15 November 2023

Sixth Form was thrilled to have Professor Stephen Smith, an Old Birkonian, back at the school to share his insight on the current state and imminent prospects of ‘A Life in the Life Sciences’, along with his view on the rising importance of artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

By Joel R, Sixth Form Student

After achieving his Doctor of Medicine, Mr Smith devoted his efforts towards research at countless world-leading institutions, including Cambridge as ‘Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology’, along with Imperial College London, where he pioneered the launch of the ‘Imperial College Healthcare National Health Service Trust’. Throughout the past decade, while continuing to act as a chairperson of NHS Foundation Trusts, Mr Smith now acts as a Non-Executive Director on a range of biotechnology and data analytics companies.

During his lecture discussing ‘What Is Medical Research’ in its evolving state, Mr Smith explained the essential nature of Computer Science today due to the ever-growing need for computational handling and analysis of data. By quoting Steve Jobs to capture his views on the future of research: “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future”, Mr Smith highlighted the need to place trust in computational power and machine learning processes for us to make significant advancements. This is fundamental to modern-day progress in this field, however, cutting-edge research is unable to take place without substantial funding. Mr Smith later explored the disparity in spending between the UK and other nations at the forefront of research and how, proportionally, we are set to fall behind if changes to the structure of investments are not made.

Through his personal involvement in bioengineering, Mr Smith has influenced the development of some of the most recent, innovative developments in his field. Following his roots in gynaecology, he helped develop ‘Impli’, the first real-time hormone monitoring device for IVF, technology which will continue to improve the safety and reliability of fertility treatment exponentially. Additionally, he has worked alongside ‘Mirzyme’ with the goal of predicting and preventing pre-eclampsia for all pregnancies.

It was topics such as these which Upper Sixth Students subsequently discussed further with Mr Smith over their shared ‘Lecture Lunch’, giving them an opportunity to freely discuss complicated topics with him. Following this, the students then spoke about their aspirations for university, and of how their chosen degrees may offer a chance to be involved in this rapidly developing industry