Saturday, 20 August 2016

LIYSF 2016 - A Conclusion

LIYSF 2016. Oh, where do I begin? 

Do I begin with the inspiring lecturers, each passionately relaying new scientific discoveries and exciting advances in their field? I could easily begin with the scientific visits, where we donned lab coats and learned about the inner workings of top laboratories, where we listened to scientists, nurses, doctors, and graduate students describe their work and encourage us in our own. Yet equally as pertinent, I could begin with the friendships, the bonds made with like-minded individuals who may live continents and oceans away, but who now reside very close to my heart. I think perhaps the best place to start is here, with the people of LIYSF 2016. 

The activities formed the framework for an excellent forum, but it was the participants that actually made it so memorable. I can't begin to tell you how inspired I was by each person I met. Out of every country came curious, hard-working and motivated individuals who are determined to make their contribution to science. They don't focus on their young age. They don't focus on their lack of a PhD. They don't focus on the schools and laboratories that turned them down. So, what do they focus on?

They focus on their work, on what excites them in science, and they put on proverbial "horse blinkers" to keep themselves from comparison, to shut out the naysayers, discouragements, letdowns. They keep going, keep reading, keep learning, keep asking questions. 

They are the same people who taught me a traditional Taiwanese dance outside of Buckingham Palace. They are the same people who joined me as we adorned ourselves with blue stripes to cheer on Beit hall at the LIYSF Olympics. They are the same people who gave me a Chinese lesson, making for the best bus ride, ever! It was these very people who I had conversations with about education in Germany and Pakistan, the government in Poland, the food in Portugal. So many scientific minds coming from so many cultures, resulting in a beautiful sharing of culture and knowledge. 

I loved it when I was talking to someone and they mentioned something completely foreign to me, which happened quite often over the course of the forum! For this reason, I carried my notebook with me so I could jot something down to look up later, perhaps a book title, an author, a scientist, or a documentary. The learning in this forum extended far, far beyond the lecture hall, but pervaded each conversation as we rode on the underground or waited in line for the London Eye. 

It's difficult to conclude such as time as LIYSF 2016. Although the forum itself has ended, the friendships have only just begun. The ideas planted in our mind have begun to sprout, and a lifetime of discovery, learning, and cross-cultural collaboration lies ahead.

- Vivienne 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Day 14: Celebrations & Farewells

Today was a day of celebration, farewells, many hugs, looking back, and looking forward. It was an immensely packed day from start to finish (as I write this it is currently past 3 am. There isn't much time to sleep at LIYSF!) There were many wonderful things that happened today. Breakfast is always a great start to the day, not just because the Imperial serves delicious buttery croissants every morning, but because we get to sit together in large groups and share our previous days' experiences with our breakfast table.  
I am very thankful for this wonderful group of people, and for kind strangers at Hyde Park who know how to take great group photos! Here are the diverse and inspiring individuals that I shared lunch with today, including students from China, Wales, Cyprus, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Guernsey, Canada and Poland. 

A typical scene of LIYSFers chatting after finishing lunch. Starting from the left we have Max from Poland, Alexandra from Poland, Georgia from Cyprus, Joseph from Guernsey, and Vincent from China. I'll miss these times of sitting in parks eating lunch together. 
The first item on the agenda following breakfast (or brekkie as the New Zealanders call it) was the Closing Ceremony. Richard Myhill, the Director of LIYSF, gave a great speech where he thanked the hard working LIYSF staff, the participants, and the many universities, laboratories, hospitals, and more that opened their doors to us these past two weeks.
Here I am with Alofa and Grace from New Zealand! Our different coloured lanyards represent our different halls of residence. I stayed in Beit hall, while Alofa stayed in M&M and Grace in Southgate! Also, take a moment to appreciate the overflowing flowers in the window box behind us. Many houses and shops in London have flowers like these. 

Group selfies are a very regular occurrence at LIYSF! Here we are heading to a local super market to buy snacks (dark chocolate for me!) in between events. 

Ada Yonath, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for her work on the ribosome, gave our closing lecture today. She is an amazing woman. Not only is she intelligent, but she is also down to earth. She showed us a picture of her Nobel Prize Medal and a picture her granddaughter had drawn for her that said, "Best grandma in the world" and Yonath said that they were of equal importance to her. She emphasized that you can be a great scientist and have a family. 
We were all very excited to pick up our certificate of attendance and t-shirt from the British Council. If you want to get students excited, either feed them free food or give them free t-shirts! I also received a certificate for presenting my poster at the bazaar. Here we have Shahar and Hadas from Israel, Joseph from Guernsey, Michael from the USA, and Luiz from Brazil. 
After collecting our certificates and lovely shirts, we stopped for group photos and reminisced on the happy, hilarious, and inspiring moments of LIYSF 2016. I am really going to miss these three wonderful people. Alexandra and Maciej (to my right and far left) have taught me about Polish politics, government, and education throughout the forum, and Sophie was my loyal jogging buddy and source for translations of New Zealand slang! 

