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Posted: 17th August 2023

Exam Results

Mariam Mehrez (19) and her brother Ahmed (18) who came to the UK four years ago, after living in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are hoping to make their dreams come true with places at Oxford and Cambridge.

Mariam, who has a place to study Physics at Oxford University, was inspired by seeing women back home unable to pursue their STEM dreams.  After gaining 5 A*s in her A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths and Physics and 13 A*s at GCSE, Mariam won a scholarship to top school Cardiff Sixth Form College. Ahmed, who has gained 4 A*s in Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths and Physics and has a similar record of 12A*s at GCSE, is planning to take a gap year working in the technology industry before applying for computer science or maths in 2024.

Mariam and Ahmed’s family moved to the UK as their father got a job working as a doctor. “Moving to the UK opened a multitude of opportunities especially as a woman interested in STEM” Mariam said. “I moved in year 11 so had to go down a year to follow the GCSE curriculum. It was a good decision as it allowed me to take my time adapting to the new curriculum and environment. It also meant that I was in the same year group as my brother.  We help each other a lot, work well together and make a good team.”

As well as her studies, Mariam has taken part in many super-curricular activities and competitions. Highlights include winning Top 50 Gold in the British Physics Olympiad (BPhO) which places her in the top 2% in the UK.  She was also a finalist (top 20) in the Egyptian Mathematics Olympiad, winning a diamond award (top 50) in the Isaac Senior Physics Challenge administered by the University of Cambridge.  Miriam has also undertaken a work placement at Diamond Light Source, researching the process of corrosion in a variety of metals reacting under different conditions and joined Cambridge University’s STEM SMART where she attended weekly problem-solving sessions in physics and mathematics culminating in a summer school at the university.

Extending himself outside of the classroom is also important to Ahmed who’s aiming for a place at Cambridge University in 2024 studying either computer science or mathematics. Ahmed won a Gold Award in the BPhO (top 150) and a silver award in the final round of the International Youth Maths Challenge (top 10% of all participants), regularly takes part in Project Euler solving pure maths problems using a computer and enjoys LeetCode – a platform which he says “helps you enhance your coding and problem solving skills and knowledge as well as helping prepare for technical interviews for companies like Google or Facebook”. Ahmed is also very interested in cyber security and having accomplished a high level of proficiency in CyberDiscovery, was awarded free access to a cybersecurity foundation course by industry leaders SANS institute which helped him gain not only technical knowledge but also an understanding of the social and ethical considerations of cybersecurity.

The two also often join forces, helping and encouraging each other in their activities. Both have taken part in the prestigious Oxford University Quantum Club where they undertook a rigorous study of first year undergraduate quantum physics.  As a pair, they took part in the Computational Physics Challenge – winning top 5 gold and were invited to the BPhO award ceremony at the Royal Society. Ahmed and Mariam also worked together as a team in the Engineering Education Scheme Wales as main coder and team leader respectively, where they researched issues in the Severn Tunnel culminating in a 40+ page report on a machine learning model they devised to automate tunnel inspections and their team being awarded best presentation. Together, they also won the Egyptian Space Settlement Space Design competition and represented Africa and the Middle East at the international finals.

Giving back to the community is important to the sibling duo. “I want to use my multi-cultural background to help others and to bridge the gaps between communities” Mariam said. “This has led me to teach Arabic to non-Arab Muslims in my local mosque which I switched to an online mode during the pandemic enabling me to reach over 100 students.  I also volunteer at a Middle Eastern Ed-Tech Startup finding, condensing and translating information about educational opportunities to make it more accessible”.  Ahmed regularly volunteers for the medical education company, Saving Lives Academy, using his technical skills to help automate their systems. “The ability of computer science to help people is tremendous and I am glad for the opportunity to sharpen my skills whilst giving back” Ahmed said.

Speaking of their experience at Cardiff Sixth Form College, the two were inspired by their teachers and other students. “Being part of such a diverse student body is a wonderful experience and there’s something to be learned from all the other students who are always so welcoming and supportive” commented Mariam.

Said Principal, Cardiff Sixth Form College, Tom Arrand: “Both Mariam and Ahmed are scholars here at Cardiff and we recognised their innate intelligence and work ethic at application stage.  They have both made the most of all the scientific and volunteering opportunities here at the school and have really appreciated the quality of teaching asking questions far beyond the curriculum.  They are students who will make a significant difference in the world and who will be at the cutting edge of technology and research and I very much look forward to following their careers.”

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