The six winners of Birkdale’s London Research Trip competition presented their findings and conclusions at the end of last week.

This was the culmination of a research process which began in London back in June when the students spent two days studying in the capital’s libraries and archives, an opportunity they’d won by submitting the best of this year’s research proposals. Our annual Research Trip is a chance for pupils to work independently on a project unrelated to exam syllabuses, simply following their ‘intellectual curiosity’, learning for learning’s sake…

Inspired by a book written by his great grandfather, Satyam’s erudite presentation analysed the nature of the Indian legal system under British rule at the end of the 19th Century. Satyam made it clear that there were lessons to be learnt from this period. Giving too much power to idealistic individuals can mean a legal system full of cultural insensitivities.

Adam’s presentation assessed immunotherapy as a potential treatment for cancer. How far can we use the body’s own defence mechanisms to kill cancer cells? Adam’s balanced and detailed analysis clearly set out the pros and cons of different methods. He concluded that, along with advances in surgery, immunotherapy will become a significant option for fighting cancer.

Oliver  took us into the world of politics, evaluating the effectiveness of technocratic states, ruled by economists, lawyers or even engineers. His knowledgeable assessment showed that, whilst technocrats can sometimes govern insensitively, they are often a welcome change from career politicians and their economically disastrous policies.

Stepping into some dark, psychological territory, Jessica’s presentation considered the origin of a psychopathic personality. What causes someone to become a psychopath? Is it nature and genetics or nurture and upbringing? Jess cleverly used the theory of epigenetics to show that both nature and nurture are involved and that negative experiences in childhood can alter the make-up of the brain.

This year’s S5 winners were Alex and Archie. Their clear and informative presentation looked at the impact of World War II on the development of the aeronautical engine. Together they expertly retold the story of the Spitfire’s Merlin engine and the crucial part it played in giving victory to the Allies in the Battle of Britain.