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Creating a Culture of Science at the BISC

CH1The BISC’s brand new Science and Innovation Labs were officially opened by Peter Field, HM Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, on Saturday, June 29th as part of the BISC’s 25th anniversary celebrations. This fall, this state-of-the-art facility welcomed eager BISC Science students for its first formal lectures and practical sessions.

The BISC has been running a Science stream since 2016, and the courses have been very successful in attracting new students and diversifying the overall student demographic on campus. Whereas previously students in the Biology and Chemistry streams had to use the laboratory facilities at Battle Abbey School, this new dedicated lab space on campus, just a stone’s throw from Bader Hall, will allow the Castle to expand its course offerings even further. The BISC plans to offer a whole new range of STEM and material science-based courses in the very near future.

As Science at the BISC is a relatively new venture for everyone concerned, The Castle Herald decided to speak to members of the Science faculty to see how we might go about creating a culture of Science at the BISC.

Passion flowerFor the BISC’s Dr. Sarah McKenzie, the lynchpins of the Castle’s efforts to promote the Sciences are not just its new laboratory facilities, but its ability to access some of the truly outstanding Experiential Learning Opportunities (ELOs) available in the UK. At time of writing, her Biology students will be travelling to Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens on the BISC’s midterm trip. This outstanding research institution has a mission to conserve, explore and explain the world of plants for a better future. Students will make their way through ten glasshouses, each of which replicates a different global climate, including a tropical rainforest and an arid desert. Dr. McKenzie notes, “It’s an outstanding immersive learning experience. As you walk into some of the glasshouses the humidity really hits you, and there are even birds flying around inside.”

Dr. McKenzie, who offers regular Nature Walks for students around the Castle gardens and grounds in her free time, is also keen not to overlook the opportunities to learn on the students’ very doorstep. In her most recent lab session, her Biology students used projection microscopes to examine dragonfly exuvea that they had collected from marshland on the Castle estate itself. “The gardens and grounds of the Castle Estate provide habitats for all manner of flora and fauna,” she says. “It’s a Living Lab.”

Chem4Our modern science lab facilities have made it possible for students to develop valuable laboratory skills, and become proficient in the use of technical equipment and scientific instruments at the Castle. Chemistry professor Dr. Danesh Roudini has already made good, practical use of his new surroundings. “As part of a recent organic chemistry class, I asked my students to manufacture shampoo using essential oils,” he said. “It’s a popular practicum because my students get to take their learning home with them!”

Ioana Sotuela, who lectures in both Physics and Astronomy at the Castle, is eager to point out that students’ learning should be integrated to ensure neither the Sciences nor Humanities exist in isolation. She has planned a lunchtime session in Week 11 where her Physics students will be asked to prepare and present experiments to the wider Castle community. This student outreach initiative also continues for her Astronomy class, who have been asked to deliver a presentation on their first-year research projects at a special event, to be held at the BISC Science and Innovation Labs, that will be open to both the Friends of Herstmonceux and the general public.

Dr. Christian Lloyd, the BISC’s Academic Director, is excited by the potential of the brand-new Con-Ed Science stream at the BISC. “Concurrent Education at the Castle is already a fantastic opportunity for our students to step outside their frames of reference,” he says. “And the relatively small size of our cohort means our Con-Ed Science students will work more closely with Arts students than perhaps they would have on main campus.” The BISC’s Con-Ed Science students’ experience is enriched further by their unique practicums. The Castle has arranged for them to participate in Science classes at nearby Battle Abbey School in the Winter Term, so they can even experience what it is like to teach the Sciences at the secondary-level.


The BISC Alumni Spotlight Series - October 2019

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The response and positive feedback we have received for this new initiative has been fantastic, so our Spotlight Series continues with four new alumni profiles as each of our Castle grads recalls some of their memories of the BISC and discusses the varied, yet equally fascinating paths they have taken since they left Herstmonceux.

If you missed the last Spotlight Series, fear not! All of the Spotlight profiles we feature on the BISC website will be archived on the site under the month they were published.

You can also read the profiles of July's Spotlightees here.


