Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Day 8: Specialist Study Day & The British Council

Today at LIYSF 2016, we spent the entire day with particular specialists from different fields of science. I chose to hear Professor Clare Elwell speak about her work on near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and how it applies to brain imaging. Professor Elwell was a student herself at LIYSF thirty two years ago! Now, she is a professor in Medical Physics at the University College London. A talk at LIYSF thirty two years ago opened her eyes to the area of medical phsyics and helped shape the beginning of her career.   
Before the specialist study day began, I went for a light morning jog through Kensington Gardens with Grace and Sophie from New Zealand. Here is Kensington Palace, the official residence of William and Kate (and little George and Charlotte, too!) as well as Prince Harry and a few others.
Here is the panel of speakers ready to introduce themselves. Although each specialist introduced themselves at the beginning, we split into our individual groups shortly after for a smaller group session with just one of the specialists.
Professor Elwell presented a few graphs produced by using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) as a brain imaging technique for infants. First, infants were shown inanimate objects on a screen, such as a train. During this time no strong response was picked up by the NIRS probes. However, when the screen changed to have a person playing itsy-bitsy spider, the attention of infants at low risk of autism spiked (the red upside down U-shape on the left graph), while it did not in the case of children with high risk of autism. This doesn't give you a definitive diagnosis of autism, but rather reveals a higher risk of the condition. Children at low risk for autism usually display this increase in attention when they recognize a human. 
After our lecture, we had a few hours to put together a short presentation to summarize the lecture. This was quite the challenge, as we had around fifty people in our group! Three girls from Cyprus made the "brain imaging hats" to represent the real imaging cap with probes that Professor Elwell and her team use. We made posters to help narrate our story, and in the end, all fifty people had contributed in some way. I played a mother whose baby was about to have their brain imaged with NIRS!

Here is one of the creative groups in action presenting on the Subatomic Zoo of Elementary Particles.

After a day of lectures and presentations, we had a quick dinner before we headed back to the lecture hall for a session by the British Council. The three speakers described the work of the British Council and its role in science and education, and emphasized studying in the UK. Although I am staying put in Canada for at least another six to ten years, it was still interesting to hear about how the UK is investing in education and equipping both domestic and international students to succeed academically.

I wrote copious amounts of notes today, and I hope I have a moment to go through them soon. Tomorrow holds our full day visits to either Cambridge or Oxford, and I will be visiting Cambridge for the day. I am exited, although the 6am wake up may be a challenge!

- Vivienne

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