LIYSF Day 8: Skits and Stuff (P)

Hi Everyone,

My alarm failed to go off this morning, so I woke up at 8:30, when I needed to be fed and ready to go to a lecture. I threw on clothes and sprinted to the lecture, just making it on time. Later, I learned that other people had flat-out missed some of the day’s lectures. I think the high intensity of LIYSF is taking a toll on its attendees.

The first lecturer (Prof. Sir Roy Anderson) described a variety of diseases, and spent a fair amount of time explaining why diseases like Malaria and HIV are so hard to cure. Essentially, the diseases are highly unstable (mutate quickly), rendering vaccines obsolete before they are completed. I enjoyed the lecture, but a lot of the detail in it could be learned from playing Pandemic.

Following the diseases lecture, I learned about optoelectronic prosthetics from  in his specialist lecture. He described his work restoring vision to blind people by adding photoelectric arrays behind the retina. The arrays received IR light, so the user must wear glasses that convert visible light to IR, but this technique allows functional photoreceptors to be supplemented by the implants, rather than wiping out one’s entire vision. It also takes advantage of the pre-processing that eyes do before sending information to the brain. These developments offer a 5x increase in the resolution of optoelectronic prosthetics, meaning that completely blind people could break past the “legally blind” threshold of 20:400 by improving vision to 20:250.

What an the photodiode array inside an optoelectronic device looks like.

However, learning the above information was not enough; each specialist lecture group needed to present a skit, song, rap, dance, etc to communicate what they’d learned in their lecture to the rest of the group. My group described the story of “Bruce, from Australia”, a blind man who received an optoelectronic implant and had his vision restored. Highlights of other skits included mention of “a crazy, new, experimental Australian drug” that “is non-toxic, but once destroyed 99 out of 100 kangaroos, 4 beakers, and a petri dish in clinical testing”, many other references to Australia, and a fed-up Aussie commenting that “…and I’ll speak really slowly so that the Kiwis can understand”.

Following the skits, Jason Nurse spoke about cyber security, particularly the risks of social media. He has been my favourite speaker so far (even better than James Grime), as he explained important information in a fun and humorous manner. However, his lecture showed a darker side. He played a video showing someone gaining access to someone’s phone account in under 30 seconds just by placing a call to the help desk and bluffing their way through. It really illustrated the point of this cartoon.

Jason Nurse’s description of what he does

The talk also articulated a number of concerns I have with writing this blog; all of my instincts are yelling that it’s a bad idea to put information about yourself on the internet. I’ve appeased such instincts by trying to avoid putting images of myself or naming other people on the blog, but the talk demonstrated how even the most innocuous information (who your family members are, what your birthday is, even posting that you’re watching a sports match live) can be used to pry open and potentially ruin your life.

There’s been a few common themes throughout LIYSF; Australians drawing attention to themselves, waiting in lines, events starting late. However, a more inspirational theme is how incredibly bright some of the attendees are. As I borrowed some duct tape from a fellow Canadian, another attendee, aged 17, showed off the prototype for a product he wanted to sell – a single-drink sized fridge that cools a beverage down to 4C in 2 minutes, made from styrofoam, a pair of fans, a couple of tubes, and a few other miscellaneous components. Others are working on similar projects. The talent and enthusiasm of the participants is both amazing and humbling.

LIYSF Day 7: Space Stuff (P)

Hi Everyone,

Today (yesterday?), I woke up far too early in the morning in order to visit Leicester. Fortunately, everyone else headed there agreed, so I spent the majority of the 2.5 hour bus ride asleep in relative quiet.

A bunch of tired, sleepy people from around the world

Once we reached our destination, we piled out of the bus and visited the University of Leicester. There, we met an individual (Dr. John Bridges) who recently missed an event with possibly the coolest excuse ever – “Sorry, I can’t go to the movie; I have to watch the Mars Rover”. He described the incredible amount of science in the Curiosity rover, including the wide variety of instruments (from an x-ray spectrometer to a drill), motors, and mechanical engineering to make the rover work.