Putting the Castle in Perspective

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If you are one of those Castle alumni that misses practically everything about the BISC except the English weather, then two episodes of Sky Arts’  “Landscape Artist of the Year 2019” are bound to give you a wry smile this fall. The Castle grounds and Observatory Science Centre provided the venue for two heats of the hit show, which were filmed at the end of June in absolutely torrential rain. (Here at Herstmonceux we can really put the water in watercolour!)  

We are delighted to confirm that the footage featuring the Observatory will appear in the second episode in the series and will go out on Tuesday, October 22nd at 8 pm on Sky Arts.  The episode featuring the Castle will be transmitted on Tuesday, November 5th, also at 8 pm on Sky Arts.

Sky subscribers can download the episodes here: https://tinyurl.com/y5uaem4w


The BISC Pays Tribute: The Alfred Bader Memorial Concert

For a quarter of a century, students from Canada and all over the world have been able to enjoy a truly transformative educational experience at Herstmonceux Castle, thanks to the vision and generosity of Queen’s alumnus Dr. Alfred Bader (BSc’45, BA’46, MSc’47, LLD’86) who, together with his wife Dr. Isabel Bader (LLD’07), had the foresight to purchase the Castle for Queen’s University.

CH42It was The Bader International Study Centre’s honour to present a very special memorial concert for Dr. Alfred Bader on Sunday, September 22nd. The university was delighted that many members of the Bader family travelled from the United States especially for the occasion including Dr. Isabel Bader and Alfred’s two sons and granddaughter. They were joined by leaders from Bader Philanthropies, Inc, the Bader family’s charitable arm, which is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane also travelled to Herstmonceux to join the Bader family in paying tribute to Alfred. It was Principal Deane’s first visit to the Castle since his appointment as Queen’s University’s 21st Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

CH4The Alfred Bader Memorial Concert, featuring the talents of Bader Musicians in Residence Diana Gilchrist and Shelley Katz, was attended by over 120 invited guests. Attendees included close friends of Alfred and Isabel; Alfred’s oldest friend, Ralph Emanuel, whose mother Bessy financially supported Alfred’s Kindertransport journey to England; many of Isabel’s friends in the local community; The Friends of Herstmonceux - local supporters of the BISC, who championed the purchase of the Castle by Queen’s in 1993; many former administrative leaders of the BISC and long-serving faculty members. They all came to honour Alfred, as did several of Isabel’s former students from the Thalia School of Drama. Isabel was especially delighted that members of the family of her oldest friend, the late Christine Portch, were able to travel from Norfolk to attend.

CH43The concert was MC’d by Dr. Craig Walker, Director of the Dan School of Music and Drama at Queen’s. The musical programme featured a number of Isabel Bader’s favourite classical works, including Strauss’ ‘Vier Letze Lieder’ (‘Four Last Songs’) as performed by soprano Diana Gilchrist. The Symphonova Orchestra accompanied Diana and was conducted by Shelley Katz. The BISC student choir performed, ‘L’dor Vador’ a song that was much beloved by Alfred and sung at his 85th birthday celebration at the BISC in 2009.

The concert was followed by Afternoon Tea under canopies in the Castle courtyard. The event was officially hosted by Isabel Bader as a means of thanking the scores of loving friends and supporters for attending. She took time to meet each guest individually and fondly reminisce. Since his death in December 2018, Queen’s University has found many ways to honour the legacy of Dr. Alfred Bader, but this was an especially poignant opportunity to pay tribute in a setting that meant so much to him.

In his remarks, Principal Patrick Deane noted that Alfred Bader was a rare, inspiring individual who had both great vision and the means of carrying out that vision. The Principal spoke of Queen’s gratitude for Alfred and his many contributions to the university. Queen’s University will be forever grateful to Dr. Alfred Bader for his remarkable legacy and his expansive vision of students from different parts of the world living and learning together.

With thanks to Alex Read for all photographs.


Faculty Profile: Dr. Anna Taylor

Anna Taylor

♦ What is your original hometown - where and what did you study?

I am lucky enough to have grown up in several different cities, but my original hometown is Vienna in Austria. Although I considered returning to Vienna for my undergraduate education, I ended up falling in love with the town of Brighton in East Sussex so I enrolled at the University of Sussex as an international student, majoring in Experimental Psychology. I then studied in Edinburgh and the Netherlands before returning to the University of Sussex for my PhD.