This is the wonderful Grace from New Zealand! When she found out that I was born in South Africa, she gave me her best South African accent by saying, "Irene Van Dyck is my favourite net ball player." So fun!

This is Arlene from China. There were about fifty people from China that came to LIYSF this year, and I'm so glad to have met many of them. 
In the evening we had our final Closing Farewell party at the Old Chelsea Town Hall, with lots of dancing and many teary farewells. Those going on the CERN trip this coming week have a very early start, so there were many farewells in the evening. We were there until around midnight, until I realized that I still had to pack... Thankfully, when I finally managed to get much of my packing done before my eye lids closed and sleep took over. 
There have been countless memorable moments throughout these two weeks of LIYSF 2016, many of which I haven't had the time to mention in these short posts. Very soon, I will work through my notes and thoughts and write a final conclusion post. As for now, let me leave you with one of the biggest lessons I learned this forum: we have more in common with others than we think. We may be separated by oceans and mountains and borders, but we share so much more than we could ever imagine.  

- Vivienne 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Day 13: Adventures at Buckingham Palace & the Science Museum!

After thirteen days full of activities and a serious lack of sleep, I'm doing surprisingly well! Today's activities and conversations certainly helped boost my energy. First thing in the morning I had a typical breakfast here at the Imperial, which included hash browns, sausages, toast, and lots of fruit! There is also a type of deep fried bread that I mistook for normal bread. Some people love it, but for me, one bite was more than enough! In a nutshell, today held a lecture on malaria, a trip to the Science Museum, a tour through Buckingham Palace, and a stunning theatre show in the evening. Here at LIYSF, we pack our days very, very full!

Following the hearty Imperial breakfast, I attended a lecture by Professor Chris Drakeley on the elimination of malaria. Did you know that only five species of malaria infect humans? This isn't so many compared to the more than two hundred species that infect birds, lizards, and other mammals! Interestingly, malaria is only transmitted by mature female anopheles mosquitoes; males and larvae aren't able to act as vectors of the disease. 

 This slide shows the malaria-causing plasmodium parasite that has divided (right image) and has invaded the mosquito's gut lining. The most deadly species of plasmodium is P. faciparum, as this species has one of the fastest life cycles (resulting in more generations more quickly) and sticks in blood vessels, enabling it to invade cells. There are 0.6 to 1.2 million malaria-related deaths every year, making it a huge world health concern (especially in hot and humid countries).

Professor Drakeley stressed that elimination of malaria is indeed possible in our lifetime. Like many things, he said, it will take a large amount of money, time and people to accomplish this, but it is very possible. So, if you are interested in malaria or any kind of infectious disease research, join the fight and be a part of it! I hope that Professor Drakeley is right, and that in forty years (or less!) I'll look back on this lecture and smile at a malaria-free world.
Following the lecture was lunch, where I ate quickly in order to have enough time to visit the Science Museum. Thankfully, I had just enough time to visit a few amazing pieces at the museum. I spent the tour with Kristine from Norway and Matilda from Australia, who have very similar interests to me! Pictured above is James Nasmyth's telescope, used over the period of 1848-1852. Nasmyth was an engineer and built this telescope himself to indulge his interests in astronomy. 

The Science Museum sure knows how to decorate! This display shows the progression of the bicycle throughout history. 
The absolute number one item on my list was to see Watson and Crick's original model of the double helix! I've seen the picture of the two scientists inspecting their model in so many textbooks, that seeing it for myself was a surreal moment. Something so simple revolutionized science. Great discoveries don't have to be complicated!

After our quick visit to the Science Museum, Matilda and I said goodbye to Kristine and headed to the Queen's Lawn to meet the team of LIYSF students heading to Buckingham Palace for the afternoon. When I got there, however, there was no one to be seen. I bolted to the tube station, and when I saw a large group of students with packed lunches and lanyards, I breathed a sigh of relief! This was a visit I didn't want to miss.

On another note, during lunchtime I talk with Joseph from Guernsey, an island in the English channel. It is only about twenty five square miles in size! Joseph is into bee keeping, and has happily purchased three bee keeping books here in London. We talked about the differences between honey bees and other species, why there is a bee population crisis, and finally, how climate and parasites are affecting the bee population.

