About Me

From August 23 to September 1, I will be travelling to Israel as part of an 8 person delegation representing Australia at the Asian Science Camp. During the six day camp, around 200 talented young people will join Nobel Laureates and world class researchers to share their science experience through plenary sessions, round table discussions and student master classes. There will also be social and cultural events to enjoy.

I currently study Mechanical Engineering and Business at University and want to share my love of maths and science with all of Australia. This blog is about connecting Australia with the camp, by providing a medium through which students can comment and ask questions about the camp and the speakers. With any luck, I'll be able to ask your questions and get some answers.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Honey I'm home! Photos!

Well I've made it. It was a full on week of fun, Facebook and actual activities (funnily enough it wasn't just a holiday.) I want to take this moment to thank the organisers of the Asian Science Camp for doing such a great job, the Australian Science Innovations for sending us and obviously all of my supporters for helping me make the trip. I hope you have all enjoyed sharing in my experience.

That being said, this is only just the beginning. Next year, the Asian Science Camp will be held in Tokyo. If you are in year 11 or year 12 then this is opportunity for you to take yourself to the world stage! But even if you aren't, keep doing science, because the things you can do and the places you can go are incredible. In the future, I will hopefully be organising talks and connected classroom chats to share with you things I have done.

Now some photos!

Me in the Dead Sea on the Saturday

On Thursday Megan was a map of Israel

The outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

One of the Shrines inside the Church
Me at the Shrine

Inside the Church they had mosaics

Me at the Western Wall

One of the Old City's gates

Jaffa Watch Tower

What's this? Max Brenner?

American White Hot Chocolate with Marshmellows

Milk and White Chocolate Fondue with Apple, Nectarine
Pear, Rock melon, Marshmellows, Sugar sticks and Banana Bread

The View of part of the Jewish Quarter
This post is going to be long it seems, as I also need to provide a quick recap of our final days travelling.

Day 8: Final Countdown!

It was a late night for me on Thursday due to the fact that I had to be packed and checked out of my room before we left for the final day of activities. Our first lecture was on how bioscience is paving the way for the future with research into stem cells, cancer treatment and other ways that the human body can adapt and change, as well as how we will better control our environment into the future.

Our second lecture was on Particle Physics, which discussed how we developed this new understanding of the universe in response to inadequacies in classical physics.This is really exciting because it was later built upon by the lecture on Quantum Computation. What was also really exciting about these lectures was that we were finally getting into some physics after basically a week of biology. Hallelujah!  

I missed part of the Particle Physics lecture and the start of the next lecture of the Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems due to another interview with Israeli media (I am just THAT popular) but when I arrive at the discussion group I was thrilled to see how astronomers are using light patterns and energy emissions to determine the size and orbit of accretion discs around stars and predicting the formation of planets and systems in these discs. 

Finally, we went to a lecture on the future of computers - quantum computation. What is so exciting about this is the power and speed of such computers (in theory of course) which will make them more intelligent and able to respond to the environment around them. This means all our current encryption systems will be basically useless and true Artificial Intelligence will not be far around the corner. The future of computing looks bright indeed.

That night we presented our posters, with Matt's team winning the popular vote section and Nicky's team coming second in the overall judging. Whilst we didn't place, our team was very happy with our poster and many people were enthralled by what we presented, which was a huge plus. 

Unfortunately, we had to fly out before the disco, which was a real shame. Still, I had an excellent time and made some fantastic friends who I look forward to working with in the future throughout our awesome careers in science!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 7: Day Tripper!

It's the second last day of the camp and we celebrated in style with a day off science, touring Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We started in the old city again, where we walked through the Christian and Muslim quarters (enjoying a little bit of shopping on the way) before stopping at the Western Wall. We also enjoyed a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most holy place in Christianity, the location where Christ was crucified. This tour was a very exciting cultural experience which was a lot of fun to experience, although there is a lot of walking involved.

We ran out of time on our tour to visit the archaeology site of the Temple Mount which was disappointing, but we were able to watch a virtual tour of the Second Temple and see a few artefacts. What is so magical about Jerusalem is the historical and cultural value it holds. The Old City is 3000 years old and even without going to archaeological digs, one can continually find buildings and places that were created years ago. It is truly a magical city and I am lucky to have had to opportunity to visit.

