'Sometimes the results are suprising': Students explored different ways of visualising the surfaces of rock and stone.
From biodiversity and climate change, deserts and heritage, to politics and transport; visiting A level students covered an exciting range of topics and experienced 'life as an Oxford undergraduate' this July. As well as taking part in tutorials, lectures and seminars, Dr Martin Coombes led the group in hands-on science taster sessions, in the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory (OxRBL).
In addition to the taster sessions, students received guidance on how to make a competitive application to Oxford and each group is guided by UNIQ subject ambassadors, who are there to answer any questions that they might have.
"I've loved my time here at the School of Geography and UNIQ allows me to share some of this with prospective students," comments UNIQ Ambassador Liam Saddington (2013, Geography BA; 2015, MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance).
2017 was the eighth year of the UNIQ summer school project, aimed at widening access to the University of Oxford. 95% of this year's UNIQ summer school students met one or both conditions of being from a disadvantaged socio-economic background (ACORN postcodes 4 and 5) and/or from a neighbourhood with low participation in higher education (POLAR3 postcodes 1 and 2).
"I think these summer schools form a crucial part of the access work here at Oxford," says Liam. "UNIQ allows students from state schools to get a flavour of what it is like to be an undergraduate at Oxford. The students are always really enthusiastic, bright and ready to get stuck in. It's great to watch them exploring the subject and coming across topics that they have never encountered before."
Portable UBS microscopes provide high-magnification images and a TRACEiT device was used to generate digital 3D models to quantify surface texture. The Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory (OxRBL) group use these techniques to help characterise building materials and detect changes that may be occurring as a result of weathering when exposed to rain, salts, urban pollutants and living organisms.
'Simple techniques can often provide very useful information': Here a Karsten tube is being used on OxRBL's purpose-built test walls to measure how quickly water seeps into building materials. Knowing how water enters and moves through stone and mortar helps understand the potential risks posed by rain and damp to historic buildings, and how this can best be managed.
Students had hands-on experience with advanced techniques such as Ground Penetrating Radar, which can be used on vertical walls to reveal hidden voids and other defects, as well as reveal patterns of damp.
Students tested a range of handheld moisture meters on the OxRBL test walls. These simple devices help get a handle on where moisture is in buildings, where it might be coming from, and how it changes over time under different environmental conditions.