Tuesday, 16 January 2018

2017 Review

Yo. I've just finished my Schols exams so here I am, back at the blog. Here's how 2017 went down for me. 

January 2017

In January I went back to college for my second semester of first year and experienced this:



Hung out with the gang a bunch, including ice skating at the RDS: 



worked on a precursor to Lablinn, visited the BT Young Scientist and read Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom, Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre and The Social Animal by David Brooks. 

February 2017

I kicked off February by going to the Trinity Science Ball:



Then I went to UCD to run a workshop with Shane Bergin's Science Ed masters students on antibiotic resistance education:




I started dating Leon on the 11th of February and celebrated Valentine's with him on the 14th (obviously).

I spoke at Dublin Tech Summit (for some reason on a panel about entrepreneurship?) shortly afterwards:



I also spent a lot of time in February working on a book proposal I'd been commissioned to write about citizen science. 

At the end of February, I went with Leon and the gang to Edinburgh for the Physoc trip:



March 

March was pretty busy. It featured the end of the Physoc trip, submitting my book proposal, being featured in two documentaries. learning to code in (and becoming obsessed with) Ruby, cool dates with Leon including seeing Hidden Figures and visiting the Real Bodies exhibition, participating in a workshop on implementing the Bratislava Declaration of Young Researchers in Ireland, celebrating Leon's birthday with a weekend trip to the seaside, running for Secretary at the Physoc AGM and getting it, starting work on Lablinn's website and interviewing people, and going to Budapest to run the European Youth Summit. 



The documentaries were the Outbox Incubator documentary -- my feelings upon watching it were: "It was really nice to see, and it felt awesome to be featured prominently. It was very weird seeing my name come up at the end in one of those typical documentary "Elle is now ...." with a picture of my TEDx talk because I'm used to that exact formatting being in documentaries about actual famous people. "  -- and a documentary about the Women on Walls project in the Royal Irish Academy, which I'm in for 2 seconds at the end by accident because I attended the launch. 

Budapest is beautiful -- here's a photo by Lukas Frankl, one of the attendees of the conference. 



Through the Bratislava Declaration meeting I got to put some ideas on inquiry-based learning in pre-tertiary education into the recommendations document released from the meeting, which was cool because of the possibility it could have an impact. It was funny because when accepting my invite I had to register and the closest box I could tick in terms of career stage was 'Pre-PhD student'. 



March review is here. 

April

In April, I had the last day of the European Youth Summit in Budapest, was selected as one of 100 people under 40 from around the world to be a Young Global Changer and attend the T20 Summit in Berlin in May to come up with ideas for world leaders, got a job, signed up for Harvard Business X CORe, studied for my annual college exams, started realising that I really liked Biology and should probably be studying it, interviewed someone for Lablinn, consolidated my various open science and outreach things into Lablinn, and booked some workshops for the antibiotic resistance talks. 

April review is here. 

May

I had my 6 annual exams, talked to six classes of students (three primary, three secondary) about antibiotic resistance: 



published the Lablinn website, went to Berlin as a T20 Young Global Changer, and had fun playing board games with Leon. 

I wrote this about the Berlin experience: 
"
  • Cool speakers included Nobel Laureates George Akerlof and Joseph Stiglitz, Sweden’s Minister for Finance who was awesome, and other big economists including Jeffrey Sachs and Lord Nicholas Stern
  • Berlin was HOT. The minimum night-time temperature was 18 C.
  • I met so many awesome people from all around the world there and learned so much about different cultures. Such an incredible learning experience. For example, here’s a photo with five people from five different continents: Europe (Ireland), Asia (Vietnam), Africa (Ethiopia), South America (Venezuela) and Oceania (Fiji). "
It was super cool, met a lot of interesting people and am glad to have been given the opportunity. T20 was awesome even though there was no one my age there (I was the youngest by like 6 years). 