We jumped aboard the bus for a 45 minute trip across the country to Tel Aviv, a more modern city. We spent the afternoon on a tour of Jaffa, the old city that Tel Aviv was built around. It is a beautiful old city with many layers and so much history. We visited the Church of St. Peter, which faces west and was built to celebrate the vision Peter had instructing him to take Christianity to the world. The weather in Tel Aviv is very different to Jerusalem, it is much much more humid and reminded me a bit of home.

Our next stop was a fantastic song and dance show called Mayumana. This is a fantastic show which combines looping, dance, sound effects, drama and live music to create a unique and intoxicating show that takes the audience on a journey in a humorous and awe-inspiring way. It was a fantastic show that I really enjoyed. My biggest disappointment is that it doesn't tour.

Finally, we had dinner at a restaurant before being let loose across the harbour. Because I couldn't help myself, I found Max Brenner and enjoyed the original Israeli menu in such a delicious restaurant. I'm sorry, but these photos are too delicious to not share.

Tomorrow is our final day! :C

We will be having a large series of lectures before presenting our poster and participating in the Closing Ceremony. As Australia flies out almost straight away, there may not be time for a post until I get home. I will do my best to post as soon as possible. Don't forget - I'm still live tweeting the lectures (@elyse_h)

See you all soon!

(Note: Due to slow Internet connection my photos will be uploaded later. Check back :D)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 6: Proteins, Cancer, Electrons and Brains

We were given a slight reprieve from early starts this morning, but swiftly got caught up in the swing of things again. The morning began with a follow up discussion with Howard Cedar which caught me up (mostly) on his talk from yesterday. It was really exciting to hear about how research has shown how cancer cells can be chemcially suppressed in a way similar to how the human body suppresses some chromosomes in order to maintain stability. Professor Cedar is a very intelligent man with an engaging and thought provoking subject. It is truly awe-inspiring to see this work which will hopefully, in the future, serve to generate treatment options for cancer patients.

COOL FACT: I am a statistic! The HPV Vaccine that was given to Australian High School girls is still recording results to measure its success as an anti-cancer vaccine. As such, whether I get cervical cancer or not will be part of the results for HPV vaccine.

Our next lecture was related to the talk by Professor Cedar. "The Molecular Basis for Chromosomal Instability in Early Stages of Cancer Development" by Batsheva Kerem outlined how cancer cells are cells that have had their chromosomes broken and then reorganised. Usually these cells automatically die before becoming a problem, but when the chromosomes that set up and organise this process are the ones that are damaged, this process cannot happen. That is what causes cancer. Again the HPV vaccine was mentioned as an example of where we have discovered a way to prevent damage to the chromosomes. As we look to the future, we are searching for a way to use the chromosome damage to our advantage, as we can switch off certain pathways that are supporting the life of cancer cells, but that normal cells do not require.

Our third lecture today was presented by Ady Stern, entitled "From Quantum Mechanics to Nano-Electronics." I was very excited to see this lecture after so many biology lectures and it did not disappoint. Whilst reviewing the principles behind quantum mechanics, it quickly became apparent that as electronics become smaller and smaller, the ability of an electron to become a wave and go through multiple areas simultaneously means that logic gates within computers as we know them will become impossible to use. This lecture was an excellent lead in to the lecture I will (hopefully) be attending on Thursday about Quantum Computing.

After our return to the hotel, we enjoyed two more lectures on the brain. The first was an exciting talk about how the brain is now starting to be able to interact with computers. The thing that captured my imagination the most was the final video which showed a disabled man using his brain to control a robotic arm. Whilst this research is being conducted to see if we can train the brain as a way of treating mental disorders such as schizophrenia, there is obviously potential in using these electrodes as part of prosthetics that respond to thought patterns and electrical impulses. Like I said, very exciting!

Our second brain lecture was on perception and how the brain develops in response to different stimuli. It was extremely interesting, particularly when we discussed neurogenesis. Their findings showed that pregnant mothers grew more neurones in their brain and as a result, responded to certain sounds and smells differently to others.

Finally, we engaged in an interactive workshop which encouraged us to think outside the box. We were given a variety of puzzles and mind-games which challenged us to think laterally in order to find a solution. It was a fun, team-based event that I really enjoyed!

