Madeline’s Story

Meteorites and the Mars Rover: An aspiring physicist’s dream come true.
By Madeleine Whittaker, New Zealand

My name is Madeleine Whittaker and in 2017, I represented New Zealand at the London International Youth Science Forum, also continuing on to Paris and Geneva as part of the CERN programme extension. Just over three weeks of incredible lectures, scientific visits, tourist fun, and amazing friendships made for one of the highlights of my high school journey.

My favourite part of LIYSF was the scientific visit days, when I got to travel to the University of Leicester and the National Space Academy. The Mars Rover, called Curiosity, is controlled from the University of Leicester, and we were fortunate to have Professor John Bridges talk us through the mind-blowing work the physics team does with the rover. After having a feel of a few small meteorites, as well as rocks from Mars and the moon, we went to the National Space Academy to get hands on. Our afternoon included: using maths and data from the NASA Hubble Telescope to calculate the total number of galaxies visible with our current equipment capabilities; building rockets and firing them at 70mph; riding hovercraft; making a comet; and simulating a rocket fuel tank during take off, which you can see in the photo.

The physics department at Oxford was also a highlight. I came away with new knowledge of black holes, quasars and many more physics phenomena.

For me, LIYSF affirmed my love for physics, and as a result I have enrolled in a physics degree at university. The independence, confidence, and motivation that I have gained through this incredible experience will serve me for years to come. I also am now part of a global family because of the amazing friendships I made while overseas.  

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