Now, to the photo shown above! While we were waiting to enter Buckingham Palace, these four girls from Taiwan were very kind and taught me a traditional Taiwanese song and dance.  
The rooms at Buckingham Palace are beautiful; they are full of paintings, silk fabrics and tapestries, and every room has a copious number of items covered in gold. Unfortunately no photos were permitted within the Palace, so an outside photo had to do! 

The glorious gates and carvings of Buckingham Palace!

This is the view of the Palace as we exited and made our way to the gift shop. It was very tempting to buy a suitcase worth of British fudge and shortbread, but thankfully I had Erica from New Zealand with me and she kept me in line. 
To top off this already excellent and jam-packed day, I saw the Phantom of the Opera in the evening at Her Majesty's Theatre. All I can say is, WOW! If you ever have the chance to see this show live, jump on the opportunity. 
It's difficult to admit that tomorrow is the last day of LIYSF 2016. Everyone feels like family, and many of us see the Imperial as a second home. The photos and words I have shared with you have really been a mere snapshot of everything that has happened, and I hope you have enjoyed each post. I've learned that while cultures may differ, scientific curiosity, hard work, and kindness are widespread and have no borders. I've learned that sharing and generosity and being inclusive are always good things, not just to receive but to give and give some more. Tomorrow will be bittersweet, but it will also be a mighty celebration of all the wonderful, wonderful things that have happened at LIYSF 2016.

- Vivienne

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Day 12: Hampton Court & The Traditions of Home Evening

Here at LIYSF, each of us brings a piece of our own culture to the forum. Even attendees from a single country bring different customs and traditions unique to their region. One of the highlights of today was being able to share our culture with 74 other countries at the Traditions of Home Evening. There were traditional dances, beautiful songs, and sharing of food from back home. I wore my red CANADA shirt as I passed out boxes of maple cookies. Kristine from Norway and Tess from Australia are determined to find some back home! 

I tried a rice and egg dish from China, chocolate from New Zealand, and a savory cake from the UAE. Before this culturally rich event took place, however, it was time for a full day visit to Hampton Court. I was very fortunate to explore in a group with Tilly from Australia, among many others. Tilly is passionate about English history, and gave us a detailed tour through the rooms and gardens! 

At the front of Hampton Court Palace with Sanna from New Zealand and Francois from France. Francois is holding the packed lunch bag we receive each day. Treasures inside include a daily sandwich, chocolate bar (I now have a stash of five mars bars in my room), water bottle, apple, and packet of chips. 
During the winter, all of these potted plants are kept in the building on the left, which is called the Orangery. Since it's summer time, they are brought outside to bask in the sun's rays. 
While walking by the Orangery, I met "Henry the Wise," gardener and designer in charge of the Orangery's plants. Hampton Court has experts all throughout the palace who are more than willing to give you a bite-sized history lesson. Over the course of the visit, I learned about the true nature of Henry the 8th and Charles the 2nd, as well as the history behind the Great Vine and the Orangery.   
Oh, behold the beauty of just one of the Hampton Court Gardens! Before coming to London I researched the palace gardens and found many pictures. Even the best pictures, however, cannot accurately depict just how stunning these gardens are. I like how the gardens are still maintained to the highest quality - King Henry the 8th would certainly be proud!
After touring Henry the 8th's Rooms, the Chocolate Room, the Tudor Kitchens and the Privy Garden, we sat by the pond and had our packed lunches. Tilly continued our history lesson here as we chowed down on sandwiches and apples. I had a great lunch time learning more about the interesting (and sometimes terrifying) history of the royals in England!
You may recognize Sanna from New Zealand (pictured above in the first photo). We have had some great conversations about universities and culture, and I really hope she decides to come an study in Canada!

