All entries for October 2015

October 30, 2015

Outreach activities in the School of Life Sciences


Dr Leanne Williams is a Senior Teaching Fellow in our School of Life Sciences. As well as teaching across a broad range of subjects, Leanne is involved in the School's outreach activities, which have reached over 2,000 children from more than 100 schools in the last year alone. She tells us what she loves about working with young people in today's 50@50.

How did you come to work at Warwick?

After graduating from Wolverhampton University in ‘96 I started my science career working at the Sanger Institute on the Human Genome Project. I stayed for quite a number of years - it was such a fun and inspirational place to work at that time. I then decided to pursue an interest in teaching and moved to Nottingham to gain a teaching qualification. I landed my very first teaching job in an inner city FE College in Nottingham. This was the hardest but most rewarding experience.

Upon this I built the foundations of my teaching philosophy and realised my passion for widening participation and second change education. After about five years I left this to pursue my own educational challenge and studied for a PhD in reproductive physiology, specifically ovarian follicle development. Following a short postdoc position I applied for a teaching fellow position here in the School of Life Sciences…and here I am.

What does your current role involve?

As a Senior Teaching Fellow I teach across a very broad range of subjects. I also get involved in teaching and learning innovation projects, such as Digichamps, Students as Producers and transitional skills development. I’m also a personal tutor; I take this role very seriously and work closely with senior tutors and student support services to ensure that we provide the very best support for our students.

I work in close association with Dr Kevin Moffat to coordinate and provide outreach and widening participation activities - check out our new webpage. We also organise and deliver the British Biology Olympiad finals every year and have worked hard with The Royal Society of Biology and Warwick conferences to secure the contract to host the 2017 International Biology Olympiad here. It’s an amazing opportunity for the School and for Warwick!

What’s your favourite thing about working at Warwick?

The thing I love most about working at Warwick is the beautiful campus. As a biologist I love Tocil Woods, the lakes and the wildlife it attracts. I commute from Loughborough every day so I aim to get here early about 7-7:30am to beat the traffic. In the summer I’ll go for a walk first thing and often see Muntjak deer - I get just as excited as I did when I was a little girl!

I also love the progressive nature of Warwick as an institution, particularly with regard to teaching and learning innovation. I’m excited to see how the WIHEA (Warwick International Higher Education Academy) influences us as practitioners and hope to get involved where I can.

Tell us a bit about outreach activities in Life Sciences at Warwick.

Over the last year we have delivered outreach sessions to over 2,000 students from over 100 schools across the country. We now offer more than 22 activities from reception year children even through to professional development sessions for teachers.

Have there been any particularly successful events this year?

I organised a biology training day for our CPE trainee teachers, on their early years PGCE. The aim was to develop their confidence in teaching biology. We then had a second day where over 40 KS1 (Year2) and 35 KS2 (Year 5&6) children came to SLS so the trainees could take the reins. We were mini beast hunting and tracking animals in the woods, pond dipping, measuring reaction rates and making oxygen with plants - we even had an interactive live animal display!

It was amazing, chaotic and tiring but the kids were just so enthusiastic and excited and the trainees were fabulous. Some of the kids had never been into a wood before to look under a log or into a pond. All you have to do is open their eyes to even the tiniest of marvels and you’ve got them completely hooked. That’s what I love about working with young people. That innate curiosity is easy to tap into and then you just have to give them the time and space to run with it. It’s the time to inspire and influence, for sure. And that’s how we’ll get more young people to study life sciences, by getting out there getting involved and giving them positive experiences and opportunities. I love my job.

October 27, 2015

What's the future of education?

What's the future of education? How could technology help us improve teaching and learning? Will education become more global in the years ahead? We asked members of IGGY to share their thoughts on this topic for this week's 50@50.

IGGY was established by the University of Warwick in 2007 to help support the brightest young minds from around the world to reach their full potential. In 2012 we launched the first global educational social network exclusively for gifted 13-18 year olds, and in the years since we’ve connected with over 13,000 young people from nearly 100 countries. IGGY is a community for young people who want to stretch their critical and creative thinking skills, broaden their communication skills, develop research techniques, and become accomplished, independent learners. Find out more >>

October 23, 2015

"It was inspiring": One volunteer's experience of the Festival of the Imagination


Our Festival of the Imagination, the centrepiece of our 50th celebrations, took place last week, transforming campus into a hub of talks, debates, cookery demonstrations and entertainment. (If you missed it you can catch up on all the action in this Storify.) None of it would have been possible without the help of hundreds of volunteers who worked across the two days, assisting visitors and speakers and making sure the sessions ran smoothly.

