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Behind the scenes with Branagh Crealock-Ashurst

Hear from colleagues who volunteered to contribute to the International Biology Olympiad (IBO), find out about their role and what they enjoyed about it. It's a chance to see some of the activity that went on behind the scenes to help make the IBO a success.

Behind the scenes with...
Branagh Crealock-Ashurst
Student Experience and Outreach Assistant
School of Life Sciences
Role for the International Biology Olympiad: Mainly the logistics of the practicals tasks and jury room support for the practical exams. Obtaining equipment, planning who goes where and when, being a general run around and praying that all of my spreadsheets actually worked.

My usual job involves…
maintaining the School of Life Sciences Outreach and Widening Participation activities as well as preparing Public Engagement events to showcase the Department’s research.

In advance of the International Biology Olympiad I…
attended IBO organising committee meetings in London and planned logistical meetings in SLS to prepare for the scale of the event. This then allowed me to communicate directly the needs/desires of the committee to staff here in SLS. Also discussed was the content of the practical exams and how we would actually deliver these to the 250 plus international students that came to us. A key challenge was working out how we would have each country team member sit 3 practical exams in 3 separate locations across campus in the space of 8 hours, all whilst keeping them separate from other teams who had done the exams already. This resulted in me having to sort out over 250 power point slides with country flags and codes to ensure the right students were in groups away from their fellow team members. These meetings culminated in the collation of a long list of items, equipment and volunteer numbers that needed to be obtained. With this in hand, I liaised with the Universities of Bristol and Manchester to borrow over 170 microscopes, 160 micro-pipettes and 10 spectrophotometers. I also recruited a large number of volunteers from around the country and here at Warwick (thank you too all those who helped!!!! ).

During the International Biology Olympiad, I…
did a lot… mostly involving running around making sure the right things were in the right places as well as the right people. I helped sort and mark over 800 completed exam papers, led the right students to the right exams, got into work for 6am to ensure the labs were set up right and much more. I worked with everyone from key RSB members, SLS organising staff, student volunteers and many more. I’m pretty sure I must have walked/run/been driven/crawled across campus 50 times over the week. It was fun… at times slightly stressful but overall, incredibly enjoyable.

I really enjoyed being involved with…
the practical day itself. Seeing teams of students being 100% focused on their exams was inspiring but most importantly I loved seeing how so many members of staff from across the university came together to put on and get through such an intensive day. The support and help they provided each other was sensational and each should be proud of their hard work, especially the lab volunteers and laboratory technical teams.

My second favourite part of the IBO was the awards dinner on the Saturday night. It was lovely to see so many students cheering each other on and supporting each other through the presentation of awards. Of course, I was incredibly proud to see the UK team get 2 bronze medals, a silver and a gold (our gold medal winner came 12th overall out of over 250!). To then be presented with a gold medal myself for my work on the IBO with Professor Moffat and Dr Williams I was very honoured. The party afterwards was fantastic and I loved being able to see everyone having fun after such an intensive week!

The International Biology Olympiad is unique because…
it brings together the best and brightest young people in the world and shows that hard work and determination really do pay off. It also shows that through biology it is possible to make friends throughout the world, ignoring borders and politics. These kids will grow up to be the next generation's Einstein and Hawking and I for one cannot wait to see what they come up with!

If I could change one thing about the International Biology Olympiad it would be…
more sunny weather and less rain!!

Not everyone knows that…
Our SLS technical lab team were the true stars of the week. They not only set up every single lab and provided support for them all, they also cleaned and packed everything away. Over the past few months they have been procuring many consumables, putting over 40,000 Minutien pins into 300 silicon discs, setting up 270 card booths and so much more. Hat’s off to them, they are all stars!

Hear from other colleagues behind the scenes

Branagh with coach
Ushering students across campus
Leanne and Branagh
Celebrating IBO success
Organisers with medals
Gold medal winners!