Suffolk students work on prestigious science project ‘with some of the brightest minds in the world’

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Some of the sharpest young scientists in Suffolk joined forces with the brightest minds in the world during the annual UK-Japan Young Scientists’ Workshop.

Abbeygate Sixth Form College students from Bury St Edmunds were the only college in the region to be involved in the week-long event - researching with scientists from Cambridge, Kyoto and Tohoku Universities.  The workshop was created by the Clifton Scientific Trust 20 years ago, which this year was held online for the first time since 2001.

Groups looked at what we can learn about climate change from the asteroid impact that changed the world millions of years ago,  the potential of nuclear energy to mitigate climate change, how to handle big data to address modern issues and emergency planning for tsunamis and earthquakes. A final project saw the creation of podcast that reflected on the week, which is available to listen to now on the BBC Naked Scientists website (

As well as Abbeygate, UK students from Esher, Bristol, Hertford and Dorchester took part as well as from Kyoto, Fukushima, Iwaki and Sendai in Japan. Hardye HH

Dr Eric Albone, the Director of Clifton Scientific Trust, said: “This is the first time in 20 years that the virus has made it necessary to run the UK-Japan Young Scientist Workshop Programme online, and I am amazed how much school students from both countries have achieved working directly with scientists in British and Japanese universities.  I am sure it will be a turning point in their young lives and we are very proud of them.”

Director of Partnerships at Abbeygate Sixth Form, Nadine Payne, said: “This is a very prestigious event that happens every year and we were thrilled to be involved. It has given our students confidence in collaborating with others and has opened their eyes to a variety of different scientific aspects that they had previously never encountered.”

She added, “We would like to thank Ian Price and Mary Grace-Browning from County Upper School who helped provide technical support that allowed us to communicate to all participants across several time zones.”

5 Back row   Alex Aldridge, Ollie Wolfe, Finn Barber. Front row Madi Payne and Aaron Hurrell

  • 17 year old Aaron Hurrell from Bury St Edmunds worked on a big data project. He said: “I find new things incredibly interesting. It’s been extremely interesting working with different countries. I’m very shy meeting new people so this has allowed me to grow as a person and the experience will be great for my university personal statement.”
  • 17 year old Ollie Wolfe from Bury was looking at emergency planning for tsunamis. He said: “I’ve learnt how to communicate with people when there is a language barrier as well as understanding how to research something further than I am used to. It’s also been a great cultural learning experience.”
  • 17 year old Finn Barber from Bury St Edmunds worked on a nuclear power research project. He said: “I got involved because it looked fun. The process has been enlightening.  We’ve found that nuclear power causes a lot less damage to health and the environment than fossil fuels. It’s been an amazing opportunity and you get lots of those studying at Abbeygate Sixth Form College.”
  • 17 year old Alex Aldridge from Bury St Edmunds was looking a project that looked at the asteroid that ended up killing the dinosaurs. He said: “I thought it would be interesting to work with Japanese students. We have found that they tend to start very early and work late into the night. It’s been something out of the ordinary in a great way.”
  • 17 year old Madi Payne from Bury St Edmunds created a podcast about the week of activities. She said: “It was a great opportunity to meet new people and work on a science communication project. This may lead to the creation of more podcasts in the future. This has taught us how to build new relationships and I’ve learnt about editing and producing. 
  • She added, “I love Abbeygate – I came here to meet new people and gain independence. There are so many things you can get involved in and you get to work on projects like this with some of the brightest minds in the world.”

Sponsors of this project are Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Mitsubishi Electric Europe, Japanese Women’s Association in Great Britain, Kyoto University of Education and Barclays.