Greta Bendinelli was one of our volunteers and tells us about the experience in today's 50@50. A postgraduate student at Warwick, she's currently studying for an MA in Pan-Romanticisms in the School of Modern Languages.

Why did you decide to get involved with the Festival of the Imagination?

I'd never participated in something as interesting and creative as the Festival of the Imagination before and I thought it would be a great way to start the new academic year - especially before it gets too busy with deadlines and exams!

What did you do when you were volunteering during the festival?

My role was Venue Marshal and I had to prepare the venues before each event started, give out questionnaires and pass the microphone around during the talk. It was great fun, especially because it allowed me to attend several events that I would have never thought of going to and which actually turned out to be really interesting.

What was your favourite part about volunteering at the festival?

I generally tried to be as helpful as possible, both to speakers and members of the audience, and that felt really rewarding. I also enjoyed the debates that followed each event - it was nice to see many people from the audience actively engaged in the discussion.

How did you find the festival as a whole?

I thought that it was extremely interesting because it brought many different topics together, but still remained a coherent event. I went to the Shakespeare talk on Saturday and it was wonderful to see that some people on the panel were once Warwick students, as I am now. I thought, " I could be up there one day too!" It was inspiring.

Would you take part in an event like this again?

Yes, definitely! It's such a great way to engage in and discuss themes that you are either excited about or that you have never thought you would be interested in.

What do you hope to do after finishing your course at Warwick?

I hope to be able to continue my studies in Theatre, a subject that I'm really passionate about. As I mentioned, I would love to come back to an event like the Festival of the Imagination one day as a speaker.

Below are a few of the photos we took during the Festival of the Imagination. See more here >>


October 15, 2015

Celebrate our 50th anniversary at the Festival of the Imagination


Our Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, shares his thoughts on the Festival of the Imagination.

Following months of anticipation, I’m delighted that our Festival of the Imagination ­- the pinnacle event of our 50th anniversary - is upon us. Over the next two days our campus will play host to a diverse programme of events and activities for the whole family to enjoy, all based around the theme of ‘Imagining the Future’.

We’ll be starting the festival by welcoming hundreds of local schoolchildren to the Arts Centre, where they’ll be taking part in interactive sessions led by some of our academics and outreach officers.

From 4pm tomorrow and throughout Saturday we’ll be running a series of thought-provoking talks, providing a platform for discussion and debate on topics ranging from healthy cooking and Shakespeare to big data and robots. I’m particularly looking forward to discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the Higher Education sector over the coming years in a session tomorrow afternoon, ‘Universities Challenged’, where I’ll be joined by Professor Abhinay Muthoo and Siobhan Benita from our Department of Economics, Alison Goddard, Editor of HE, and David Palfreyman, Bursar and Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford .

In addition to the wide range of talks on offer, there’ll be a variety of food and drink stalls, music, taster classes and entertainment to enjoy - all of which I’m sure will create a fantastic festival atmosphere.

I’d like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to organise what I know will be an unforgettable event, our volunteers, our speakers, our student performers and everyone who’ll be coming onto campus to help celebrate with us. I look forward to seeing you there.

October 09, 2015

Life as a sports news correspondent


What's it like to report from the world's biggest events and interview some of the most famous names in sport? Warwick alumnus Alex Thomas has spent the last six and a half years doing exactly that as a sports news correspondent for CNN. He tells us about his role and how his time at Warwick helped him get there in today's 50@50.

Do you have any favourite memories from your time at Warwick?

I have too many great memories to mention and most of them are too inappropriate! My favourite times were at W963 radio [now RaW] because it’s how my career started, and meeting friends who I’m still in touch with almost a quarter of a century later.

How did you imagine the future when you were a student?

I had no career plans when I arrived at Warwick. I chose to study Sociology because I thought it would be an interesting course. I hoped career inspiration would strike at Warwick and I guess it did, thanks to the radio work and writing for the Warwick Boar newspaper.

Tell us a bit about your career journey so far. How did you come to be where you are now?

alex3.jpgI didn’t get a job straight out of university but did some weekend football commentary for BBC Southern Counties radio. After that I turned down a full time job offer at Next (following some Christmas work there) and focused fully on the media work. I moved to ITN where I spent eight years in radio and TV, then four and a half years at Sky, then the last six and half years I've been at CNN.

What do you think has helped you in your career?

