The Senior Physics Challenge summer school took place over four days at the beginning of July in Churchill College. To be selected for a place, students in the Lower Sixth Form have to spend the academic year working their way through a series of physics and maths problems on the Isaac Physics Senior Challenge website.
“There are loads of problems which are all helpful for improving exam skills – and some of them really stretch you,” Peter explains. At the end of the year, students are assessed on the number and relative difficulty of problems they have solved and also how regularly they have worked on them. The top 30 students are invited to Cambridge for the summer school.
“We had three undergraduate-level lectures each morning on quantum mechanics with a university professor in Cavendish Lecture Hall,” Peter said. “In the afternoons, we did some classic experiments in the lab. We also had a lecture from some of the admissions tutors on the Cambridge University admissions process.
“The food in college was good,” he added. “And everything was free.”
At the end of August, Peter returned to Cambridge for the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge summer school. To qualify for this, students had to score one of the very top marks in the Chemistry Challenge (C3L6) competition – a 90-minute written paper. Like the Isaac Physics, the C3L6 is open to all Lower Sixth students in the UK and its aim is to stretch and challenge them. Set by an experienced team of teachers and university chemists, it takes students significantly beyond their exam syllabus and encourages them to think about science in the way they would at university.
Peter achieved a Roentgenium award, given to the top 54 students in the country – all of whom were invited to St Catharine’s College for the summer school.
“In the mornings, we had lectures on organic chemistry and quantum concepts in chemistry. In the afternoons, we did some of the practicals from the British Chemistry Olympiad. We also had a chance to talk to PhD students studying at the university as well, which was really helpful.
"I would really recommend anyone studying science in the Sixth Form to enter these competitions - they're an excellent way of preparing you for your exams but also giving you lots of interesting problems to solve that are well beyond the syllabus. And it's all free!"
Peter is now in the process of applying to Cambridge to study Natural Sciences.