Tomorrow we are going on a tour of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, hopefully a bit of touristy action. SO there will be no live tweets. I look forward to seeing you here again tomorrow!

Day 5: Stem Cells and Blue Brains

Day five is by far our longest day. We started with a follow up lecture with Professor Yuan T. Lee entitled "Dynamics of Chemical Reactions and Photochemical Processes". He expanded upon his ideas from yesterday. The Professor is extremely passionate about climate change and the need to find more efficient ways to produce energy. He spoke passionately about the need for society to "return to nature" and become a carbon-less society. This all relates to his work with finding new chemical reactions to produce the energy that we currently produce using combustion.

Our second session was with Aaron Ceichanover, following up the discussion from his lecture. It was very interesting to be able to discuss the ethical concerns of genetic analysis, including the controversial topic of abortion. This is one of the most important things to be able to do, not just as scientists but also as human beings. Being able to talk about ethical concerns with behaviour, research and innovation in an open and respectful way is one of the most engaging things I have done so far at this camp.

This session was held in the library which has the most amazing stained glass window I have ever seen! That's what Jerusalem is like, it sneaks up on you. 

One part of the Stained Glass Wall at the Library
A view of the lectures in the Auditorium
We had two more lectures in the Auditorium. The first lecture was entitled "The Blue Brain Project" which is an experiment involved in simulating the human brain. This is an exciting future project as once we have the simulation set up we will be able to experiment with mental diseases and potentially discover causes or more effective ways to treat and manage these illnesses. Currently, we have an almost perfect mathematical model of the neurons in the brain, our main limitation is the computation power to run enough neurons. The current computer is only running a small segment of the brain, but as computers continue to become more and more powerful, the full brain simulation is only a few years away.

Our second lecture was about Israel and how the Hebrew University has been making significant global contributions since its founding. It was very interesting to hear about the success stories of the Hebrew University and how it is looking to the future.

Our final two sessions of the day were "Footnotes of Life" by Howard Cedar and "Human Embryonic Stem Cells: The New Frontier in Research" by Nissim Benvenisty. Whilst I didn't see all of Howard Cedar's lecture, it was incredibly interesting discussion on protein folding and how genes work to produce these proteins.

The second session was a wonderful discussion of the ethical concerns and the possibilities for stem cell research. It was fascinating to hear the different understandings of what constitutes a human being as well as how new research has found pathways to create stem cells that are able to be used for the medical applications without using a human embryo. We are on the edge of another medical revolution where not only will organs be transplanted, but so will individual cells, which will provide cures and treatments for a large number of illnesses that currently have little to no treatment.

You might be wondering why I missed part of Howard Cedar's lecture. There is an Israeli media team that has chosen a number of delegates to interview as part of a movie they are making about the Asian Science Camp. I was lucky enough to be chosen to do so. As such, they have been following me around at some of my activities and yesterday I was interviewed about my experiences and expectations of Israel and the Asian Science Camp.

Our final activity of the day was an evening tour of The Old City. It was a beautiful evening with a fantastic view of the city, a colourful and fun light show and a tour along the walls that explored the detailed history of the city. We had a fantastic time and learnt a lot about Jerusalem and how it developed from a single square kilometre to the sprawling metropolis of today.

Outside the Old City of Jerusalem

The view of the new city at dusk

One of the buildings in the Old City

The Moat around the Old City

Me outside the Tower of David

Me at the Light Show
Don't forget to keep an eye on the live twitter feed (@elyse_h) of the lectures and I will see you all tomorrow!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day 4: And so it begins

Today was the day we began what we were all waiting for. The first set of lectures from Nobel Laureates. We got up early and formed our groups for the lectures. My group consists of students from China. Myanmar, Japan, India, Georgia, Turkey, Israel and Singapore. For the next week we will be attending lectures together, travelling together and experiencing Jerusalem together. It really shows how science is a global language that allows us to cross boarders in the same pursuit of knowledge.