Being Sports Editor of W963 radio for two years and writing for the Uni newspaper helped me get excited about
journalism and the media. It helped me get some part time work at Mercia FM in Coventry so my CV didn’t look completely blank as I graduated.

What’s the best thing about your role? What have been your career highlights?

I am very lucky to have been at the world’s biggest sporting events – three football world cups, several Champions League finals, three Olympic Games, cricket and rugby world cups, open golf championships, etc… And all those major events are career highlights, although its nice to make headlines with exclusive interviews. For example, David Beckham spoke to me after the Rebecca Loos allegations and before his second season at Real Madrid. Sepp Blatter told me Placido Domingo would head up his new Ethics Committee in 2011 and Luis Figo announced his FIFA Presidential bid in an interview with me.

You’re currently covering the Rugby World Cup – what are you most enjoying about it?

CNN has a new weekly rugby show which I am hosting so it's nice to focus on that as well as our daily coverage but, as always, the thing you most look forward to is being in the stadiums and seeing the action (this isn't always possible as a TV non-rights holder). That’s when you really get a feel for the game.

Alex2Do you have any advice for current students and Warwick graduates wanting to work in broadcast journalism?

Yes, lots! But I’ll keep it simple. The media is one of the most competitive industries of all and going through the biggest change in its history due to the digital revolution.

Your individual motivation, persistence, dedication and innovation will serve you far better than any qualifications. Don’t take no for an answer, be enthusiastic and say yes to everything.

Do you have any advice for our freshers about how to make the most of their time at university?

Don’t fret about the academic side of university. Do the work when you need to but, above all, fling yourself into everything and enjoy it. All your fellow freshers are in the same boat as you. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from you will meet like-minded people and make loads of friends.

Photos (top to bottom):
Alex interviewing All Blacks rugby star Dan Carter
Student days at Warwick
At the Olympic Games with his daughter in 2012

October 07, 2015

Student theatre at Warwick

samIn August, a group of Warwick students performed a play they had devised at the Edinburgh Festival. Sam Thorogood, an English and Theatre finalist, tells us about the experience and how theatre outside of his course has played a huge role in his time at university.

How have you been involved in theatre outside of your course at Warwick?

I started becoming interested in theatre towards the end of secondary school and during my time at sixth form college, primarily with acting. Warwick has provided the opportunity to try out roles like producing and directing: roles that I never in a million years would have expected to fill three or four years ago.

In first year I was lucky enough to act in a variety of shows, whilst this past year I’ve focused more on producing and directing. Generally, doing shows outside the course has given me a really solid grounding in what it means to create theatre.

I’m really excited to currently be co-directing a brilliant piece of new writing called The Faithless Healer, which is going to be performed at the Arts Centre at the end of October.

How did you come to perform at the Edinburgh Festival, and how was it?

Our company, Clown Funeral, was formed from a group of likeminded student theatre-makers who thought: hey, why not try and get our work out there? So we did, with a devised show called Mr Poe’s Legendarium. We got in touch with one of the Edinburgh Fringe venues (C Venues) and took it from there.

The whole experience was great: from creating the show over a series of workshops and more intensive rehearsals to sharing it with over 500 people throughout August.

theatreHow do you hope student theatre at Warwick will develop over the next 50 years?

I hope it stays fresh, exciting and daring, and continues to attract a whole host of ambitious theatre-makers into its fold!

Do you have any advice for any freshers considering getting involved in theatre here?

Go for it! Especially if you’ve never done anything remotely theatrical before. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

I hope I’ll continue to create theatre, whether that’s with Clown Funeral or not. I’m also really interested in community theatre projects, and I’m currently looking into career paths in that area.

Sam has been involved in the Tech Crew, Codpiece Theatre, Freshblood New Writing, and WUDS societies at Warwick.

The full list of performance societies on offer at Warwick can be found on the Students' Union website.

October 01, 2015

Simple Scoff: A Warwick community cookbook

Rebecca EarleBack in 1972, we published a cookbook full of recipes submitted by our students and staff, called Simple Scoff. To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we're releasing a new version of the book, featuring cheap, simple recipes and cooking tips from around the University.

What can we expect in the new book and what does it tell us about how our eating habits have changed over the last 40 years? Professor Rebecca Earle from our School of Comparative American Studies has been coordinating the project and tells us more about it in today's 50@50.

What was Simple Scoff and why did you decide to get involved in publishing the new version?

