Game-changers of the future? National Year 12 Essay Prize winners receive awards

Are developments in battery technology the solution to the world’s energy problems? Is globalization the death knell for minor languages? What might a feminist history of music look like? What are our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship with power?

Some of the UK’s most talented Year 12 students tackled the problems and questions of our times, in the annual Newnham Essay Prizes – and showed their intellect and creativity in their answers.

Newnham College’s annual essay prize competitions are designed to encourage ambitious female sixth-form students to explore university-level subjects and themes and to develop their independent research and writing skills.

The prize winners are welcomed to a prestigious ceremony in Cambridge, where their prizes are presented by Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College. Newnham College is one of the 31 Colleges that make up the University of Cambridge.

Entries were received from a wide range of schools across eight different categories: Biological Sciences, Engineering, History, Modern and Medieval Languages, Music, Philosophy, Physical Sciences, and the Woolf Essay Prize, with questions inspired by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Virginia Woolf based A Room of One’s Own on a series of lectures she gave at Newnham in 1928.

Each of our first prize winners’ essays were very different, and each provided a thought-provoking perspective on the topic they had chosen. In her response to Virginia Woolf, Anjum Ali explored whether female writers can both stay true to their identity and create change. Eva Bogomil described the engineering of super-tall buildings, sharing her excitement and knowledge. Jamimi Patel addressed the aspects of economic history that economists risk leaving untold, with a particular focus on the experiences of slaves and child labourers. Anna Fenton Smith thoughtfully explored what a feminist history of music might be. In a lively and personal essay, Helena Carone Wheatley examined her own cultural assumptions about women and power, and their implicatons. Julie Tang wondered at the amazing complexity of biological cells, comparing to them to bustling cities on a molecular scale. Ella Tasker challenged the wisdom that globalization will see all minority languages disappearing. Gabriella White explored developments in battery technology, and the future potential this offers.

Winners were selected by a panel of Newnham academics after hundreds of essays were received. Each competition has a prize of £400 for first place, £200 for second place, and £100 for third place.

All of the winners were invited to the women’s college at the heart of Cambridge University on Saturday (June 30) to take part in a special ceremony where they were presented with their prizes by Professor Dame Carol Black.

The sixth-formers and their families then enjoyed afternoon tea and a chance to meet leading academics from all disciplines.

Dr Sam Lucy, Newnham Admissions Tutor, said: “Newnham’s Essay Prize Competitions offer talented Year 12 female students the opportunity to explore their academic interests in more depth, and from a different angle, than is often available through school. We enjoy reading the very interesting entries, and making the judgement on winners is always a challenge. This year’s winners and runners-up should be very proud of their achievement in an extremely competitive field.”

It is hoped that exposing the high-flying sixth-formers to the type of work they would be expected to do at Cambridge will encourage them to consider applying to Newnham.

Although it is not part of the admissions process at Newnham, several previous prize-winners are current students.

Questions for the 2019 Essay Prize Competitions will be announced in November 2018.

Read more about the 2018 questions and categories and the entries from the winners.

The full list of 2018 Essay Prize Winners / Highly Commended / Commended:

The Woolf Essay Prize
1st Prize: Anjum Ali
Joint 2nd Prize: Kate Granlund and Ursula Moncrieff
Joint 3rd Prize: Emma Gasson and Lily Middleton-Mansell
Highly Commended: Katie Chambers, Eleanor Davies, Yii-Jen Deng, Jess Dunmore, Caitlin Farrell, Kate Greenberg, Rebecca Searle, Rebecca Wilding, Florence Winkley

The Engineering Essay Prize
1st Prize: Eva Bogomil
2nd Prize: Zhiheng Zhang
Joint 3rd Prize: Anya Burakowski and Hannah Knight
Highly Commended: Grace Blackshaw, Holly Duke, Xinyu Jiang, Philippa Knight, Thiliga Narayanan, Jessica Smith, Olivia Strachan, Jessye Tu, Charlotte Weir

The Weston-Smith Physical Sciences Essay Prize
1st Prize: Gabriella White
Joint 2nd Prize: Emma Jones and Nadia Mason
Highly Commended: Freya Butler, Yiyang Gu, Amy Sankey

The Biological Sciences Essay Prize
1st Prize: Julie Tang
Joint 2nd Prize: Rinda Naresh and Kulavee Prasansapakit
Highly Commended: Sarah Sayers, Sam van Druten

The History Essay Prize
1st Prize: Jaimini Patel
2nd Prize: Rose Barkle
3rd Prize: Florence Gelsthorpe
Highly Commended: Tamara Boston, Anisha Choda, Lucy Huddleston

The Philosophy Essay Prize
1st Prize: Helena Carone Wheatley
Highly Commended: Jaya Rana, Eleanor Scott, Ghazal Seidi, Emma Walker, Anna White

The Modern and Medieval Languages Essay Prize
1st Prize: Ella Tasker
2nd Prize: Ashna Ahmad
Joint 3rd Prize: Lucy Psaila and Justine Russell
Highly Commended: Yutong Chen

The Music Essay Prize
1st Prize: Anna Fenton-Smith
2nd Prize: Mary Offer
3rd Prize: Marcella Keating
Highly Commended: Amy Coates
Commended: Harriet Edwards