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Science department trialling new education app developed by QE alumni that harnesses the power of AI

Two Old Elizabethan medics are working with the School to trial an innovative education app that uses AI to support both pupils and their teachers.

QE contemporaries Kavi Samra and Paul Jung (both 2008–2015) have developed Medly AI to help pupils from backgrounds like theirs who may not have access to all the educational resources available to others.

They only started working on the business in August, yet already it has won funding and been accepted into Microsoft’s start-up programme.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are very pleased to be working with Kavi and Paul as they develop this exciting venture that is showing great potential to support our boys, and other young people, with their consolidation and revision.”

After approaching the School about trialling the app with QE pupils, the pair had a meeting with the Headmaster and with Gillian Ridge and Amy Irvine, Heads of Biology and Chemistry respectively, in which they demonstrated the platform and introduced its teacher mode. “This is where teachers are able to set questions (from a large database, or their own custom questions) to their respective classes for homework, or in a test format,” said Kavi.

Medley AI can then:

  • Understand the questions
  • Work out how they fit into the curriculum of the subject
  • Assign them to a specification point
  • Mark the students’ answers.

“From here, the teacher can get in-depth statistical insights into each student’s weak topics, topic by topic and class by class. This then enables them to customise their classroom teaching according to class-wide weak topics and, of course, saves an incredible amount of time in terms of marking student work.

“Both Dr Irvine and Dr Ridge seemed quite impressed and were eager to start using Medly as a resource to save time and understand where their students don’t perform well.”

‘Onboarding’ for the Year 11 group took place before Christmas, and Paul and Kavi will now be working with the Science department. “This will involve teachers setting homework on the platform and providing feedback on what they’d like to see in our teacher mode to help us improve the platform,” said Kavi. “The students will, of course, have access to our base platform, too, in case they wish to do additional learning or practise questions or exams.”

“We’ve always wanted to try to democratise education,” says Kavi. “Medly AI was born from the vision of making quality education accessible and personalised through the power of AI. Both Paul and I noticed throughout our education how people often had advantages from their socio-economic background in terms of educational resources (e.g personal tuition): both of us come from backgrounds that didn’t allow us access to these resources.

“Recognising the gaps in traditional educational systems due to work pressures on teachers and staffing issues, we saw the potential of AI to fill these gaps and therefore conceptualised a platform that could act as a personal tutor, examiner, and classroom assistant, all integrated into one user-friendly interface.”

Paul is responsible for writing code and working on the technical side of the project, while Kavi takes on operations.

After just two months of development, Microsoft admitted Medly AI to its programme, providing Kavi and Paul with mentoring from a business development manager and meeting the costs of the platform up to £150,000. A month later, the project was also accepted into UCL’s Hatchery start-up accelerator, enabling its professional fees for legal, IP and accounting costs to be funded.

Both Paul and Kavi have deep connections with UCL. Paul holds a PhD in Neuropsychiatry from the university, and has an extensive background in coding and teaching. He included AI in his research, on which he has published and given international presentations. He has returned to his medical degree at UCL and is in his final year, completing his MBBS in August.

Kavi, who currently works as a doctor in anaesthetics, completed his medical degree at UCL in 2021 and is a clinical teacher within its medical school: his approaches to using teaching theory in a digital age earned him an Associate Fellowship of Higher Education Award from UCL and he is also one of the youngest recipients of an honorary fellow contract at UCL.


Arnav named among Britain’s best young biologists

Sixth-former Arnav Sharma is among an élite handful of young scientists selected to compete for a place in the UK national team after his success in the British Biology Olympiad.

Arnav, who was one of eight QE A-level students to win gold medals in last month’s British Biology Olympiad (BBO), will soon be taking part in a virtual selection process to decide who will represent the country in this year’s 32nd International Biology Olympiad (IBO).

Congratulating him, Biology teacher Andrew Collins said: “Arnav’s success stems from his curiosity to delve into topics of Biology to unravel the precise mechanisms behind concepts. He is motivated by interests which range across a number of topics from the Kreb’s cycle* to the behaviour of ants in a colony, for example. He carries out experiments with care and is able to use his background knowledge to interpret data effectively.”

The national team selection process that he is taking part in is being hosted online by Warwick University’s School of Life Sciences and involves practical and theoretical training and assessments.

Dr Collins added that Arnav’s prowess as a biologist also benefits his classmates: “His enthusiasm sparks lively discussions in lessons and helps stimulate others to read beyond what is covered in the course and make unexpected connections between ideas.”

If he is successful in the national team selection, Arnav will join some of the top pre-university Biology students in the world, undertaking both theory and practical tests alongside young people from more than 60 countries.

Along with Arnav and his fellow gold-medal winners, a further nine boys received silver medals and three took bronze. Thus, 20 of QE’s 21 entrants won medals, while nationally only 25% of the 8,476 competitors were medal-winners. All the QE contestants were from Year 13 and volunteered to take part, competing online from home. They completed two multiple-choice sessions of 45 minutes each.

Biology teacher Mev Armon, who supervised boys on  Zoom, said: “We value the BBO because it gives our students the opportunity to go further than their A-level syllabus, offering them a new level of challenge.”

