The future’s bright: winners announced for 2019 Essay Prize competition

Is fiction like a spider’s web? How would you treat a robot explorer on Mars? Is patriotism a virtue, or a vice? How can screen use affect relationships? and which living woman biologist would you nominate for a Nobel prize? Just a selection of the questions explored by some of the UK’s most talented Year 12 students, demonstrating 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.

A record-breaking number of entries were received from a wide range of schools across ten different categories: Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Engineering, History, Modern and Medieval Languages, Music, Philosophy, Physical Sciences, Psychological & Behavioural 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.

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 to take part in a special ceremony where they were presented with their prizes by Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College. 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 “It is always inspiring to see the extremely high-quality work produced by the entrants to our Essay Prize competitions. All our prize-winners should be very proud of their achievement in a very competitive field. We hope that the academic freedom offered by the format confirms to them that the teaching on offer at Cambridge will suit them, and that they have the potential to thrive here if they go on to make an application, and hopefully consider Newnham if they do.”

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 2020 Essay Prize Competitions will be announced in November 2019.

Read more about the 2019 questions and categories and the entries from the winners.

The full list of 2019 Essay Prize Winners/Highly Commended/Commended:

The Woolf Essay Prize
1st Prize: Ariana Rubio
2nd Prize: Hollie Noble
Joint 3rd Prize: Naomi McKeown, Clara Wittmann
Highly Commended: En-rei Soon, Jess Steadman
Commended: Lydia Fontes, Eleanor Grossel, Saira Nabi, Lottie Swainston

The Computer Science Essay Prize
1st Prize: Chloe Wong
2nd Prize: Celeste à Brassard
3rd Prize: Verity Powell

The Engineering Essay Prize
1st Prize: Emma Allen
2nd Prize: Deborah Smith
3rd Prize: Natalie Tsang
Highly Commended: Sonya Kalsi, Ella Lord, Katie Young
Commended: Hannah Landsman, Katy Nicol, Clarissa Pereira, Dulcie Turner

The History Essay Prize
1st Prize: Francoise Dyer
2nd Prize: Kirsty Tennant
Joint 3rd Prize: Ines Mubgar-Spencer, Ava Smith
Highly Commended: Shaima Begum, Stella Horrell, Ruby Levy, Flora McIntyre

The Modern and Medieval Languages Essay Prize
Joint 1st Prize: Emily Coatsworth, Natasha Festenstein
2nd Prize: Giulia Moretti
3rd Prize: Katie Pruden
Highly Commended: Lucy Allan-Jones, Kitty Liu
Commended: Vidhi Kohli, Izzy Lepine, Niamh Sayers, Xyla Taufaniska

The Music Essay Prize
1st Prize: Jemma Jeffery
2nd Prize: Evie Press
3rd Prize: Ella Jackson

The Philosophy Essay Prize
1st Prize: Sharon Chau

The Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Essay Prize
1st Prize: Georgia Hewett
2nd Prize: Michi Aneez
3rd Prize: Melissa Adams
Highly Commended: Kathryn Beck

The Weston-Smith Physical Sciences Essay Prize
1st Prize: Holly MacDonald
Joint 2nd Prize: Shannon Clark, Helena King
Highly Commended: Louise Blackman, Isabelle Goddard, Simran Iswaran, Olivia Sutton, Helen Underwood
Commended: Jennifer Hardwick, Rosa King, Madeleine Vince

The Biological Sciences Essay Prize
Joint 1st Prize: Clodagh Bottomley, Alexandra O’Callaghan
Joint 3rd Prize: Catherine Coffey, Isabella Woodward
Highly Commended: Madeleine Boardman, Siyuan Song