Human history in space

We also heard from Dr. Victoria McCoy, who spoke about her work in protein sequencing life forms preserved in amber. This allows us to track ancestors and descendants of organisms that lives hundreds of millions of years ago. Although Biology is not my forte, it was  interesting to learn about the procedures used in tracking the protein sequences. Additionally, she is a fantastic speaker who is very passionate about her work.

Following the University of Leicester, we visited the National Space Centre. There, we built a rocket engine using a water bottle and ethanol, designed and tested our own air-based rockets, and built a comet. My initial rocket team had some creative differences, so we split into two teams – one emphasizing simplicity and weight reduction and the other going for brute strength. As my partner and I had predicted, the finesse approach led to our rocket staying airborne .5 seconds longer than the other group, achieving our objective for the event.

The finesse-based rocket that my team designed and built


An artificially-produced comet (minus the methane that makes it smell)

After we’d built the comet, we explored the National Space Centre, admiring its many exhibits. Unfortunately, we only had half an hour, so I failed to visit all of the exhibits I wanted to; I’ll need to return there. However, of those I did see, I found the exhibits on growing plants in space and the effects of space travel on the human body particularly interesting – it must be from all of the biology I’ve been exposed to recently!

Different types of simulated gravity for plants.

That night, I watched Wicked in the Apollo Theatre. The story and songs were good, but the production quality was truly incredible. The soloists were powerful and emotional, the choreography precise, and the sets believable. Best of all, a massive dragon head hung above the stage, waving around whenever a spell occurred. Despite the nosebleed seats, I’d strongly recommend seeing Wicked.

Instead of taking the Tube back, I joined a small group that strolled across Westminster Bridge, then wandered all of the way home to Imperial College London. An Australian friend and myself embarrassed the rest of the group by performing silly walks across every crosswalk, in honour of the birthplace of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

LIYSF Day 7: The day I slept in

Woke up this morning to realize I had set my alarm for pm, not am…. coincidentally I had missed the bus for my visit to the National Space Academy. Unfortunately I was also feeling quite unwell so I decided that I should take the day to sleep and do laundry. However, I was quite disappointed as I had been looking forward to the visit and won’t have the opportunity to go any other time… If I can I will try to catch up with someone who was able to go.

Me in Soho feeling lost and very student-esque











Laundry ended being a good use of time, and I ended up getting up and out of my pyjamas by the afternoon so that I could head out to Soho. I picked up lunch, the delicious crepe pictured below, on the way and made my way down to the underground. Spent some time looking through stores I will never be able to afford, but ended up getting a cupcake to make myself feel better…. nothing like eating your feelings right? Anyway it was delicious and totally turned my day around!









After my little adventure, I headed back to Imperial for dinner and then met up with a group who was going to the theater to see Wicked. Wow. The show was amazing. I have never seen Wicked before; the story, the vocals, the costumes and the choreography was absolutely amazing. I can’t find anything bad to say about the performance and if you haven’t already, go see Wicked.






That pretty much concluded the day… Fairly laid back and relaxing. This is good, as tomorrow is a busy day.

Until next time, T.

LIYSF Day 6: Numberphile and the Great Crossword Treasure Hunt (P)

Hi everyone,

Today was a very interesting day, but this post won’t be very long; I have to be awake at 5:00am tomorrow. I’ve also had to spend a significant amount of time this evening with a difficult UFV political situation; I’m not pleased that it has cropped up.

Today started with joining a small group that heard from specialist lecturer Dr. James Grime, a math communicator of Numberphile fame. He talked about methods of encryption and decoding messages, and linked breaking Enigma and Lorenz to how wifi and cell connections work. He also drilled a hole through a Justin Bieber CD (exciting) and then showed how it could still be played (disappointing) due to the error correction built-in to the CD (which again uses a similar technology). He also found several opportunities to sneak in references to this, although I was selected as the student representative to thank him and attempted a counter. Overall, it was a fantastic lecture. Oh, and he had the following line (slightly paraphrased because my memory is not perfect):

“Pure math is an art, like music. In great music, you express things like happiness, sadness, anger. In an elegant math proof, you express ‘I am very clever’”

-Dr. James Grime, LIYSF, 2017 July 31

After lunch, we heard from Professor Sarah Hainsworth, a forensic engineer. She described how her multidisciplinary team found and identified the skeleton of Richard III, including all of the brutal wounds he suffered. It was an intriguing, if gruesome lecture.

