, oven it over night and you get these nanoparticles which you can scan and microscope. And I was changing the recipe to investigate different factors.
 
It was quite daunting because I was doing the project working in the UCL lab alongside PHD students and real scientists, but you kind of get used to it and comfortable with it. Throughout the project I was basically just changing the recipe loads of times, seeing what the results were, and observing which had best outcomes.
 
I then applied to enter my project for the Big Bang Competition, which is a competition between students my age who have completed a project or a piece of engineering work.
 
Getting that far took a while. I applied for Nuffield in January last year, completed my project over the course of six weeks in the summer, and then went to Big Bang in March this year.
 
 
Sayeed receiving his Big Bang award 
 
The event itself was held at the NEC in Birmingham and was really big. There was a split between scientists and engineers and I was a scientist - so about 100 people with a 100 different projects to compete with.
 
There were various big prizes from the organisers, but also special prizes which individual companies or organisations would go around looking for a particular criteria. I was awarded one of the special prizes - a place at the LIYSF annual event at Imperial College in London. I’ll be one of the team representing the UK and also presenting my project again. I’m looking forward to that at the end of July.
 
My passion for science is quite recent because at the end of secondary school I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to opt for humanities or science. But this project really has strengthened that passion a lot and improved my focus because it’s shown me that science is not just all logic and analysis (which is very important) but it also has real world applications - helping people and doing things that can improve the human condition.
 
This project was both physics and chemistry, so next year I am hoping to go to Cambridge University where I have an offer for natural sciences, which is a good combination of them. But I need A*A*A*A so it’s going to be a busy couple of months before my exams.
 
After initially going into the sixth form at my old school (Sayeed previously studied at William Ellis School) I realised that I wanted a change from the past five years at the same place, so I applied late to come to Woodhouse and I like it. All of the teachers here were really helpful regarding my Cambridge application, they offered mock interviews and helped me with exam questions for the prep exams. And also, just Mr Rubinstein (principal) giving the initial Oxbridge assembly at the start of year 12 (where he spelled out the vision of like “Here’s Cambridge - it’s a year until you apply but start your mindset now”) put a goal in my mind that I knew I needed to work towards.
 
I think it’s important that my life isn’t just science - so I have a part-time job tutoring and I am also doing Duke of Edinburgh Gold. In fact, my assessed D of E expedition is the week before LISYF so a busy summer this year too.
 
Before doing this project I thought that research was a really distant goal, something that I might not really get to do. But this has made me realise that research is actually kind of accessible - it’s something that ‘normal’ people are doing - so I definitely want to continue with research after Cambridge - but we’ll see, there’s lots to do before then.”
 
Sayeed is studying Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths at A level and also recently won a silver award at the British Physics Olympiad. We wish him every possible success in his exams and university aspirations.


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