LYISF Caroline Kelly 2009

LIYSF Feedback Report
By Caroline Kelly, Dublin Institute of Technology.

Well my main problem when talking about LIYSF 09 is where to start? The science forum covered so many different aspects in my time there, both academically and socially. Perhaps the first place would be the welcoming party. Due to unforeseen circumstances we arrived at Beit Hall just in time for the party. After being introduced to the people who would be our hosts and helpers for the following two weeks we were given time to mix with all the other students in Beit Hall. It was brilliant getting to talk to other people from several different countries around the world. Also I had been talking to a Jamaican girl on facebook about LIYSF before the two weeks had begun and it was great getting to actually meet her in person! Although inundated with names, I met quite a few people and I have to say the name tags helped a lot in the next few days when I was being waved at and couldn’t for the life of me remember his/her name!

The next morning we all met up for breakfast very early. We sat with different people and chatted over breakfast. The Australians chose this morning to introduce us to the miracle of Vegemite - the miracle being how on earth they can stand to eat it! Then we made our way to a hall for the opening ceremony. The opening ceremony was incredibly impressive with each country present at the forum having their flags carried in to a very epic tune which I will always associate to the forum. I was amazed to find out that there were 40 countries represented with more than 250 people present at the forum.

After the ceremony, we were addressed by Prof. Kennedy the president of LIYSF. He welcomed us to the forum and spoke to us on cancers and the research he is carrying out on it and cures for cancers. We had Prof. Lord Winston giving our welcome address and also referring to the work he did on fertility treatments. Although the other lectures were very interesting by far the one I enjoyed the most was Prof. John Ellis’ speaking about CERN and the LHC. It was great to hear about the LHC from someone on the inside who knew what they were talking about after all the media interest there had been in the project especially last May when it was meant to be started up.

Then was the welcome party in the Student Union bar…the room absolutely roasting but it was a great way to mix as people from both Beit and Evelyn Gardens were there. At first everyone was shy but once the Jamaicans got up on the stage dancing the party started. Soon everyone was up and about! We were reluctant for it to end but alas it did end.

The morning of day three was taken up with the visits. My visit was to the Zoological Society of London Veterinary Department. We were met by one of the vets who works in the department, Andrew Routh. He explained the basic happenings of the hospital and also gave us a brief account of his work conserving Gyp vultures. Afterwards he let us wander around the zoo to see the vast collection of animals they have there. We returned home for a lecture on nuclear fusion by Prof. Steve Crowley. The lecture was incredibly interesting as he described the basic fundamentals around fusion, why it isn’t used yet in our power stations and what they are planning in the future. He also told us about the fusion project being built down in south France. The lecturer was very engaging and answered a lot of questions about a topic that I’m very interested in. In the evening, we had the science bazaar where I was presenting my poster on the Chemistry of Sunscreens. I was required to answer questions about it and it was judged by Prof. Cyril Isenberg. Some of the other projects were incredible; one Hungarian has devised a new technique for curing cancer, another girl from the US has made magic squares that only use prime numbers and have some cryptology hidden in it…the entire square on paper spanned the length of the room. That night a bunch of Aussies, New Zealanders, Irish, Americans and Israelis hit out on the town to search for ice cream! It was great fun and we all taught each other about our countries. Aussies and Kiwis comparing words and making fun of each other….everyone chatted with each other and no one was left out.

Day four began with the Magic of Bubbles demonstrated by Prof. Isenberg. I learnt there is much more to bubbles than I first thought. In the evening there was an optional sight seeing tour but as I had been in London before I didn’t go and opted to go for a walk around Hyde Park with the other Hyde Park participants. In the evening the ten participants picked from the Bazaar had to present their work again…this time in a lecture hall full of students. I was lucky enough to be picked and the nerves I had beforehand dissipated when I saw my friends from Ireland, Australia, Israel and Jamaica had filled the front seats, so they were the people I focused on and I made it through without choking!

On the Sunday there were more optional visits that I had done before so I met up with my brother who lives in London. That evening we were split into teams and we were sent on a treasure hunt around the Kensington area. We had to fill in a crossword with the words we found and afterwards the darker squares would make an anagram.  It was very funny at the end when we realised the people who had made up the hunt had omitted some letters from the crossword meaning it made no sense whatsoever! People were slightly annoyed but the hunt had broadened our knowledge of the area and had also brought us together as a group.

On Monday we had the first of our specialist lectures. I was lucky to get my choice of Judith O’Toole who has worked as a vet for many years and is currently living in the republic of Ireland. We covered many aspects of animal health focusing on Disease such as BSE and foot and mouth. I was amused when she began talking about Ireland’s steps to combat foot and mouth and we began swopping stories about the shoe baths outside schools and how everything was cancelled! Later we had a lecture on security and mobile phones by Charles Brookson. He discussed many ways your phone could be hacked and its security compromised using certain participant’s phones as examples. I found this very interesting as it had an aspect of forensics that I could in future apply to my job. That evening we went to the theatre, Sarah (one of the other Irish participants) and I went to see Chicago. It was absolutely amazing, anytime I hear music from Chicago I think of that night.