Some of the head wounds that Richard III’s skull suffered.

Following the lecture, we ate dinner, then the Great Crossword Treasure Hunt began. My team finished very quickly, but one team member made a fatal mistake, running away from our reconvening point rather than towards it, adding 15 minutes to our time. However, we feel that we should win the “best selfie” award hands-down.

Team “Free Wifi” Selfie

I also played some more Ultimate Frisbee. This time, I ended the game with only a cut on my elbow, and no face wounds. I consider that a resounding success.

I need to sleep or I may be unconscious tomorrow with my 5am wakeup. Why, oh why did past Perrin select the site visit (National Space Centre, Leicester) at the location furthest from Imperial College London?

LIYSF Day 6: A busy day

I don’t know why this day in particular is busy. It just feels that way and I am tired. Woke up and headed out to the dining hall. I ended up following some Australians to a sporting goods store after breakfast, and we almost missed getting to our specialty lectures on time. I made it to my group just as they were leaving, and it was good I made it, as the lecture was very interesting and not one to miss. I listened to Dr. Lucy Thorne, a virologist from the University College London, speak about the Norwalk Virus and Ebola and the role she has played in investigating both diseases. She was one of the scientists who traveled to Africa during the Ebola outbreak of 2014, and helped with diagnosis in treatment centers and with identifying genetic mutations occurring in the virus in an attempt to identify patterns in the spread of the disease.

After lectures was lunch, and of course another queue for us to have a group photo taken… photo to come. Post-photo we had an interesting lecture on the discovery of Richard III remains in Leicester and the forensic anthropology that goes along with identifying remains buried more than 500 years ago.

In the time we had between the lecture and dinner, a girl from Newfoundland and I went out shopping for a while. Shopping London is lovely, although I have to say with the exchange rate, it is not exactly cheap for us Canadians.









The great treasure hunt was tons of fun. Our team turned out to be especially competitive and we split up into pairs, racing across the campus and then finishing up the questions in a huddle on the Queen’s lawn as they call it. I think we ended up finishing first and we were extremely proud. But we will find out the results tomorrow. (Hoping to beat out Perrin’s team, but we shall see who is victorious 😉 ) . Despite the competition, we all had a really good team and bonded over the experience, ending the night with a round of compliments.








I have discovered that in order to get to the National Space Academy tomorrow I will be leaving at 6:15. This is rather early and I am worried about getting up on time. As such I will be heading off to bed.

Goodnight! T.

LIYSF Day 5: A Day for Exploring

Today was wonderful! I was one of the few not attending Stonehenge today, and because of that I woke to a quiet house and a day for shopping. I ended up sleeping so late, I missed breakfast, so I brought myself down to one of the many cafes surrounding South Kensington Station. Breakfast was wonderful, and it was a nice change from the usual scrambled eggs, hashbrown and fruit I have every morning.









Post-breakfast was a trip to Harrods. I have never in my life seen such a massive store full of such expensive things. I walked around for around and hour and a half looking like a fool taking pictures of things I could never afford. Highlights include the bakery counter and some of the more exotic home ware items.









I attempted to walk down Oxford St. but being a Sunday, all the shops and the street were packed with people. After a couple of attempts and a long trip into Primark, the UK’s version of Target, I decided it was time to be moving on. I had a lovely walk through Hyde park and enjoyed watching all the people attempt to paddle boat in the river.









After a quick snack it was off to the Science Museum for me. I enjoyed in particular the flight exhibit and the floor dedicated to the evolution of science and creation of machines. The museum was well layed out and had a ton of information, but I was glad to only spend a couple of hours in it, although I know a girl who spent 3 hours today and plans to go back again this week. There were some funny street performers outside the museum as well who I found pretty cute.









