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The University of Oxford’s science-inspired art competition for Oxfordshire state school students in Years 5 to 8 is back. Beyond Boundaries is profiling six Oxford researchers, including Sushma Shankar from the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, to inspire this year’s artwork entries.

(L-R) Chy Akpulu, Zhiyao Luo, Lauren Rudd, Misha Patel, Morgan Mitchell, Sushma Shankar
(L-R) Chinenye Akpulu, Zhiyao Luo, Lauren Rudd, Misha Patel, Morgan Mitchell, Sushma Shankar

Launched in 2018 and now in its third year, Beyond Boundaries is a bi-annual competition organised by the Mathematical, Physical, and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division, which aims to increase the visibility of Oxford scientists and mathematicians from Black, Asian and Minority-Ethnic backgrounds, and to inspire young people to engage with art and science by breaking down perceived boundaries between the two.

School students are invited to find out about the work and career paths of six Oxford researchers from Black, Asian and Minority-Ethnic backgrounds in postgraduate and postdoctoral science, whose profiles have been shared on the Oxford Sparks website. They choose one researcher to focus on as inspiration for a piece of art, which can be created in any medium (for example, a painting, drawing, sculpture, animation, dance, or poem). The resulting work is submitted to the competition along with a short, written statement about what they have created.

Daisy Hung, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion for MPLS Division, said: ‘Beyond Boundaries is all about encouraging school children to engage with science and art in fun and creative ways. It’s also helping us to strengthen our existing connections with local communities and schools and attract more families into the University’s spaces to see some of the amazing pieces of art that the school students produce. 

‘This is the first year we’ve extended our researcher profiles to cover representatives from the medical sciences at Oxford, as well as the mathematical, physical and life sciences, and we can’t wait to see what the students come up with this year!’

This year’s highlighted Beyond Boundaries researchers are:

  • Chinenye Akpulu - Bacteria Scientist, Department of Biology (Linacre College)
  • Zhiyao Luo - Artificial Intelligence Scientist, Department of Engineering Science (Reubens College)
  • Morgan Mitchell - Movement Neuroscientist, Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (Reubens College)
  • Misha Patel - Tidal Engineer, Department of Engineering Science (St Catherine's College)
  • Lauren Rudd - Zoologist, Department of Biology (Green Templeton College)
  • Sushma Shankar - Transplant Surgeon and Scientist, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences

Prizes of £100 will be awarded for each winning entry (by a team or individual) and £50 per runner-up entry. Selected entries will be displayed at a summer exhibition to be held at a prominent University of Oxford location, and winners and runners-up (along with school representatives) will be invited to a private awards presentation to celebrate their success.

The deadline for entries to Beyond Boundaries this year is Friday 28 April 2023. Full details of how to apply can be found on the Oxford Sparks website, along with the highlighted researcher profiles.

Look out for this year’s winners and runners up and their artistic creations on the MPLS and Oxford Sparks websites this June/July, along with details of the summer 2023 Beyond Boundaries exhibition in central Oxford.