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Stellar Astrophysicist

Sixth Form Scientist Emma enjoyed a 10-day trip to Beijing, representing the UK as part of the 12th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA).

Selection for the UK team takes place via a number of BAAO (British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad) competition papers in the preceding year, until the final team of five national representatives are chosen at a training camp at the University of Oxford. This year Emma was selected as the only girl, joining four boys on the team led by two Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society. The team went on to compete in the international final in Beijing, against other budding astrophysicists, up to the age of 20, from 38 different countries.

“This year the competition was particularly tough – one five hour theory paper, one five hour data-analysis and a one-hour observational paper,” said RAS Vice President, Charles Barclay. “We are delighted with the result from this young team of five 17 year olds.”

Emma and her twin sister, also a keen Scientist, started South Hampstead in Year 7, before moving abroad for two years. They rejoined South Hampstead Sixth Form last year, and are both now studying Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths at A Level. She also regularly attends Asian Soc, Game Design Club, Pride and Physics Help.

“I like the Sciences for how they follow logically from basic concepts. What I particularly enjoy about studying here is the atmosphere in our lessons. Everyone’s so friendly and happy to help each other. It’s great to be able to share my ideas, even when I’m not that sure of their validity,” explains Emma, who plans to study Physics at university. “I’m not sure what I’ll do after, but I’m sure I’ll get some ideas while I’m there!” 

South Hampstead’s all-female Physics Department inspires girls to embrace a subject that, on a national scale, is still favoured by male students. One of our Physics Teachers, Ms Russo, was recently shortlisted as one of the top 50 teachers in the world, for her work championing women in the subject. Girls regularly hear from expert guest speakers and have the opportunity to go on trips such as visiting NASA in Orlando and CERN in Geneva. Pupils have recently initiated a new lunchtime Space Society while Sixth Form students have started their own Science magazine, Eureka! As well as having a strong track record in national Physics Olympiads, three of our current Sixth Form students are Arkwright Engineering Scholars. 


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