After my adventures, I ate dinner and learned of the great Stonehenge… It sounds like a bunch of rocks on grass, but I’m sure it was amazing to see. Something I will have to come back for for sure. The debate we had in the evening was about climate change and at first, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The lecturer had a fairly broad introduction and let the debate develop as people made comments. We ended up having some insightful contributions and it lead to further discussion outside the lecture hall which I appreciated. The level of maturity and intellect demonstrated by most of the students here is really impressive and I gained some new perspective on the topic for sure. Tomorrow is the “Great Treasure Hunt Crossword”… We shall see how things turn out then. I anticipate a lot of running and competition.

Update soon, T.

LIYSF Day 5: Stonehenge, Salisbury, Singing, and Sniping (P)

Hi Everyone,

Today was full. First, we visited Stonehenge. Singing Aussies dominated the bus ride there, although once their bluetooth speaker died, I enjoyed some of the countryside.

English Countryside

Stonehenge looked more or less as I’d expected – a gathering of stones. One of the stones looked somewhat like a winking face. It was impressive to imagine the stones being assembled with nothing but primitive tools, but the stones themselves weren’t particularly impressive. Personally, I found the surrounding countryside just as beautiful and far less crowded.

A slightly winky stonehenge stone

I found the town of Salisbury (near Stonehenge) far more interesting. A massive 123m cathedral (which houses a copy of the Magna Carta) dominates the town’s skyline, but the town itself is just as beautiful – a lovely mix between old and modern society.

Most people were fairly tired by the end of the day, as the following photos show:

However, everyone’s energy quickly returned for the debate night. We were meant to debate whether or not countries should place monetary value on the damages caused by global warming, but it tended to spin wildly off of topic. Personally, I thought that both sides made some good points. However, I suspect that some poorly-worded statements may have caused hurt feelings by the end of the night; there were a couple of back-and-forths between New Zealand and Australia among others.

To add to the political intrigue, a treasure hunt/crossword game will take place tomorrow night. This prompted aggressive negotiations as to who joined which team, as each team of 10 needs at least 5 countries from 3 continents represented. I joined on team built around the principles of determination, smarts, and athleticism, and Tessa has joined a different one of similar calibre and competitiveness. Her team sniped a talented swede who was going to join my team, so my team swore to show them wrong. It is likely that one of us will be disappointed tomorrow night…

LIYSF Day 4: Where Perrin Walks (P)

Hi everyone,

This morning, we heard from Jonathon Firth of Virgin Galactic. He spoke of his work advancing the space industry. Virgin Galactic currently allows people access to several minutes of space flight and microgravity (for a prohibitive price), and are developing a satellite delivery service. They offer positions to non-American citizens (something that most US space agencies do not, due to complicated legal regulations), and would be an exciting place to work.

Following the presentation, I visited the London Eye. The view was spectacular, although the 45 minute line was not. Following the eye, I joined several Australians and a fellow Canadian on a stroll around London. We visited the National Gallery, which displayed many masterpieces depicting various scenes – so many that one person refused to look at “another painting with people in it”. Following it, we visited Trafalgar square and Westminster Abbey, wandered around London, then found our way back to ICL in time for supper. By the end of the day, we calculated that we’d walked over 14 km through damp, rainy streets.

The view from the top of the London Eye
A majestic lion in Trafalgar square. Sadly, people were banned from climbing on the Lions. Note the grey, cloudy weather in the background; this has been the weather for almost all of the stay so far.


I should mention a couple of inside jokes that have developed over LIYSF 2017. Firstly, due to the sheer number of Australians attending, the question period following the first few lectures were dominated by Australians asking questions. This led to this meme being posted on the LIYSF Facebook page:

It reached a point where I prefaced a question with “Hi, I’m Perrin, and I’m not from Australia”, which amused the crowd. Today, yet another Australian asked a question at the Virgin Galactic talk, prompting a laugh and round of applause from the audience (and utter confusion from the guest speaker). However, the following presentation yielded no questions from the Australians. A couple of hours later, the following meme emerged:

It shall be interesting to monitor the ongoing meme-ology of LIYSF 2017. But for now, I should sleep; I need to be up early for Stonehenge tomorrow.

