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London International Youth Science Forum 2018

August 29, 2018 at 2:07 PM

With thanks to Year 13 student, Andrew Chen

Towards the end of the July holidays, I was very fortunate to be one of six students selected by the Royal Society of New Zealand to attend the 60th London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF).

This was an extraordinary event that brought together five hundred young people passionate about science from around the world to discuss modern-day problems and their solutions, better understand each other’s cultures through interaction, and learn more about both the various fields within science and present-day advancements. This was supported by a programme with principal lectures and demonstrations, specialist lectures, visits to research and scientific institutions, and social events.

A definite highlight was the Science Forum Bazaar, a science-fair like evening where over one hundred students presented their research and practical work. I was taken aback by both the quality, which was highly professional, and wide range of topics, including several new methods of water purification, thought-controlled prosthetics, and a way of characterising asteroids using amateur equipment. It was inspiring to see the incredible potential of people using science to better understand issues in the world today and develop novel solutions.

Central to the programme were many engaging scientific lectures and visits which were excellent in providing an overview and some understanding of many different branches of science. I learnt that stem cell research has progressed so far that serious ethical questions have been raised; that standardising measurements such as time, distance, and mass is an extremely complicated but crucial task; that there have been tremendous advancements made in artificial intelligence for specific tasks, but general AI is much more difficult to develop; that the study of emotion is a thing, and so is earth sciences; that fuel cell technology could soon provide an alternative to fossil fuels; and that there really is an amazing diversity of scientific fields which people can study and use to better the world.

Outside of lectures and visits, there was the opportunity to socialise with other students and explore London – giving us an appreciation of what it would be like to live in such a global city of close to ten million people. It did not take long to make new friends, be it from Australia, the UK, or even Rwanda. It was fascinating to learn more about each other’s backgrounds, home countries, interests, and hopes for the future. There was great discussion over education systems, and a pleasant surprise to find that many were taking IB!

Following the main programme, I was privileged enough to be part of a smaller group which went on to visit France and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). Here, we came face to face with the technology that allows the Large Hadron Collider to accelerate protons up to 99.9999991% the speed of light for collision, an engineering miracle made possible through international and transdisciplinary co-operation. Another ‘wow’ moment occurred when visiting ‘The Antimatter Factory’ – we were able to stand on top of a circuit while antimatter passed through, and scientists conducted cutting-edge experiments on the anti-proton. Needless to say, this made the tiny particles we studied in physics so much more real to me. I left CERN in awe that I was living in a day and age where people are uncovering the most fundamental structures of the universe using modern science.

Overall, attending the 60th London International Youth Science Forum is undoubtedly an experience that will remain with me for the rest of my life. It was an extraordinary opportunity to better understand and appreciate a plethora of scientific disciplines and also the lives of young people worldwide. Thus, I want to give a tremendous thanks to my family, the Royal Society of New Zealand, and Saint Kentigern for their support in making this trip possible.

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