On another note, at breakfast this morning I met a fellow from Chandigarh, India. Naturally, I asked him if he knew about the UFV campus there, and I was so happy when he said that he was looking into coming to UFV in BC! I was wearing my UFV t-shirt at the time and felt a lot like a recruiting officer. I've attempted to convince everyone who comments on Canada's freezing weather where we live in Canada really isn't terribly cold! And, therefore, why they should embrace the maple syrup and hockey and come study in Canada!
We stopped by the Great Vine, where the longest grape vine in the world bears cluster after cluster of luscious grapes. The vine was planted in 1768 and is currently maintained by Gillian Cox and her team. The largest crop of grapes ever was in 2001, where 845 pounds of grapes were picked!
Royalty quite like their enormous paintings. The realism in all of the paintings (and tapestries as well) was stunning. 
This is Tilly, our knowledgeable tour guide and fellow LIYSF attendee who made the visit really memorable. She knew something about each room we entered, and would excitedly describe the history of a painting or a key royal figure. 
Once back at the Imperial, we had the Traditions of Home event. Here are attendees from the UAE describing the traditional dress for women and key aspects of the UAE. They then passed around bite-sized savory cakes flavored with turmeric and cardamom (among many other spices). I was really looking forward to trying other countries' food at this event. They were so generous, and also passed around UAE flags for everyone, as well as mini stuffed camels! 
And for one of the best (and loudest!) performances, an attendee from Scotland played Scotland the Brave on the bag pipes. My Italian room mate, Giada, tells me that "bag pipes" in Italian is cornamusa! Every day she translates at least one word for me to add to my Italian repertoire. So far, I have not only been taught words in Italian, but in Japanese, Greek, French, Polish and Chinese!

Tomorrow I am visiting Buckingham Palace, going to a talk on malaria, and seeing the Phantom of the Opera in the evening. It should be another wonderful day!

- Vivienne 

Day 11: Lectures, Demonstrations & the LIYSF Olympics

Today held two lectures that I have been looking forward to since day one. First, a talk in the morning on the epidemic of congenital zika virus, and second, a lecture on boron hydrides in the evening. Sandwiched in between the two lectures was the LIYSF Olympics! Before the day of lectures and LIYSF Olympics began, a group of us representing Pakistan, Israel, Japan, Australia, and Canada took a walk to Hyde Park for some light stretches and yoga.  
As you can see, we picked a good morning to be outside in London! It was quiet, warm, and a convenient five minute walk away from our halls. 
After surveying potential spots, we settled on this patch of grass overlooking Kensington Palace and a small lake. We spent about thirty minutes here before heading back to the Imperial for a hearty breakfast.  
The morning yoga group! With me is Haad from Pakistan, Shu from Japan, Tess from Australia, Hadas from Israel, and Maryam from Pakistan. If any yoga fans are reading this, our morning yoga included some downward dog, sun salutations, and warrior poses! 
I was really happy to have done some light exercises in the morning, as much of the day was spent sitting in the lecture hall. Here is one of Professor Rodrigues' slides showing the spread of the Zika virus from November to February, and then from February to May. As you can see from the red dots, the Zika virus spread rapidly throughout eastern South America. When pregnant women are infected with the Zika virus, their babies are born with severe health problems, such as microcephaly, epilepsy, and hypertonia (an increase in muscle tension that makes normal stretching and movement difficult). This collection of symptoms is known as Congential Zika Syndrome.

Congenital Zika Syndrome is actually the first known congenital disease transmitted by a mosquito. When cases of microcephaly began popping up at a much more frequent rate in Brazil, doctors started looking at the mothers and asking themselves what they had in common. The common factor that helped solve this mystery was the fact that all mothers had a rash during pregnancy. You may be wondering what I was at this point in the lecture: Is there a vaccine for the Zika virus? Is there a successful treatment? According to Professor Rodrigues there are currently 34 candidates for the Zika virus in development. I really hope (and so does everyone, I'm sure) that the initial trials go well and a successful candidate is identified soon. As for a treatment, much is focused on prevention and vaccines really are of utmost importance right now.
Following Professor Rodrigues' talk was the LIYSF Olympics! Each hall had put a team together, with some participating directly in the games, and others cheering wildly from the sidelines. This was an absolute blast! There was an egg and spoon race, a timed plank competition, a wheelbarrow race, and a hilarious "pass the orange with your neck" game that had everyone roaring with laughter.  
Bin Tong from New Zealand, Alice from Sweden, Shu from Japan and I made for a very loud and exuberant portion of the cheer team for our hall (Beit hall)! We put our blue war stripes on and cheered until our voices were hoarse.

The second and final lecture and demonstration of the day was given by Dr. Michael Londesborough. Dr. Londesborough's talk centered on the science of boron hydrides (boranes). Boranes do not occur naturally, but were first made by chemist Alfred Stock in 1916, exactly one hundred years ago! Using purple and green lights, Dr. Londesborough demonstrated how borane chemistry can be used as material for a laser, which is, in fact, the world's very first inorganic laser!

Maryam from Pakistan and I walked back to Beit hall together, and stopped for a photo in front of Prince Albert's Hall. Nearly everyday there is a concert happening at the hall, and streams of people line up hours before the show. Today I saw buses of people arriving with band instruments.

