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Teenage Biology Olympians jet off to compete in Taipei

7 July 2011

Four UK sixth form students set off today (7 July), with the support of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, to compete against the cream of the world's young biologists at the International Biology Olympiad in Chinese Taipei. The elite UK team is made up of the top four students from the British Biology Olympiad, a competition which challenges gifted students with an interest in biology to expand and extend their talents.

From left to right: Dr Mark Downs CEO Society of Biology, Patrick Perryman-Owens, Vasanth Sritharan, Holly Rees, Andre Zylstra, Dr Tristan Bunn, BBSRC Inspiring Young Scientists Coordinator. Copyright: Society of Biology

From left to right: Dr Mark Downs CEO Society of Biology; Patrick Perryman-Owens; Vasanth Sritharan; Holly Rees; Andre Zylstra; Dr Tristan Maclean, BBSRC Inspiring Young Scientists Coordinator. Copyright: Society of Biology

Rather than the 100 metres and the triple jump the students will be competing against representatives from around 60 countries to see who has the widest knowledge and deepest understanding of biology and the best experimental skills.

The UK team is made up of Patrick Perryman-Owens from Westminster School in London, Holly Rees from Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, Vasanth Sritharan from Queen Elizabeth's School in London and André Zylstra from Charterhouse in Surrey.

Patrick and Vasanth both hope to study Medicine at University, at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London respectively. Holly and André are both planning to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge.

Before departing for Taipei, members of the team said "We are really excited to travel to meet people from other countries who are as interested in biology as we are."

The students get in some last minute practice before setting off for Taipei. Copyright: Norma Broadbridge

The students get in some last minute practice before setting off for Taipei.
Copyright: Norma Broadbridge

Dr Andrew Treharne, Chairman of the British Biology Olympiad, said "A record 2850 students competed in the British Biology Olympiad this year and the standard was again extremely high. Many congratulations to all the students who have been awarded medals and especially to André, Holly, Patrick and Vasanth for being selected to represent the UK at the International Biology Olympiad in Taiwan."

In preparation for the international competition the students spent two days in Reading, at the Reading School and the University of Reading, honing their practical skills and running through some practice questions.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills, said "I want to congratulate all those students who participated in this year's British Biology Olympiad. Nurturing talented young bioscientists is going to be absolutely vital if we are to ensure that the UK is equipped to deal with the challenges of the coming century. I wish the students luck in Taipei and hope they enjoy the experience which will no doubt stand them in good stead for the future."



Photographs are available - please contact BBSRC External Relations.

About the British Biology Olympiad (BBO)

The British Biology Olympiad (BBO) is an annual competition for post-16 students. It is part of the International Biology Olympiad (IBO) and is organised by the volunteers of UK Biology Competitions, a Special Interest Group of the Society of Biology. In addition to encouraging and rewarding pupils in their studies, the BBO provides a means of selecting a team to represent UK at the IBO.

About the International Biology Olympiad

The International Biology Olympiad (IBO) is a competition for secondary school students. Their skills in tackling biological problems, and dealing with biological experiments are tested. Interest in biology, inventiveness, creativity and perseverance are necessary. In bringing together gifted students, the IBO tries to challenge and stimulate these students to expand their talents and to promote their career as a scientist. Every participating country sends four students, who are the winners of the respective national competitions. They are to be accompanied by two team leaders as representatives of each country.

About the Biology Challenge

Building on the success of BBO, the Biology Challenge was developed to act as a junior version of the British Biology Olympiad (BBO), raising its profile and encouraging participation. The Challenge aims to encourage pupils in their interest in Biology before they make their crucial choice of subjects to study post-GCSE.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences and the largest single public funder of agriculture and food-related research.

Sponsored by Government, BBSRC’s budget for 2011-12 is around £445M which it is investing in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.