Monday, 8 August 2016

Day 13: Adventures at Buckingham Palace & the Science Museum!

After thirteen days full of activities and a serious lack of sleep, I'm doing surprisingly well! Today's activities and conversations certainly helped boost my energy. First thing in the morning I had a typical breakfast here at the Imperial, which included hash browns, sausages, toast, and lots of fruit! There is also a type of deep fried bread that I mistook for normal bread. Some people love it, but for me, one bite was more than enough! In a nutshell, today held a lecture on malaria, a trip to the Science Museum, a tour through Buckingham Palace, and a stunning theatre show in the evening. Here at LIYSF, we pack our days very, very full!

Following the hearty Imperial breakfast, I attended a lecture by Professor Chris Drakeley on the elimination of malaria. Did you know that only five species of malaria infect humans? This isn't so many compared to the more than two hundred species that infect birds, lizards, and other mammals! Interestingly, malaria is only transmitted by mature female anopheles mosquitoes; males and larvae aren't able to act as vectors of the disease. 

 This slide shows the malaria-causing plasmodium parasite that has divided (right image) and has invaded the mosquito's gut lining. The most deadly species of plasmodium is P. faciparum, as this species has one of the fastest life cycles (resulting in more generations more quickly) and sticks in blood vessels, enabling it to invade cells. There are 0.6 to 1.2 million malaria-related deaths every year, making it a huge world health concern (especially in hot and humid countries).

Professor Drakeley stressed that elimination of malaria is indeed possible in our lifetime. Like many things, he said, it will take a large amount of money, time and people to accomplish this, but it is very possible. So, if you are interested in malaria or any kind of infectious disease research, join the fight and be a part of it! I hope that Professor Drakeley is right, and that in forty years (or less!) I'll look back on this lecture and smile at a malaria-free world.
Following the lecture was lunch, where I ate quickly in order to have enough time to visit the Science Museum. Thankfully, I had just enough time to visit a few amazing pieces at the museum. I spent the tour with Kristine from Norway and Matilda from Australia, who have very similar interests to me! Pictured above is James Nasmyth's telescope, used over the period of 1848-1852. Nasmyth was an engineer and built this telescope himself to indulge his interests in astronomy. 

The Science Museum sure knows how to decorate! This display shows the progression of the bicycle throughout history. 
The absolute number one item on my list was to see Watson and Crick's original model of the double helix! I've seen the picture of the two scientists inspecting their model in so many textbooks, that seeing it for myself was a surreal moment. Something so simple revolutionized science. Great discoveries don't have to be complicated!

After our quick visit to the Science Museum, Matilda and I said goodbye to Kristine and headed to the Queen's Lawn to meet the team of LIYSF students heading to Buckingham Palace for the afternoon. When I got there, however, there was no one to be seen. I bolted to the tube station, and when I saw a large group of students with packed lunches and lanyards, I breathed a sigh of relief! This was a visit I didn't want to miss.

On another note, during lunchtime I talk with Joseph from Guernsey, an island in the English channel. It is only about twenty five square miles in size! Joseph is into bee keeping, and has happily purchased three bee keeping books here in London. We talked about the differences between honey bees and other species, why there is a bee population crisis, and finally, how climate and parasites are affecting the bee population.

Now, to the photo shown above! While we were waiting to enter Buckingham Palace, these four girls from Taiwan were very kind and taught me a traditional Taiwanese song and dance.  
The rooms at Buckingham Palace are beautiful; they are full of paintings, silk fabrics and tapestries, and every room has a copious number of items covered in gold. Unfortunately no photos were permitted within the Palace, so an outside photo had to do! 

The glorious gates and carvings of Buckingham Palace!

This is the view of the Palace as we exited and made our way to the gift shop. It was very tempting to buy a suitcase worth of British fudge and shortbread, but thankfully I had Erica from New Zealand with me and she kept me in line. 
To top off this already excellent and jam-packed day, I saw the Phantom of the Opera in the evening at Her Majesty's Theatre. All I can say is, WOW! If you ever have the chance to see this show live, jump on the opportunity. 
It's difficult to admit that tomorrow is the last day of LIYSF 2016. Everyone feels like family, and many of us see the Imperial as a second home. The photos and words I have shared with you have really been a mere snapshot of everything that has happened, and I hope you have enjoyed each post. I've learned that while cultures may differ, scientific curiosity, hard work, and kindness are widespread and have no borders. I've learned that sharing and generosity and being inclusive are always good things, not just to receive but to give and give some more. Tomorrow will be bittersweet, but it will also be a mighty celebration of all the wonderful, wonderful things that have happened at LIYSF 2016.

- Vivienne

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