I didn’t know anything about it until Sarah Shalgowsky, the curator at the Mead Gallery, told me about it. It’s a small paperback with recipes contributed by Warwick students and a miscellaneous handful of other people (including, mysteriously, someone from the Oslo Music Conservatory!) It’s very chatty in tone, and is peppered with food-themed cartoons from ‘Cosgrove’, who in reality was Ian Stewart, then a lecturer in the Maths Institute. As soon as I saw it I knew we had to make a new version.

The original Simple Scoff is utterly charming: the voices of the editors come through so clearly, and the recipes are so redolent of the early 1970s. I think the dish called ‘vegetable splog’ sums things up, but there are also lots of really tasty dishes—the stuffed herrings are absolutely worth making, for instance. Anyway, I spend far too much time reading cookbooks, and I work on the history of food, so it was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later I’d try to put together a cookbook.

Tell us a bit about the new book. Who has contributed to it?

It’s a ‘community cookbook’: the recipes were contributed by people from across the university community, from undergraduates in the English Department to postgraduates in Engineering, and from adminstrative officers in the History Department to the head of Catering. Most recipes have a little introduction from the contributor that explains how the recipe was invented, or what its particular features are, etc. So each recipe is very personal. There are about 150 recipes, from breakfast dishes to puddings. There are also several complete menus, including an ‘Immune Defense Menu’ to ward off freshers' flu, and lots of little snacks and nibbles. There are lots of vegan and vegetarian recipes, too.

The recipes were submitted online along with, in many cases, photos of the dish, and sometimes even step-by-step photos showing the different stages of preparation. I was astonished at how adept students are in food photography. I guess it’s the effect of Instagram.


Do you have a favourite recipe in the book?

Hmm. I really like the onion bhajis - they just work perfectly. I’ll be making those a lot. Also the Indian carrot pudding recipe is really excellent. Also the ‘cardaffron cake’, which combines cardamom and saffron. There are so many tasty recipes...

Are there any surprising recipes in the book?

I didn’t expect as many ‘raw’ food recipes. There are clearly quite a few students equipped with spiralisers. There’s a really imaginative breakfast dish where you make a sort of spicy eggy bread but using a crumpet instead of bread. And then there’s the triple-layer brownie recipe... a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough, a layer of oreos drizzled with dulce de leche, and a layer of brownie dough, all topped off with fleur de sel. My younger son was sceptical at first (‘what is the point?’, he asked) but once he tasted them he pronounced them the best brownies he’d ever eaten.

Does the new version demonstrate how students’ eating habits have changed over time?

Student eating habits have changed enormously! For instance, there were so many recipes for curries, dhals and other Indian dishes that the new cookbook has an entire section on curries and the like. The old cookbook had, I think, one recipe for curry. Nearly half the new recipes are vegetarian or vegan. The old cookbook had a rather unenthusiastic section of vegetarianism saying it wasn’t really such a great idea but that if you absolutely didn’t want to eat meat there were a few suitable recipes on such and such pages.

The new recipes employ a much broader range of seasonings and spices, too - from fresh coriander and za’atar to Sriracha and fresh chillies. Also, the recipes not only come from all sorts of different culinary traditions—from Korea and Hungary to Paraguay and Sweden— but they have also been contributed from students from all over the world, which reflects the really diverse, international community. I think the recipes reflect the University in a very nice way.

How can we get hold of a copy?

The book will be on sale (for £4.99) in the Warwick Bookshop, and online here. All proceeds will be used to support the University’s Warwick in Africa and Warwick in India programmes. And freshers will be given a free copy in their welcome packs when they arrive next week!

Based on the differences between the old and the new book, do you have any predictions about how students’ eating habits will change over the next 50 years?

I would like to be able to say that students will be eating much more fresh, locally-grown, sustainable food, but I think that’s very unlikely. Supermarkets, where the great majority of people in the UK get their food, are part of a global food system that offers great variety and choice, but at a cost. Students, like many people, are often unsure where their food came from and don’t have a clear sense of what’s in season right here, in the Midlands, right now. This makes it hard to be an informed eater. It would be great if in 50 years students could be eating tasty food grown - let’s dream a little! - right here on the campus!

Buy your copy of Simple Scoff on the Bookstore's website >>

Simple Scoff at the Festival of the Imagination

Want to find out more about Simple Scoff and student cookery? Come along to our Festival of the Imagination on Saturday 17 October to hear from members of the University, including former BBC media correspondent and Warwick alumnus Torin Douglas, author of Simple Scoff Serena Macbeth, University Development Chef Graham Crump, Professor Rebecca Earle and Warwick Students' Union President Isaac Leigh as they take a look at student cookery then and now. Book your tickets >>


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