Our first lecture of the day was presented by Professor Yaun T. Lee, entitled "Science, Technology and Sustainable Development of Human Society." It reflected upon the way we currently make our energy, through the chemical reaction of combustion and the impact this source of energy is having on our environment. He then explained research into new chemicals that will undergo different reactions with similar energy production. These reactions would be better for the environment as they do not produce greenhouse gases. Synthetic chemicals have played an important role in humanity before, but do not come without risks, as we recall the Ozone hole thanks to CFCs. We will be lucky enough to enjoy a second session with him tomorrow in a smaller session to discuss his lectures.

Our second lecture was about how Mathematics can be used to analyse human behavior in war. "War and Peace" presented by Nobel Laureate Professor Robert J. Aumann used Game Theory to understand how international law works and how countries can best peruse the ultimate goal of World Peace. The main idea was that incentives work best to promote positive human behavior. In game theory, this works on the concept that whilst acting selfish provides a guaranteed result, the best result for both parties is through mutual generosity. To apply that to international law, the best way to enforce it is through providing incentives and acting generously when countries promote peace, whilst withdrawing this generosity when such behavior ceases. Basically, a form of positive reinforcement would be optimal for enforcement. This sort of behaviour we see with trade restrictions.

Our final lecture of the day was "The Personalised Medicine Revolution: Are we going to Cure all Diseases and at What Price?" presented by Professor Aaron Ciechanover. He discussed the huge leaps made in medicine due to the discovery of aspirin, penicillin and anti-cholesterol drugs. We have made huge advances in treatment for diseases and as a result, life expectancy has increased more in the past century than it did in the first half of this millennia. Whilst our medical treatments have made life expectancy accelerate, we are faced with moral dilemmas.For example, what do we do if this technique identifies diseases in a young, healthy person who will not be sick for thirty years? These sorts of ethical dilemmas are part of scientific advancement and it is essential that we consider them in all our work.

The final part of our day was the official opening ceremony featuring the President of Israel. As a result, we all dressed up for a fun evening full of Israeli flair. We were entertained by Albert Einstein and enjoyed speeches from many Nobel Laureates and influential people in the Israeli Scientific community. It was an fanastic evening, capped off with a performance by the wonderful and fun David D'or, who wowed us all with his singing ability.

Group Orange C ready for the Opening Ceremony

Einstein helped to host the event
We had a big night, capped off with a bit of preparation for our poster on an area of scientific discussion and research. Tomorrow we continue our lectures. I will continue to tweet it on @elyse_h and will be seeing you back here tomorrow with a recap of the day.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day 3: Floating and Fortresses

Today was another day of touristing! We were lucky enough to have a tour guide take us on a quick trip around the city to explain the history of the area and how it relates to the three religions of Islam, Christianity and Judasim. We began our tour heading up the Mount of Olives, pausing to see the Garden where Jesus was arrested. Once we hit the top, we were struck by this awesome view!

Mount of Olives View!
From the photo you can see the Dome of the Rock (check near my head!) which is believed to be the site where Mohammad ascended to heaven and Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. This is just one example of a particuarly site that is extremely important to all three religions. It is amazing how these conflicting points of view can live in relative peace.

After admiring the view we braved the trip back down and left Jerusalem, heading into the desert towards the fortess of Masada. This fortress was built near the Dead Sea, up on the cliffs in the middle of the desert, by King Herod. The only ways into the fortress are either via the cable car, or up the extremely steep snaking path up the cliff-face. I am grateful for the technology because the heat was extreme. The view was completely worth it though. The photo looks blurry but it is mostly dust haze. In the distance on the right you can see the lowest point on land, the Dead Sea.

View from Masada - DUST! 
We explored this fortress, seeing ruins of old buildings, frescos and even one of King Herod's palaces complete with his own personal bath house! The engineering of this place was incredible, the way that channels were dug in the cliff face to capture what little rain there was, guiding it into large cisterns that had been hand carved with chisels into the cliff. It was unbelievable!

The team in King Herod's Palace
Masada's Synagogue - the black line is the level at which the walls
were found.
A floor mosaic in the church used by the Christian monks

Masada Ruins
The saddest story of Masada is its most famous. In the late 1st Century A.D the Jews rebelled against the Romans. In a country wide civil war, many Jewish people died. Their final stand was in the fort of Masada. Outnumbered more than 10 to 1, the Jews fought bravely, but had the fortress breached after only a few months after the Romans built a huge ramp to reach the gates. The night their gates had been breached, the Jews made the decision to commit suicide rather than be captured and by doing so, take away the Roman victory.

