“It felt like it was written by a professional scientist” - Year 13 Veronika earns full marks for her EPQ essay on the placebo effect - Framlingham College

As part of the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), a voluntary additional study which pupils at Framlingham College are able to take up to develop skills and support their university applications, Veronika Lamparska achieved the maximum possible marks for her research paper and talk on the efficacy of the placebo effect in medicine.

The EPQ is an optional independent research task which Sixth Form pupils across the country are given the chance to do. It is worth 50% of an A-level to support university applications and shows a huge amount of self-discipline as it must be completed totally independently and in addition to existing studies. It is extremely well regarded by Universities as it helps develop the skills for independent research and learning required to study as an under-graduate.

Veronika is currently applying to universities in the UK and the Netherlands to study Physics but decided to do her EPQ on a mostly chemistry-related topic. She said: “I was originally thinking I would do something about physics, but I thought that with an EPQ you need to look at both sides and put together an argument and I thought this would be hard in physics and maths.

“I was watching a documentary on chronic back pain and the placebo effect and I was really interested in it and I thought, I want to know more about that. So, I decided I would do it as a topic for my EPQ.

“With the placebo effect, I learned that most of the existing studies focus on the feelings of patients with various conditions, but I wanted to prove that it is scientifically provable. So that’s when I started looking at Parkinson’s disease, because with Parkinson’s you can actually take a scan of a brain and see some changes to the brain in the scans.”

Scientists believe that Parkinson’s disease occurs when the brain does not produce an adequate amount of the chemical dopamine. Veronika identified this disease as something which could show results because brain scans highlight dopamine levels, produced by the placebo effect as well as traditional treatments for the disease. While Veronika was not able to do practical research herself on this work, her research was incredibly in-depth and used scientific papers published by a series of leading medical experts into both Parkinson’s disease and the placebo effect in various areas of medicine.

Veronika’s work culminated in her delivering a talk on her topic to teachers as well as her peers at Framlingham College to be assessed.

One of her classmates, Emma Buckle, said of Veronika’s work: “It didn’t feel like Veronika’s EPQ was done by a school pupil. It felt like it was work done by a professional scientist or someone in the medical industry. Veronika’s a really fascinating person because of how bright she is. She’s just on a different level. It’s inspiring to hear her talking about all these scientists she knows and even works with now.”

Earning praise from her teachers, the AQA examiners and her peers, as well as gaining 50 marks out of a possible 50, Veronika looks set to go on to have a bright career in physics following her time at Framlingham College.

Veronika added: “When I found out I got 100%, I was jumping around the room. I was really happy. I even sent an email to one of the scientists who I was speaking with and referenced in my work and she was really happy for me. It was so great for me to get my work peer reviewed by experts in this area.

“Going to Framlingham College, because I’m not from the UK originally, helped me to become more independent. That’s why, when my research project was finished, I contacted five of the scientists whose work I researched through my EPQ. And three of them replied, which was really good.

“I was pleased that people in the science community, who I had never met, were so happy to help me and to peer review my essay. I think it proved to me that I can do science and I think knowing how to communicate and write scientific articles will help me a lot in my future career.”

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