* The Kreb’s cycle, also known as the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) or citric acid cycle, is the main source of energy for cells and an important part of aerobic respiration.



To the curriculum and beyond!

Experts have been helping QE A-level students see the exciting topical applications of their subjects in the real world in a series of lectures streamed into the School.

Sixth-formers have already enjoyed stimulating day-long sessions on Medicine in Action, Chemistry in Action, Product Design in Action and Geography in Action, with a similar event for Biology due to take place in December.

The training days are run by The Training Partnership, the leading provider of external educational study days in the UK, and would normally be held in London, but are this year being conducted remotely because of Covid-19.

QE’s Head of Technology, Michael Noonan, said that the Product Design A-level students, and even a couple of “enthusiastic non-subject specialists”, enjoyed a “superb day” of lectures. “Favourite amongst the talks attended by students was Pioneering aeronautical innovation by Sam Rogers – an aeronautical engineer working in product development for Gravity Industries, a company who are currently developing a jetpack suit.”

One of the pupils attending, Paul Ofordu, of Year 12, said: “It was amazing to see the application of prototyping, testing and iterative design in such a high-end product development project.”

The Resourcefulness and design lecture, delivered by Kingston University Senior Lecturer Pascal Anson, stimulated a practical activity, pictured. “Here we see some examples of structures which were resourcefully developed by the students using VEX IQ and EDR Robotics game elements – great thinking on their feet!” added Mr Noonan.

Chemistry students gathered in the Main School Hall to hear engaging contributions from speakers who ranged from Andrea Sella, a synthetic chemist and broadcaster, talking about mercury – “the most beautiful element in the periodic table and the most reviled” – to marine engineer Hayley Loren exploring whether nuclear fusion could provide the solution to the world’s energy issues.

Julia Lister, QE’s Head of Chemistry, said: “The engaging Chemistry in Action lectures covered an array of topics. Streaming these lectures took students from key concepts to cutting-edge science and future directions across many applications of the subject.”

The Geography lectures were similarly wide-ranging. One talk, entitled Lessons in sustainability: An explorer’s tale, was by Jason Lewis, the first person to circumnavigate the earth without using motors or sails. Another featured academic Martin Evans, from the University of Manchester, speaking on Landscape Systems in the Anthropocene. And Emily Parry, Head of Geography, highlighted lectures on water insecurity and on how COVID-19 has impacted the Pacific Islands.

“The boys enjoyed the talks, which both built up content covered in their A-level course and extended their knowledge on a range of issues facing the planet,” she said.

“Each lecture was followed with a Q&A session in which the boys could send in questions to the lecturer. Often questions focused around what young people themselves could do to help address some of the issues explored such as climate change, river pollution and how we choose a sustainable future.”

Head of Biology Gillian Ridge said that after the forthcoming Biology in Action day, boys who attend will be invited to give a series of lunchtime presentations to the rest of their year based on the talks.

Eight get gold! QE shines in national Biology contest

Eight QE boys have been picked in the top 5% nationally among the thousands who participated in this year’s Intermediate Biology Olympiad.

In fact, 51 of the 56 QE boys who entered the prestigious competition closely connected with the Royal Society of Biology this year achieved recognition for their performances.

Biology teacher Mev Armon said: “It is tremendously encouraging to have this independent confirmation that we have so many able biologists in our Sixth Form. My congratulations go especially to our eight gold-level candidates, whose performances were very impressive indeed.”

The Intermediate Biology Olympiad is open to students in the first year of post-16 education. It aims to test their knowledge of the subject and to encourage them to continue studying the biosciences beyond school.

This year’s lockdown competition involved a one-hour multiple-choice paper to be taken online, with questions covering GCSE topics and content from the first year of the A-level curriculum. The major areas covered: biological molecules; cell structure; the immune system; exchange surfaces; circulatory systems; plant transport; molecular genetics and biodiversity.

In addition, to the eight gold winners, 14 QE boys achieved silver – a level reached by the top 16% of students nationally – and six took bronze. A further 12 boys were ‘highly commended’ and 11 ‘commended’.

Since 2015, the Intermediate Biology Olympiad has been run by UK Biology Competitions, a Special Interest Group of the Royal Society of Biology, which was set up in 2010.

The eight gold winners, all in Year 12, are: Aqif Choudhury; Bhargab Ghoshal; Ari Karthikeyan; Vivek Nair; George Raynor; Rukshaan Selvendira; Arnav Sharma and Paarth Singhal.

QE boys shine in final rounds of prestigious Biology competition

Queen Elizabeth’s School has once again excelled in the British Biology Olympiad, with two sixth-formers reaching the final round, which is open only to the top 16 young biologists in the country.

Year 13 pupils Showgo Kimura and Michael Takla were selected from Round 2 for the four-day finals, a series of practical examinations held at Warwick University.

They were among five QE boys who had qualified for Round 2, with the others being fellow sixth-formers Ilan Elango, Milan Hirji and Simon Rey. The five’s qualification placed them in the top 2 per cent of the 7,818 entrants nationwide.

