This is a guest post from James O’Connor who is about to start his second year as a student on our Environmental Science and Technology course here in DCU.
LIYSF (London International Youth Science Forum) was an incredibly new and unique experience for me. I had not been abroad on my own before and have never had the opportunity to meet so many people from so many countries before. I made friends from places like Luxembourg, Canada, Australia and France. Our mutual interest was science and I found many people with very relatable ideals and philosophies as a result. One philosophy we shared was the importance of objective questioning, for example, one night myself and perhaps six others discussed the issue of self-driving cars in relation to accidents on the road. The sheer number of hypothetical questions posed was amazing and I think an eavesdropper could have confidently discerned that they were listening to a debate amongst scientists.
The lectures were diverse and kept with the underlying theme, ‘Science: Making Life Better’. I learnt about areas that I knew little about and was therefore blown away by the mind- bending complexity or simplicity described by the speakers of such lectures. I chose to attend a lecture on hydrogen fuel and was informed about how it may replace carbon based fuel and therefore mitigate the rising CO2 levels. This was surprisingly simple. I was inspired by it because my course is Environmental Science and I would like to work on science that benefits our species. Also, I attended a lecture on the Higgs Boson discovery and learnt about the astounding complexity involved in the Large Hadron Collider that propels the protons around a circumference of 27km and about ATLAS, the machine that records the collisions between the protons. A picture of the latter device was shown and a small circle was added in blue around a worker standing next to it to highlight the immense size of it.
I had plenty of conversations with people comparing our countries political systems, sports, secondary schools, universities, weather and alcohol prices. I was always amazed that at all the gatherings (lectures and social events) there were approximately 67 different countries represented, many with a unique language and many with a unique culture.
There was a science bazaar evening for which dozens of students presented a scientific project. Many areas of science were represented that I did not appreciate before and this was very overwhelming. However, I realised that this was a fortunate evening where I could learn about previously unconquered territories of science. This was a highlight of the two weeks as it showed how passionate people of my age could be about science and it inspired me to become a more knowledgeable scientist.
The staff were very approachable and seemed as excited as all of us despite having already attended the forum. There were some great social events like the international cabaret and the traditions of home that were made great because of the contributions from the staff. Furthermore, the cabaret and traditions of home were particularly entertaining due to the wide array of performances. A New Zealander performing the Haka was one of many performances.
Lastly, I got to go to the British Antarctic Survey which is a research institute in Cambridge which studies the Antarctic and was the institute that discovered the hole in the ozone layer. This was a very memorable visit because we got to talk to researchers about their work in an area that interests me. I got a sense of what I could be doing with my degree and that is one of the things I hoped this forum would provide me.