After finishing our tour of the fortress, we enjoyed a quick shop and some lunch before travelling to a private beach at the Dead Sea. The thought of swimming was very appealing, as the temperature was starting to push 40 degrees. Deciding to jump head-first into the experience, we all painted ourselves with the black mud (which does wonders for your skin!) before walking into the water. Amusing ourselves with ridiculous poses whilst floating merrily. My camera was not waterproof so I don't have any photos at the moment, but once I get them I'll post some up.

Back at the hotel it was time to meet and greet our fellow delegates. There are over 200 students from places such as Israel, China, Japan, Myammar, New Zealand, Georgia, India, Thailand and Korea. Everyone is so fanatsic and we had great fun “speed dating” - a game where we have only two minutes to get to know each other before changing partners. It was extremely fun to meet so many people and I look forward to spending this week with them.

Tomorrow the lectures begin. Our first lecture is called “Science, Technology and Sustainable Development of Human Society” presented by Professor Yuan T. Lee, a Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry. Second up is Robert J. Aumann, winner of a Nobel Prize in Maths presenting “War and Peace.” Finally, Aaron Ceichanover, Chemistry Nobel Lauretae, will be lecturing on “The Personalised Medicine Revolution: Are we going to Cure all Diseases and at What Price?”

I will be tweeting about these lectures as they run. If you have a question you want to be asked after the lecture, feel free to either comment here or tweet at me (@elyse_h) and I will do my best to have them answered.

Day 2: Tourist Tourist Tourist

We landed in Israel and found ourselves in a hot and humid environment with lots of people speaking a language we didn't understand. Culture shock was pretty intense, although for Liam (who had just left the snow in Orange) the weather was more of an issue. Being the first delegation to arrive (at 4am local time mind you) it was just the nine of us on the bus. So we played “Corners” like the mature young adults we all are until we realised shoving each other into walls was not a great experience when no one had washed in a day at least.

It is incredible to imagine that we drove the width of the country in half the time that it takes to drive from Newcastle to Sydney. According to the Israeli delegates I met in the afternoon, the length of the country only takes eight hours! This place is tiny.

COOL FACT: It is law in Jerusalem that all buildings must be made out of sandstone. That's why our hotel looks like this:

Our Sandstone Hotel at 4am!
Since we had nothing planned for the day, we started our by enjoying nice warm showers, celebrating being clean again. Then we went off to experience the markets at the Bazaar. It was intense. Being Shabbat tomorrow, everyone was stocking up on fresh produce for tomorrow when all the shops will be shut. As such, it was noisy, crowded and full of great sights and sounds. There was such a variety of locally grown and fresh produce with fish, spices, fruit and vegetables. People were everywhere and the prices were all so low. We had an excellent time.

Piles of fresh spices at the Markets
We returned to the hotel just after lunch as the midday heat started to become apparent. So, with nothing better to do, we jumped into the outdoor pool. It is amusing how despite being in a country with Hebrew as the main language and despite all of the local hebrew pop music we had heard on the plane, that the pool party's soundtrack was exclusively the same songs that fit in the Autsralian Top 40.

Nicole took us to the Old City at Sundown, as Shabbat began. We all wore modest clothing and Nicole told us how the “correct” way to dress is for girls to cover their knees, elbows and collarbones! Married women also have to hide their hair, either with a scarf or with a wig. Despite the extremely long walk, we had an extremely enjoyable time exploring Jerusalem and when we made it to the Western Wall it was amazing. In both sections of the wall (being gender segregated) there were people singing and dancing, praying for peace on earth! It was incredible to see all the different people coming together to celebrate Shabbat at this one place.

Unfortunately, because of the practices of Shabbat and the religious significance of the occasion, taking photos was forbidden. So whilst there are no pictures at the moment of the Western Wall, hopefully where we return on Wednesday, I will be able to show you this wonderful and historical site.

It was a very full evening and we all gained a few blisters from the walk, but it was a night well spent. I cannot wait till tomorrow when we will visit the Dead Sea and Masada! See you all tomorrow!