May review is here

June

In June, I started my job as a Teaching Assistant at CTYI and met my lovely Instructor colleague Belinda, gave antibiotic resistance workshops to around 170 students, recruited the Lablinn team who are very cool (lablinn.com/team, check them out), hit 100,000 blog visitors and celebrated my 5 year blogiversary, researched degree paths intensively and tipped to favouring Biology, did the first third of the Harvard course, read/reviewed 4 pop science books and moved out of digs



June review is here

July

July was mostly taken up by my job at CTYI (which was pretty enjoyable but definitely hard work and involved 16-hour days including commuting), hanging out with Leon (including lots of board games, Brooklyn 99 and a nice trip to Glendalough), working on Lablinn and getting to know the team, making 30 pages of Biology notes from Campbell and loving it, doing half of the Harvard course, and reading two popsci books




July review here

August

August was pretty busy and involved visiting three different countries, which was cool. At the start of the month I went to London (thanks Stemettes) for a Lablinn-related business trip, then the next day to a work reception back in Dublin:



Then I put in my new subject choices (biology), and the day after had my six month-iversary with Leon and my 19th birthday (on the same day) -- unfortunately I spent it crying because the Biology department in college were refusing to let me switch to Biology (despite meeting the prerequisites) because they thought I'd fail and after all my research and study I'd realised it was all I wanted to do and I'd have to drop out if I couldn't do it. That extremely stressful situation went on for a month managing to ruin my whole month and two holidays before, through drastic measures, I finally convinced them to let me in (I now have an average above 90% in the Biology modules I've got marks for, so there). Thank you to the students union for your advocacy for me though. 

I went to Prague to visit Lukas from the Youth Platform:




Then to Brno: 



Then to Vienna to visit Lili from same: 




The trips were definitely a strain on my finances but I only had to pay for flights so I managed it and they were pretty cool.

I finished up my Harvard course, had a photoshoot for the launch of TEDxDrogheda, and read Sapiens, Superbug, and Brave New World. I also went to LeakyCon, the Harry Potter convention, wrote nine blog posts, studied Biology and worked out how successful I'd been with my 14 August 2016-July 2017 goals:

  • Dropped (realised not a priority): 2
  • No significant progress: 3 (organise a college science fair, do a research project, open 3 open labs -- these goals were a little unrealistic)
  • Significant progress i.e. halfwayish done: 3 (reach 1000 students with antibiotic resistance talks, get a first in college, publish 20 paid freelance articles)
  • Complete: 6 (exercise 30+ mins 90% of days, read 15 popsci books, write 52 blog posts, speak at 6+ events, run two youth platform projects, complete Nobel Physics blogging project). 
Blog post about progress on the goals here, and August review here


September

I did my Harvard exam on the 1st, went to another day of LeakyCon, moved into my new apartment with Leon, womanned the Physoc stand for Freshers Week, started back at college, organised a Lablinn team workshop Training Day, wrote 8 blog posts, read 3 books, finished writing my 100 pages of notes from Campbell biology and....developed Tennis elbow from studying too much (and without proper arm support). Never realised how much I used my arms and hands til doing anything with them was paaaaain. D'oh.


September review here


October

College really got started in October and I got to experience studying Biology in college which is a m a z i n g -- you should totally read the October review for info on my experience of each module, but basically they were awesome. I was even better at Maths and Chemistry just because being in a subject I loved made me so engaged and happy. 

We did a bunch of stuff at Lablinn including a Training Day for the team, interviews and booking workshops. Hurricane Ophelia hit, I got my Harvard grades back (passed with Honours, got 100% in Stats, 96% in Economics and 93% in Accounting), and I went outside and climbed a mountain with college pals (not all on the same day):



Leon and I played a bunch of Magic: the Gathering and Carcassonne, and saw an IRA film in the cinema, and I did various Physoc secretary things. Overall though, I mostly studied because I had a lot of work and it was really fun. 

October review here

November

November was mostly spent studying as I'd signed up for Schols, Trinity's super hard optional scholarship exams, in four Biology papers. I was also continuing to love college, finding Maths interesting, being fascinated by Biochemistry and not even minding Organic Chemistry. 

