For students in Clare College, Wednesday was a day for wows and weconsiderations— or, to put it without contrived alliteration, for an equal blend of food for the imagination and food for thought (along with food for astronauts). After morning lessons and the usual applied studies of afternoon workshops, students headed back over to the shiny new campus at Anglia Ruskin University for a series of ORACLE talks, in which visiting experts and professionals give brief lectures in fascinating fields about which the students might not have known a great deal, or which they might not even have encountered otherwise.
The first speaker was Mike Bull, a conservation ecologist. In a very engaging way, but also giving a great deal of detail, he spoke about his travels in Madagascar, northern India and the Congo, and how the students could seek out adventures –as he said— for themselves. It was inspirational. No less inspirational was Kyle Grant, an astrobiologist whose work resembles that of the protagonist in the film The Martian, a comparison that he himself noted. Working with NASA, he explores ways of making the Red Planet habitable, particularly focusing on the problem of supplying astronauts potentially spending time there in the future with food that can grow on Mars. As in The Martian, future Matt Damons will, it seems, largely be living on potatoes— but despite the blandness of the vegetable, nobody could argue that the subject as a whole is anything other than deeply exciting.
The third and final speaker was Angela Tumini, Associate Professor of Film at Columbia College Hollywood. After two talks on subjects about which films could and have been made, she tackled the topic of sexist discrimination in films themselves. It is widely noted that sexism is endemic in the film industry, both in the films’ plots and casting and in the financial running of Hollywood, and the talk certainly gave many students pause for thought.
That did not stop students from attending the much-anticipated Spiderman: Homecoming in the evening, a trip widely enjoyed. Others stayed behind in Clare, where they had the opportunity to quiz counsellors on details currently of preoccupying interest: university life, admissions, and all things related to them. The homework club, meanwhile, proved unusually popular, with the approach of final deadlines clearly a very motivating factor!