My LIYSF journey started when my head of science told me about an exciting opportunity for two students from my school to attend the London International Youth Science Forum at Imperial College London. I had never heard of it before but from what I found by looking on the website, it looked like an incredible event which explored the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in great levels of depth and detail and welcomed young people from all across the globe with the same passion for science that I had – it was an opportunity I would be naïve to turn down.
For me, someone from a small market town in the north of England, just travelling down to and then across London was an adventure in itself – big suitcases are not suited to travel on the tube I have discovered! However, my three-hour train journey seemed pitiful compared to the 25 hours of travel that someone across the corridor in my hotel had made to get there. As soon as we arrived and started talking to the other participants at our hotel, I felt an amazing sense of familiarity in the way that people spoke about science and the passion that they had for learning and discovering new things. However, it wasn’t just science that I was interested in learning more about, it was the huge variety of different countries that were represented at the Forum; their cultures, languages, national dishes, dances, songs and so much more that I couldn’t wait to find out more about. That was truly one of the best things about LIYSF, talking to all the amazing people and making friends from all over the world who I am sure I will see again on my travels, if they’re not all on TV for being super smart scientists first!
LIYSF, however, was not just about making new friends, we were also there, of course, to learn about science and specifically how science can make life better. This learning was done through a variety of different lectures, demonstrations, a study day and trips around London and the rest of the UK. Although the main plenary lectures with everyone from the forum were fascinating, the ones which I enjoyed the most and found most interesting were the specialist lectures which I was able to tailor to my interests.
One of these lectures which I found particularly engaging was during the specialist study day when we had a lecture from Professor Jonathan Green. He spoke about improving the outcome for autism worldwide and the revolutionary studies that he has done which have led to a development in treatment options for children suffering with autism. I found this especially interesting as I not only learnt more about autism, what it’s like to live with the condition and current possible treatments to try and minimise symptoms, but also about the ways in which scientific studies are carried out and how the results from these studies can have life changing effects on people all over the world, it was a real demonstration of science: making life better.
As this lecture was part of the study day, we had to present what we had learnt to the rest of the participants and staff at LIYSF. Although this was quite daunting, it meant that we had to really understand what we were presenting and were encouraged to ask more questions to learn about the topic in greater detail. It also allowed us to be really creative with the way that we presented the topic, our group performed a dance to demonstrate the struggles that people living with autism face on a daily basis, and, once we had got over the nerves, it was really rewarding to say that you had spoken in front of over 450 people! The study day also allowed us to see presentations from all the other groups which were both insightful and thought-provoking as well as being side-splittingly funny and very entertaining.
LIYSF also organised trips to institutions around the UK, including visits to Oxford and Cambridge. I particularly enjoyed the visit to Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre where I got a tour around the histopathology labs at Cancer Research UK. It was incredible that we got the opportunity to visit these labs – I learnt so much about how biomedical research labs are run as well as learning lots about the different techniques they are using at the forefront of research to try and find cures for such debilitating diseases. As well as looking round the labs we also got to explore Cambridge, a beautiful city filled with history and culture.
LIYSF was truly a life-changing event which I am so grateful to have had to opportunity to experience. I learnt so much about careers in science and maths, recent scientific discoveries, scientific discoveries which are just about to be made; I learnt how to make friends, how to speak words of different languages, how to get around London; I learnt more about myself and what I hope to do in the future, about other people and what they hope to do and how they hope to get there. I learnt so much about so many different things but most importantly I made friends for life with the same passion for science and learning that I have and that is something that I will always be grateful for.