HE+ second meeting: Thursday 23rd February 2017 - Natural Science (Biology) Masterclass


As part of our preparations for applying to top universities a few Year 12 students attended masterclasses run by Cambridge academics; I chose the Biology lecture. The lecture was presented by Dr Andrew Murry and was titled “Life at the Extremes”. The lecture was on extremophiles and how organisms have evolved to live in the in the most extreme of environments; from the fiery sands of the Sahara desert and the icy depths of the Artic, to even the organisms that manage to survive on top of the earth in the highest of altitudes in places such as the notorious Mount Everest. He began by explaining how there are many different organisms that have adapted over hundreds of millions of years to be in the state they are today whereby they’re able to survive and thrive in the harshest of locations known to man.

- Edward Pelling Yr 12 



He then advanced to talk about how there is one organism, mammal in fact, that he believes is the “greatest extremophile” which isn’t a statement he took lightly. He pondered around the fact that most of the extremophiles that he had exhibited were highly adapted but only for a specific habitat. Mainly, for either being at extremely high altitudes, in the freezing cold or for being in places of perpetual heat. However a certain extremophile has managed to conquer all of these treacherous habitats and even be able to travel from one to the other. This occurs because this certain extremophile can either adapt their behaviour rather quickly or can survive by using pure genius, developing inventions that they themselves have created.

He then posed the questions. What extremophile is it? Which mammal could do all of this? Of course, it’s you! He elaborated on how for quite some time the human race have travelled near and far, all over the globe conquering the all habitats mentioned prior. Therefore in his opinion crowning us “the greatest extremophile”. Finally he told us about the feats that humans have taken and some inspiring stories such as the race to the poles and the expeditions that took place where people attempted tirelessly to conquer these environments, so much so that some even lost their lives. He informed us on how more recently tests and studies are going on at Mount Everest whereby scientists are looking into how we manage to survive in the harshest of climates, looking into things such as how the climate affects our ability to carry blood around the body and the change in pressure that occurs upon entering this environment. He also mentioned how, when comparing this to the evolutionary changes seen in Sherpas on Mount Everest you find that their evolutionary traits are different to the adaptations seen if you put the average human that lives at sea level on Mount Everest which is something they’re looking into in great detail to see why this is how it is. Overall the lecture was inspirational, informing and certainly for me, left me pondering over some of the things he had mentioned making me want to look into it in greater detail. Clearly resembling how exceptional the lecture was.