Peterhouse Kelvin Biological Sciences Essay Competition

We are pleased to announce the 2024 Peterhouse Kelvin Biological Sciences Essay Competition! This competition aims to give students the opportunity to explore scientific concepts and topics beyond the classroom, and to engage with scientific research.  

Who can take part?

The Kelvin Biological Sciences Essay Competition is open to students in their penultimate year of study (Year 12 in England and Wales, S5 in Scotland, Year 13 in Northern Ireland, or equivalent) who are educated in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Please make sure that you have read the submission guidelines and FAQs sections carefully before entering.

You can read a selection of the winning entries from last year’s competition here (

Submission Guidelines

Your essay should be no more than 2,000 words including footnotes and appendices on one of the four questions listed below. You should include a bibliography and ensure that all sources are referenced. The bibliography is excluded from the word limit. We know that not all students will be familiar with referencing, so you might find the following page from the University which includes a Guide to Harvard Referencing helpful ( Any other standard system of referencing style is also acceptable. Please note that all work should be your own, should not be produced by Artificial Intelligence, and should not include any work that has been or will be submitted to an exam board as part of your studies. The main focus of your essay should not be material previously or currently being studied as part of your school courses.

There is a maximum of four entries per school, preferably across the range of questions. Please note that this limit does not apply to Sixth Form Colleges where year groups are over 1000 students in size. All entries must be approved by a teacher, so please make sure a teacher at your school knows that you are entering. On the submission form you will be asked to provide a name and contact information for the teacher who will be supporting your application. If more than four entries are submitted by one school, we will contact the referees at this school to let us know which submissions are to be considered. Schools with lots of potential entrants may wish to run their own internal competition before the chosen answers are submitted to us for consideration.

Submissions will close on Monday 29th April at 23:59 pm GMT. We are unable to consider essays which have not been submitted by this deadline.

Your essay must be submitted as a PDF via the following form: Please ensure that all pages in your essay are numbered, and that your name and school appears clearly on the first page. You should name your PDF file in the following format: Question number-Surname-First Initial e.g. Q2-Smith-T. Your teacher will then receive an email from Peterhouse asking them to confirm that you are eligible and that your essay complies with our guidelines. They will need to complete this by Tuesday 7th of May – please do make sure that they are aware of this.

Kelvin Biological Sciences Essay Competition Questions – 2024

  1. Why do duckbill platypuses fluoresce under UV light?


  1. Mitochondria are always shown as ovals; in reality they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Why?


  1. Why are there so few venomous mammals and no birds, whereas there are so many venomous reptiles?


  1. Reintroduction of ecosystem engineers (e.g. beavers) can have major impacts on the environment. What species would you reintroduce (or introduce) to the British Isles and why has this not been done already?


Summary of Key Dates

Deadline for submissions – Monday 29th April 23:59 pm GMT

Deadline for teacher confirmation – Tuesday 7th May 23:59 pm GMT



Can I answer more than one of the four questions for the 2024 Kelvin Essay Competition?

We ask that students only submit one essay per person.

Can I make any changes once I have submitted my essay using the above form?

Please note that once you have submitted your entry it is not possible to make any changes – please ensure you are happy with your work before pressing ‘submit’.

Will I receive feedback on my essay?

Unfortunately, due to the high volume of submissions, it is not possible to provide feedback on individual essays.

Why do I need to include contact information for a teacher at my school, and who should this be?

After you submit your essay we get in touch with a contact at your school so that they can confirm you are eligible for the competition, and that the essay is your own work. This can be any teacher at your school who knows you, for example, the Head of Biology, one of your subject teachers, your form tutor, or your Head of Year.



The competition has a prize pool of £750, which will be shared between the winners. Winners will be contacted by email - please make sure your contact details are entered correctly! A prizegiving ceremony will be held in Cambridge in summer 2024.


Contact us

If you have any further questions relating to the competition, please email us at