Last year, QE was crowned the best-performing school in the country in the prestigious Olympiad competition, and although it will not be known until later this year if it has repeated this feat, the School is certainly in a strong position, says Biology teacher Mev Armon: it has amassed a total of 14 gold, 16 silver and 15 bronze medals.

Congratulating Showgo and Michael, Mr Armon said: “They have worked for almost two years, developing additional skills outside of the specification at lunch times. I am very proud of them and of all the boys who were awarded medals.”

After returning from Warwick, the pair reflected on the experience. Their preparation included areas such as botany, gel electrophoresis and locust dissections.

Michael said: “I enjoyed the opportunity to improve my practical skills, learning new lab techniques, and being surrounded by other people who were as interested in Biology as I am. I particularly found a practical on the induction of β–galactosidase in E. coli very interesting because it complemented prior knowledge of the regulation of lac operon expression with experimental evidence.”

Showgo added: “Unlike with School practicals, we weren’t given any extra reagent, even if we had used ours up, and this meant it was important to plan before starting. I realised this too late and had almost finished the blood sample provided on making blood smears when I needed more to complete the rest of the examination.

“Although I made other small mistakes throughout the rest of the practicals, I enjoyed all of them, especially the maggot dissection. In this practical, we had to dissect a maggot of roughly 2cm to find the dorsal vessel (the ‘heart’) and apply several drugs to investigate their effects. At first, I kept damaging the heart, but after a few attempts I improved and was able to do the dissection with ease. I didn’t expect practical exams to be as challenging and interesting as they were and I’m sure the skills I gained from them will continue to be useful as I study Natural Sciences at university.”

QE biologist is one of the best in the world

Vasanth Sritharan (2004-2011) has been placed in the global top 100 in the International Biology Olympiad (IBO). Vasanth was one of only four UK students selected for the international competition in Chinese Taipei, where he was placed 93rd and picked up a bronze medal.

“This is a splendid achievement by Vasanth,” said Headmaster John Marincowitz. “Very few students are chosen to represent their country in these international science Olympiads, so to be placed in the top 100 in the world is a truly excellent result.”

Vasanth competed against 227 IBO finalists; all students of the highest calibre from 60 countries. The competition ran over a week and the competitors were addressed by Taiwan’s Vice President Vincent Siew at the opening ceremony, with Prime Minister Den-Yih Wu paying them a surprise visit for the awards ceremony at the end.

The aim of the Olympiad is to bring together young people from different backgrounds and cultures to compete against each other in an intellectually stimulating and challenging, but friendly and peaceful, environment.

Vasanth has been offered a place to read medicine at Christ’s College, Cambridge, if he secures an A* grade and two As in his A-level results this summer.

Queen Elizabeth’s School has been named the UK’s top school in this year’s British Biology Olympiad.

The School took the prize after its tally of 20 gold medals placed it first in the competition run by the Royal Society of Biology. QE thus ousts St Paul’s School from its accustomed position on the Top School trophy: the independent school took the title in 2013 and has won it every year since, apart from in 2014, when it went to Westminster School.

QE Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My congratulations go to the entire Biology department and to boys who entered this year’s Olympiad. We have some very talented biologists and this is a singular achievement, which is the result of a great deal of hard work on the part of all concerned.”

Head of Biology Gillian Ridge and Biology teacher Mev Armon attended the society’s Education Awards Ceremony at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Savoy Place venue in central London knowing that QE had won the Top School in England prize. However, it was only as the ceremony progressed that they learned that their medal total was more than any school in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, thus making QE the leading School in the UK.

Dr Ridge and Mr Armon were presented with the trophy by Professor Dame Jean Thomas, the society’s President and Dr Andrew Treharne, Chair of UK Biology Competitions, a Special Interest Group of the society set up to organise competitions including the Olympiad.

Mr Armon said: “A number of people came up to us during the event and congratulated Q E on knocking St Paul’s off the top spot!”

A total of 7,590 pupils took part in the Olympiad. In the first round, QE boys won 20 gold medals, 10 silvers, one bronze and three highly commended, which represents a School record.  The 100 top-scoring gold medallists nationwide were invited to take part in round 2. The 100 included seven boys from QE – Year 13 pupils Bushry Basheer, Sam Friend, Santhosh Ganeshamoorthy, Viral Gudiwala, Kavi Shah and Abhishek Srivastava, together with Michael Takla, the highest scorer in Year 12. Bushry performed so well in round 2 that he qualified for the national final of the 2017 Olympiad – only of only 16 finalists nationwide.

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, Director of Membership and Professional Affairs at the society, said immediately after the event: “The annual Education Awards Ceremony showcases the talent our young biologists possess not just here in the UK but across the world, and it is very encouraging to see more and more students each year engage with our competitions and demonstrate their enthusiasm and passion for the subject.

“I would also like to congratulate not only our student medal winners, but those teachers who engage and enthuse this generation of students through their hard work, dedication and love of the subject. We were delighted to recognise and celebrate them also today.”

Professor Tim Birkhead FRS, a previous winner of the HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award, delivered the keynote lecture about his ongoing research on guillemots, which was warmly received by the audience.