LIYSF Day 4: Riverboats and Spaceships

This morning was lovely, because I got to sleep in. What a busy few days it has been, I was thankful to catch up on some sleep. The first activity today was a lecture from Dr. Jonathan Firth talking about the work being done by Virgin Galactic. The company is a branch of Virgin that has invested in building a space craft which can commercially take people to space. The trip is two hours and requires 3 days of pre-flight check-ups and training but anyone with $250,000 lying around can take a trip. The lecture itself was fairly entrepreneurial, but the kind of advances that the technology will lead to may contribute to humans one day colonizing space.









Next were optional visits! I personally opted for the London River Cruise along the Thames. Our guide was hilarious, and very bitter about all the foreign investment coming into London and causing the same problems we have in Vancouver. We saw many old buildings which used to be used as warehouses for incoming goods, that have now been turned into apartment buildings. We also saw the O2 stadium, “The Shard”, Greenwich observatory, the London Eye, the cable cars crossing the Thames and many many pubs. Our boat departed at low tide, and apparently at high tide the water is 7 meters higher than when we saw it. I sat with a Canadian named Zoe from Newfoundland that is absolutely lovely, and some of the many Australians on the trip. We discussed Canadian and Australian politics and learned a bit about Australian Universities. I also learned all the states and territories of Australia and what mummering is! (Apparently it’s when Newfies dress up in weird outfits and knock on people’s doors at Christmas time to have a beer and guess who is dressed up under all the clothes).














Finally, we had dinner and listened to some of the projects that were picked yesterday to present 3 minute lectures to the rest of the forum. Again, the students picked were wonderful and presented phenomenally in their 3 minute time limit. I took an early night so I could catch up on these blogs, and enjoy some time alone. Heading to Oxford Street and Hyde Park tomorrow to do some exploring in my free time while most people head over to Stonehenge.

Excited for the next few days!

Good night – Tessa.

LIYSF Day 3: Bio-engineering is really cool

Today the first item on my agenda was a trip to the biomaterials lab at the Imperial College in London. We started off with a quick lecture on bio-engineering and the use of engineered scaffolds for controlled cell growth, then had a tour of the lab where there were post-docs working on a variety of different projects. The labs at Imperial are supposedly some of the richest labs in England. So of course, they were absolutely beautiful and made me unbelievably jealous. We saw some fantastic work being done in the lab with a group focus on disease diagnostics and treatment. Projects ranged from nanoparticle treatments for malaria, to using Raman IR lasers for cancer diagnosis, to growing cardiac cells from de-differentiated cells on a specially designed hydro-gel scaffolds. My personal favourite was a post-doc project being completed by Dr. James Armstrong, where he was working on cell alignment using ultrasound waves. He created standing waves using ultrasound electrodes and was able to move cells sitting randomly in media into parallel lines which could then be applied to a scaffold and grown into tissue that requires linear alignment. The idea of using ultrasonic waves to move cells is such a brilliant idea and not one that seems obvious at first, but makes a fair bit of sense once you start thinking about it. I have never been so enthralled and inspired by science as I was seeing the cells move into line! We weren’t able to take photos or videos in the lab, but the result was almost instantaneous cell movement and was very impressive. (What a science nerd I am).

For more information on the Biomaterials group, visit  . I would highly recommend checking out the research, it is really fantastic work.

After the lab visit we had an eye opening lecture on vision and the neural systems involved in sight recognition and processing, then got ready for poster presentations. I presented my poster and had the opportunity to talk to some other students at the Bazaar as well. The level of research being performed, even at the high school level, was astounding. Highlights include a student from Barcelona studying a genetic heart defect in a family and identifying the point mutation responsible for the defect, an Italian who designed a low cost air monitoring device which he designed in his basement, and a student from the USA who identified a pattern of CpG methylation (DNA methylation) which could be used for leukemia diagnosis.









After posters, I enjoyed talking to a Swedish girl who had just visited British Columbia with her dad. We reminisced about the fruit in BC and how wonderful it would be to have some here. She told me we have the best apples in the world (Ambrosias) and about the wonderful raspberries and blueberries that they have in Sweden and it made us rather hungry and homesick.

It was wonderful to be reminded of home though and to hear that she had enjoyed visiting BC so much!

Talk soon, T.