STEM Insight Week: first byte into big data

We would like to thank local organisations and businesses for supporting our successful half-term STEM Insight Week for year 10 students from schools across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The idea of the Science Oxford Insight Week is to give young people the opportunity to hear about the science relating to particular businesses and organisations, and the career opportunities available. The theme of this year’s Insight Week was Computing and Coding.

Visits to local organisations and businesses included an in-depth session with local web designers, Imageworks; a fascinating tour around cybersecurity company McAfee’s centre in Aylesbury; a talk by the Chief Technology Officer of Micro:bit  Educational Foundation; a tour of Intel UK’s new base in Marlow and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory; and a problem-solving activity at the offices of Olamalu, a web design company based in Witney.

One of the highlights – and there were many – was a visit to the £115 million ultra-modern Big Data Institute (BDI), an interdisciplinary research institute that focuses on the analysis of large, complex data sets into the causes, prevention and treatment of disease. BDI is part of the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery at the University of Oxford’s Old Road Campus – just down the road from our Science Oxford Centre at Stansfeld Park.

The 20 research groups working at BDI analyse and evaluate data for large clinical research studies to identify associations between lifestyle, genetic variants, infections and health outcomes around the world, potentially improving the everyday lives of millions. The scientists – from a wide range of research areas – based at the centre often create headlines for their work like – “Pan-Cancer Project discovers causes of previously unexplained cancers”, or “Modelling research informs new WHO roadmap for neglected tropical diseases.”

The morning visit to BDI included talks on research from two studies – one on how people spend their time and their associated risk of developing a heart attack or stroke and one on research into Alzheimer’s and dementia. A great insight for our Year 10 students on how to collect, measure and interrogate data and the ins and outs of doing a PhD or detailed study. We also had a tour and talk on the state-of-the art four-storey building, including its huge servers and specially-designed heating and cooling system, known as “the labyrinth”. After all that, we enjoyed a presentation from the Head of IT Infrastructure, Dave Ewart, known as the “computer guy”, who gave us the low-down on his role in maintaining equipment for the huge number of staff based at BDI.

All in all, the students had an incredible week and we had great feedback:
“Thank you for the amazing insight this week has given me.”
“This has helped me to expand my options and re-think about what specific job roles would suite me in the future”.
“I would highly recommend this STEM week to others because it’s very useful to get an insight and feel of the careers in computer science and technology”.
We must be doing something right!

Would your business or organisation like to engage with local schools? Would you like to raise the profile of your business locally? Do you want to inspire and inform young people about STEM careers? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you might like to get involved in our upcoming Science Oxford STEM Career Programmes for secondary students. You can find out more here or contact us direct on [email protected]