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Behind the scenes with Leanne Williams

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...
Dr Leanne Williams
Senior Teaching Fellow and Senior Tutor
School of Life Sciences

Role for the International Biology Olympiad: Initiator of the IBO being hosted at Warwick; organiser; coordinator of all practical examination structure, content and academic rigour; contact for Royal Society of Biology (RSB) and IBO organising committee.

My usual job involves…
Teaching, Senior Tutor and Director of Student Wellbeing, pedagogical research - teaching and learning strategy and transitions, outreach, collaborating with CPE and other faculties, numerous administrative roles.

In advance of the International Biology Olympiad I…
In July 2013 I travelled to Bern, Switzerland as an invited jury member and ‘observer’ of the IBO. I felt that the opportunity to host the event in 2017 was an opportunity not to be missed and set out to convince my colleagues that this was a worthy pursuit. My main role during the 12 months leading up to the 2017 Olympiad was to develop the Physiology practical exam with Professor Kevin Moffat and to oversee the structure and content of all the practical examinations, ensure that they were rigorous, challenging and complied with IBO standards and curriculum. I worked closely with Kevin as we were the two leads for the event organisation. I coordinated the delivery of the practical theory and strategy to the sub jury prior to the IBO.

During the International Biology Olympiad I…
I left my home on Sunday night and didn’t return until the following Friday! I worked very closely with the IBO organising committee, the RSB team and the other members of the practical delivery team, Professor Kevin Moffat, Dr Miriam Gifford, Dr Stuart Allen and Dr Michael Baker. I led our presentation of the practical justification to the IBO jury members (scary). Delivered and coordinated alongside Kevin our practical exam, spent 2 days holed up with the team in a room somewhere in Physics marking 264 exam scripts. We spent an entire day at the mercy of the IBO jury justifying our marking criteria. I presented some medals during the awards dinner. I got some sleep and had a few pints.

I really enjoy being involved with…
the camaraderie of the team and seeing all the 100s of people involved in the organisation doing an amazing job and seeing an idea I had 4 years ago finally happening because of all these amazing people. I enjoyed being involved with people from all over the world and being proud to showcase what Warwick and the UK can offer to name but a few…Andy Treharne, Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, Matt Johnson and Josh Hodge. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the intensity of the week (in hindsight).

The International Biology Olympiad is unique because…
hundreds of people from all over the globe and equally passionate about Biology give up their free time to give students such a unique opportunity. It also brought together different sectors of the University, Chemistry, Physics, IT Support, Warwick Conferences, everyone was utterly amazing.

If I could change one thing about the International Biology Olympiad it would be
the jury sessions, they take far too long, perhaps more could be done prior to the jury sessions where the exams are ratified by a committee, leaving the jury sessions to focus on significant translational issues.

Not everyone knows that…
Bakewell cakes really help marking! And, (in a whisper) this was the best IBO ever!

Hear from other colleagues behind the scenes

Observing practical exams
Practicals done
Marking starts
Medal presentations