The next day was taken up with our visit to The National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. There we were given a background of what research is done on the ocean and of how the moon is better mapped than the ocean floor. We were shown the robotic submarine ISIS which was really sophisticated. David Buckland told us about the Cape Farewell project which highlights the effects of warming on the ice caps while Dr. Jon Copley explained Deep-sea volcanic vents to us. The funniest event was when they brought us into their cold storage area to show us the Ice and earth cores they had taken…not a wise idea when you consider that our group was made up of Jamaicans and Australians, they were shivering within a minute!

Wednesday, we had our first discussion groups which allowed us to voice our opinions on certain topics in a setting less intimidating than the lecture hall. Our group focussed on alternative clean energies led by Dr. Rocio A Diaz-Chavez. After many suggestions as to how to combat global warming and the shortage of oil by using alternative energies such as wind and biomass, we came to the conclusion that we had to do something in the next ten years for it to have any chance of saving our environment and that for a lot of us our hope lies in fusion technology. However we added that we as a race are selfish and we won’t jeopardise our economy in order to save the world. We reported our findings to the rest of the participants. That evening we had a lecture on the solar system given by Prof. Andrew Coates.

On Thursday we had our daytrips to Oxford or Cambridge. My visit was to Oxford which was a quaint typically English town. We visited the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to see the fusion project JET. Never in my life had I seen such complex machinery. The UKAEA plant has almost as many nationalities as the forum had working within its walls. That evening was left for optional excursions.

Friday was possibly the most action packed day we had. We began our morning with a lecture from Freya Blekman who works at CERN. She was a very good speaker that kept us all very interested by explaining the workings of CERN. In the afternoon we visited the Science museum which was very handily situated right beside where we were staying. That evening was the cabaret and it was probably the best and funniest night of all. We had dancing from Jamaica, we ourselves did the Walls of Ennis, the Japanese acted out a play, and the Aussies showed us their dance for the song Pump It. We also had singing from Estonia, dancing from Greece and one of the Cyprians performed a song he had written himself! Afterwards they put on music for us to dance and we learned we should never let Negin, one of our counsellors be DJ ever again.

Saturday morning started with a bang with the lecture “Chemistry of Light” by Dr. Peter Douglas. He demonstrated some of his points in a usual way which involved him shirtless and covered in glow-in-the-dark paint. I would love to have him as a lecturer - he’d definitely keep us awake on a Monday morning! Then we had a lecture on colour given by Dr. Arthur Tarrant. The afternoon was taken up with the Olympiads…an unusual take on the Olympics. The two accommodations we had been split into; Beit and Evelyn Gardens competed against each other. Beit won much to our delight and since then there has been a group set up on facebook by Evelyn Gardens people who still begrudge the fact we were the winners!!! That night we ventured over to Evelyn Gardens so that we could all sing our native songs…yet again the participants showed that they were a talented bunch and our very own Michael sang Dirty Oul Town among others.

Sunday was again allotted to optional sightseeing so a group of us took off on our own to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We also went shopping on Oxford Street. That night we again strolled over to Evelyn Gardens this time for a mixer. Afterwards we made our way to our favourite haunt, the SNOG parlour which we had discovered. Just for clarity, despite its name it was quite innocent…it sold frozen natural yogurt.

Monday we had another discussion this time on Nanotechnology led by Dr. John De Mello. This topic is a very current topic and as part of my course involves nanotechnology I found that I was able to have more of an input than before. We came to the conclusion that we couldn’t judge whether nanotech is good or bad until much more research has been done. Again we had to present our ideas to the forum. That evening some people went to the theatre but the Irish delegation were treated to a Thai dinner sponsored by a previous and generous Irish delegate.

The final Tuesday, we had the participant’s forum where six participants were picked out of the forum and given topics such as stem cell research and abortion to debate. The arguments were presented well even if the speaker was speaking against their own ideas. Afterwards we were given a lecture about eyesight which contained some pretty graphic pictures by Dr. Keith Martin and the closing ceremony was directly after… they had compiled a video of our opening ceremony and it was amazing to think that we began the forum as complete strangers. It was an eye-opener to how great the two weeks had been and how close we had become since the first day when we knew no one. That night closed with another disco. When the music ended, people were in tears as they had to say goodbye because some participants were leaving early in the morning.

The last morning was heart-wrenching having to say goodbye to all my friends especially the Australians. Although we said we’d see each other again in all reality the chances are slim as some people live so far away from Ireland. I am thankful to the RDS and my college though for giving me this opportunity to meet all these people. It was a life changing experience that will live with me for life.

Without a doubt the two weeks I spent at LIYSF 09 were the best two weeks of my life. Never in my life have I been surrounded with so many people from so many nations united in our love for science. Where else would you get people from many different religions and cultures sitting together without division? LIYSF united and bonded us together for life. We still are keeping in contact through facebook and windows messenger…who knows we may even plan our future holidays in order to meet our friends, I know I will!