Tomorrow I leave early in the morning for Hampton Court Palace! I'm most excited to see the intricate maze and summer gardens. I hope you are continuing to enjoy these daily snippets of LIYSF 2016. I'm really enjoying writing them each day. If you have any questions or comments along the way, make sure to leave one below and I would love to respond!
- Vivienne 

Friday, 5 August 2016

Day 10: Lectures, Museums, and the International Cabaret

The best part about today was its extraordinary diversity. I started the day off with a lecture on combating blindness, followed it up with an engaging lecture involving loud chemical reactions, spent the afternoon at the Natural History Museum, and finally, had an unforgettable evening at the International Cabaret. 

I thought I would start off with a picture from the end of the day, simply because this photo sums up the joy of the whole day. After the International Cabaret, about twenty of us walked to a nearby ice cream store!

My first lecture of the day was given by Helen Peregrine. The great thing about today's morning lectures was that each speaker is an LIYSF alumni. Helen attended LIYSF 2009, and shared pictures of her in the common room and having lunch on the lawn. Her talk was entitled "Combating Blindness in the Modern World." The majority of her talk was on the medical reasons for contact lenses beyond serving as a substitute for glasses. Depending on the condition, contacts are used to protect damaged corneas, cover up traumatic injuries, help eyes let in the correct amount of light, and to give the cornea the right shape for proper sight. As for the future of contact lenses, research is currently being done on lenses that can measure glucose levels in individuals with diabetes, and others that can deliver drugs directly to the eye. 
After spending the morning discussing eyeballs and the amazing applications of medical contact lenses in restoring sight and quality of life, we had a plenary lecture by Dr. Peter Wothers. He combined lecture material with multiple demonstrations for a lively early afternoon of chemistry! We learned about the history of chemical nomenclature by analyzing the components of hair shampoo. It was such an interesting lecture and he made many connections that I never knew existed. For instance, the country Cyprus is named after copper (copper in Greek sounds a lot like the word cyprus).

Fun fact: Did you know that ingesting the element tellerium will give you bad breath for a year? Garlic bread suddenly doesn't seem so bad now!
Dr. Wothers demonstrated how combinations of chemicals can result in loud booms, bright colors, and bursts of heat. He is extraordinarily passionate about chemistry, and I really enjoyed having a front row seat for this lecture! 

The Natural History Museum in all it's glory!
Here are three really beautiful historic microscopes. The one on the right looks closest to the compound microscopes that we use at UFV. 
I walked through a large butterfly exhibition, where experts offered elucidations on the specimens and answered questions in lots of detail. In addition to butterflies, there was also a collection of wasps and moths, as well as insects and arachnids embedded in resin.   
Here is one of the many dinosaurs found within the NHM. Most were on platforms attached to the ceiling, just like this one. 

There is a very nice garden just outside of the NHM that offers a stunning view of the building. 
Do you remember that I had a surprise from yesterday? This evening at the International Cabaret, myself along with four other LIYSF attendees performed an A Capella version of Yesterday by The Beatles! My group included Shu from Japan, Francois from France, Hadas from Israel, and Vincent from China. It all started when Shu and I were talking and found out that we both like singing. From there, we brought others into the group, rehearsed for a couple of hours, made some harmonies, and performed!
Once our visits to the Natural History Museum and Science Museum were complete, all performers had an early dinner and met at the Old Chelsea Hall about twenty minutes away from the Imperial.  
The glorious Old Chelsea Hall. Wow, what a privilege to sing in a group with students representing five countries to an audience representing 75! Just before we got on stage we were told that there were over 400 people in the audience.  

We called ourselves The International Beatles!

This is Maryam from Pakistan wearing her beautiful traditional clothing. She performed a traditional Pakistani dance with around ten fellow students from Pakistan, and the result was wonderful to watch. Maryam is a fourth-year medical student in Pakistan!

These lovely girls are all from Pakistan, and both girls directly to my right and left are medical students. It has been really interesting to compare the medical school journey with students from other countries. Many go directly into medical school from high school, and are really surprised when I tell them I'm doing an undergrad degree first. 

Here is Vincent having fun with a traditional Indonesian instrument. The Indonesians put on a phenomenal performance using these; each person has a different one and each plays a different note. You could compare it to each person having control over one key on a piano, and to play a song each note is controlled by a different person!
Today I learned about methods to combat blindness, and the history behind the names of elements early in history. I saw butterflies from around the globe preserved beautifully and dinosaurs towering above me. And lastly, I had the amazing honor of performing with four students, that before ten days ago were complete strangers!

It's a marvelous thing, this LIYSF. I'm looking forward to another full day of learning tomorrow. Until then, 

- Vivienne