♦ Can you summarize your career path to date? Have you always been an academic?

Like many academics, I have alternated between intensive research positions and teaching positions, before finding an interest in academic administration and a more future-oriented perspective of higher education. I have worked outside of academia as an equine behaviour consultant, combining my love of horses and my academic expertise. That said, I ended up using my experiences to collaborate on an article on the age-related development of social cognition in domestic horses. Similarly, I’m currently working on a project on anthelmintic resistance in horses in conjunction with colleagues from laboratories in Scotland and England. So even when I’m enjoying my hobby, I’m always asking questions that seem to end up with some form of data collection and analysis. My work as BISC Deputy Academic Director stays interesting for the same reasons: students and their needs are changing, the availability  (and accuracy!) of information is changing, the purpose of university-level education is changing. So, there are always more questions to ask and to answer – this is something that guides my life and also something I try to share with my students.

♦ When did you start at the Castle and was there something in particular about the job advert that caught your eye?

Like many before and after me, I of course immediately noticed the word “Castle” in the advert. That alone made me want to have a closer look. In 2009, I started teaching Psychology as a part-time sessional lecturer. At the time, I was heavily invested in my research with colleagues from the Perception and Communication Lab, and I certainly didn’t anticipate still being at the Castle ten years later. However, there is something about this institution that is truly unique. The word “Castle” may have first caught my eye; but the vision of the BISC and the incredible experience we provide students are what made me stick around.

♦ Have your areas of focus, or academic interests as a whole changed over your time at the Castle? If so, how?

The Castle has broadened my academic interests and enabled me to develop increasingly  inter-disciplinary perspectives. Working as part of a small faculty means that we all learn more about each other’s disciplines than would ever be possible at a larger institution. This in turn develops the awareness and appreciation of how many academic subjects link together in ways that we don’t normally often get to explore.

♦ Your lecture on dogs at the 25th anniversary was tremendously well received. For those unable to attend, what’s your favourite fact about dogs and/or what do dogs mean to you personally?

The co-evolution of humans and dogs is the most incredible framework to learn about both our species. Most people understand that our ancestors have had a great impact on dogs (i.e. selecting the desirable traits of the tamest wolves to breed dogs with important functions that supported our own evolution: hunting, guarding, herding etc). Then all these years later, we have ended up with a companion that is unrecognizable from its ancestors. What people don’t always appreciate is that the impact of dogs on humans have been equally significant. I am fascinated by the whole concept of co-evolution and how both our species have benefitted and changed because of each other’s influences. Unfortunately to elaborate on this, I’d have to give the whole lecture again, so that will have to wait for another opportunity

♦ Why would you recommend the Castle to a prospective student?

The Castle offers an undergraduate experience like none other. Students are attracted by the location and the small class sizes, but they don’t truly appreciate the impact of their experience here until years later, when they realize that we have already started to prepare them for graduation and the world of employment. The connections that students build with faculty at the Castle can last a lifetime. We aim to help students grow into more confident, responsible, and dynamic individuals. We are proud to send our students back out into the world, having changed forever the way they engage with material (more critically!) and other people (more considerately) and more open to diverse perspectives. The Castle experience is a meaningful one, and we aim to help students fully appreciate that meaning well beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

Help Students Beat the Exam Blues

Exam BluesExam season can be a very stressful time at the Castle, especially when you’re so far from home! With that in mind, we’re asking BISC alumni to provide much-needed encouragement for first-year Castle students by writing letters of support. Our aim is to beat the blues by reminding our students that they are already part of a wider and supportive BISC alumni community.

Can you help? Your letters will provide much-needed words of encouragement to help first-years feel confident that they will make it through the stressful times ahead.

Learn more about this campus-wide initiative and apply online by Friday, November 1st.   

Don’t forget to mention in the ‘Comments’ section that you are a Castle-grad, to ensure your letter finds its way to Bader Hall this December. Thank you!


Bader International Study Centre
Herstmonceux Castle
Hailsham, East Sussex
United Kingdom, BN27 1RN
Phone: +44 1323 834444
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Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment
Gordon Hall, 74 Union Street
Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
Canada, K7L 3N6
Phone: (613) 533-2218
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