More tales from the LIYSF

Kashif Ali is a second year student in biotechnology

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LIYSF, I wonder what these five letters mean to a non LIYSFer. I imagine they assume that it is just five randomly scattered letters; well that is what I assumed it was before participating in LIYSF 2016.

LIYSF stands for London International Youth Science Forum, which takes place over two weeks in the heart of London in Imperial College London. For these two weeks the forum each year welcomes the brightest minds from all four corners of the globe (I mean this literally!!) because at LIYSF 2016, the 59th edition of the forum there were 75 different countries represented by around 580 students. The theme of LIYSF 2016 was Great Scientific Discoveries. I along with a fellow science student in DCU were lucky enough to have been selected as Ireland’s delegates in the forum.

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The Forum kicked off with the opening ceremony on the 28th of July, where I was privileged enough to carry the Irish flag, without a doubt the proudest moment of my life. In the opening ceremony the key note address was given by Professor Romain Murenzi from UNESCO and the President’s note by Professor Richard O’Kennedy of DCU.

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The forum schedule was filled with amazing Principal Lectures and demonstrations, which truly achieved the theme of LIYSF 2016 as these lectures seek to dissect the process of scientific discovery from the eureka moment through to the widest, successful scientific developments. Also in the schedule at LIYSF are specialist lectures, which were an amazing opportunity for majority of students at LYISF to experience their chosen lectures in different fields of sciences, sciences in which they may wish to purse their further education. Most of the delegates were pre-college (High school) age and therefore the specialist lectures helped them find an area of science that they found most intriguing before choosing a course in university. For me, however, the situation was a little bit different. The specialist lectures allowed me to see the great research that is being conducting in the Biotech industry currently and the kind of research work I may be conducting in future and so these specialist lectures definitely reassured me that the field of science that I am pursuing my future in is one for me.

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It is not only the full, rich and varied programme with incredible lectures, speakers and visits to incredible lecture departments around the UK that made LIYSF great but rather the great diversity and engaging social programme. The diversity at LIYSF was evident to me when somewhere in the middle of the fortnight I found myself having lunch at a table with a Mexican girl, a Spanish boy, a Kuwaiti boy and a Cypriot girl. That’s the beauty of LIYSF: interacting with as many different cultural backgrounds as there are people around you. Everyone I met at the forum had a completely different view on current global issues, while at the same time, sharing the same love for science as I do. That made me acknowledge how important it is to accept and embrace the baffling diversity our planet possesses, because it is only by welcoming everyone’s point of view that we can evolve as species.

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My personal favourite moment of the forum came when I was asked by the Pakistani delegates to perform a traditional dance with them in the International Cabaret, which was a cultural showcase performance evening. It is these kind of moments that only LIYSF can offer that will live forever live in my memory. LIYSF changed my point of view because it is not about seeing who’s the best scientist but rather sharing our love for science and spreading our culture with people from all corners of the world. LIYSF is about communication as much as it is about science. By attending the Forum my views on matters of the world have changed in a way I would’ve never imagined but I guess that’s the beauty of this forum. LIYSF only outlined how important international collaborations are in this day and age. As Henry Ford once said ‘’Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success,’’ LIYSF brought us together now it’s our responsibility to stay together and work together to change the science of tomorrow. The only dull moment over the fortnight came when the plane’s wheels lifted from the ground and the feeling that LIYSF 2016 was over struck me with the power of a boron-enhanced fuel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tales from the London International Youth Science Forum

Paulina Kordyl is about to start her 2nd year in Genetics and Cell Biology

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Attending the 2016 London International Youth Science Forum at Imperial College London has been a fantastic experience which has undoubtedly left a long-lasting impact on me. It’s been an absolute privilege attending specialist lectures from the world’s leading scientists, witnessing first hand as yet unpublished research and even meeting Nobel prize laureates. The theme of this year’s Forum was ‘Great Scientific Discoveries’ and upon reflection I feel that my time there achieved just that – it allowed me to discover great things which I could not have imagined before.

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Possibly the most exciting part of the trip for me was the endless sightseeing opportunities presented to us. It was a dream come true getting to visit Stonehenge, the quaint medieval town of Salisbury and see Rebel Wilson in a high-end theatre production. The rest of my time between lectures and visits was spent rushing between museums and trying (and failing) to understand the fast-paced labyrinth that is the London Underground.

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LIYSF has been a fantastic opportunity to network and make friends from different countries, different cultures and different ways of life. Never before did I imagine that I would end up on the news in Pakistan, or help my new Omani friends make a presentation video for their college. With over 500 delegates from countries all across the globe scattered around Imperial College London, making friends quickly became second nature to even the most introverted people, and after just a few days there were familiar faces to be seen everywhere. There was always someone new to talk to, new perspectives to discover. Although each culture was different to the others in some ways, it was really interesting to see the ways in which we were all the same (like the ubiquitous hatred for the soggy sandwiches in our packed lunches!)

Of course the most fascinating aspect of the Forum was the academic research that we had all come to see. It was an amazing privilege witnessing top-of-the-field research which had yet been unpublished and not released to the public explained to us by leading scientists worldwide. Many of the delegates were pre-college age and therefore the varied talks and demonstrations helped them to choose a university course. For me this only reinforced my view that I had chosen the right course, and seeing genetics laboratories and research facilities provided a much appreciated insight into the kind of working conditions I could expect in the future after graduation. These visits also made me aware of the different internship options that were available to apply for in the summers.

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Each day was action-packed and full of adventure. Between the excitement of exploring London’s Chinatown after a trip to the Tower of London with my new multicultural friend group; peering into a microscope in a world-acclaimed research lab to see cardiac tissue beating steadily; and rushing between lectures, social events and activities organised by LIYSF, I can honestly say there was never a dull moment during my visit to the London International Youth Science Forum.

Some thoughts on the Leaving Cert

Greg Foley, School of Biotechnology

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What exactly is second level education for? In my view, secondary education must do two things. Firstly it must educate young people in the traditional sense by providing them with the opportunity to acquire a wide body of knowledge that will ultimately enhance their lives. I’m thinking about things like the great events of history, the wonders of the natural world, literature, poetry, foreign languages, science and even mathematics in its purest form. Secondly, it must prepare them for higher and further education. Second level is not the place for obsessing about “real world problems” (whatever they are) for the simple reason that the vast majority of school-leavers will go on to further or higher education. The classic example of this fallacy is the Project Maths initiative in which students supposedly tackle “real world” maths problems at secondary school but end up being unable to cope with third level mathematics.

Every year there is a barrage of comment and opinion in which the basic message, repeated over and over, is that the Leaving Certificate is not fit for purpose. My own experience of teaching university students is that the Leaving is a good measure of overall intelligence and, crucially, work ethic. Performance in the Leaving is not a particularly good predictor of individual performance at third level but ask any lecturer which they would prefer: a class full of 500-pointers or a class full of 350-pointers and I am quite confident that they will go for the former. Group dynamics play a very important role at any level of education and it is easy and highly rewarding to teach a class full of hardworking, enthusiastic 500-pointers. When the entry points drop to the 350 mark, the job becomes much more difficult and maintaining standards is a challenge.

Finally, it is worth commenting on a commonly held belief among those who deride the use of end-of-year exams. There seems to be a view that there are significant numbers of “brilliant young people” who just cannot perform in exams and these people are being disadvantaged by a system that does not make use of alternative forms of assessment. Thirty years of lecturing at third level tells me that such people, brilliant rather than having some very specific talent that is not tested in exams, are very rare indeed.