Apart from that, Lablinn was super active (held workshops with 120 students and booked some more, published a bunch of articles and an interview with the very cool APOPO HeroRATs on the site, and had me do a talk about Lablinn and enroll on a Launchpad mentoring scheme for it), I spoke at a TwitterxUNICEF event at Twitter Dublin HQ, I went to Budapest for a few days for a Council of the ECHA Youth Platform meeting, went to a William Campbell talk in the Royal Irish Academy (he won the Nobel Prize for discovering a treatment for river blindness) thanks to the Naughtons, and did the usual Physoc stuff plus going out for dinner with our speaker Shane Bergin, which was fun. 

December

I had my first meeting with my mentor for the Launchpad program at the start of December. College ended in mid-December and from then on I upped my Schols study to 12 hours a day so I really had time for nothing else -- I couldn't even think about anything else my brain was so full. I learned so much but it is nice to now have a little bit of brain space to think about well, anything else. I celebrated a little bit of German Christmas with Leon's family and then went to my own for Christmas day, then back home to the apartment and celebrated New Year's by watching Die Hard with Leon and Gráinne. 


__________________________________________________________

All in all, it was a good year. Switching to Biology was one of the best decisions I've ever made, because I adore it and am getting 90-100% so it certainly seems like I can do it. It's so fascinating and I love studying now whereas last year it was just like an obligation. Over the summer, thanks to Leon, I learned how to embrace the concept of fun rather than just working myself into the ground -- I still subsequently worked myself into tennis elbow, but at least then it was doing something I enjoyed rather than just working out of workaholism. He even got me into playing board games and then, slightly, video games (the horror). In general me and Leon had a lot of happy times and have now been living together for four months (although we were effectively doing so for many months before that). I stepped back a bit from conferences as the year progressed so I wasn't actively seeking them out anymore but did still go to some cool things I was invited to. I learned a huge amount by being engaged in college and it  was awesome. Lablinn grew from having only been piloted in one school to having reached about 700 students, gained an international team and a website, and lots of other cool stuff that I'll talk about in a blog post shortly. There were definitely some bad times too, but I'm happy about the progress made and especially about making the right decision to switch to doing what I really love rather than what I felt was expected just because I thought it was illegal or whatever to have fun -- I'm really loving what I'm doing at the moment. Here's to a good 2018 :) 



Saturday, 9 December 2017

Review: November 2017

Hi all! Long time no talk, I know. I'm currently in bed listening to Christmas songs, and taking a study break to write this post. I've been studying a lot so that's most of what I've been up to, but here's some other stuff:

COLLEGE: I've been incredibly engaged in college this year, it's awesome. I spend a lot of time studying and also pay much more attention to the lectures and it's great. I feel super immersed and scholarly, and I've learned so much. Multivariable Calculus continues to be interesting and I'm learning a lot of stuff I didn't even realise I didn't know; we did Organic Chemistry in the Chemistry module and despite my usual dread of organic chemistry it was fine, especially since we concentrated on stereochemistry and the lecturer linked it to biological uses a lot; Metabolism, the second Biochem module and only biology module I have during this part of term, is tough but really cool and interesting, much cooler than it looked from the description I read over summer. It's so crazy that the admin were so resistant to letting me switch to Biology. Contrary to their expectations, things have been even better than I imagined. As my friend Will said (possibly paraphrasing slightly?) "Elle, you love Biology more than I love some close family members."

LABLINN: Lablinn was super active in November. We:

  • held workshops with about 120 students in Finglas and Meath, demoing our new cooler workshops with me, Sarah and Daniel delivering the workshops.
  • had Diagnostics Week on lablinn.com, featuring articles on nanodiagnostics and the importance of diagnostics for antibiotic resistance, and a really exciting interview with Lily from APOPO, who train HeroRATs to safely clear landmines and diagnose tuberculosis. 
  • had Ella write about speaking on a Stemettes panel (something from our collaboration with the Stemettes was just released at the start of December!)
  • had me speak at a TwitterxUNICEF event on digital advocacy about Lablinn - more on that below
  • organised workshops in two more schools for December, with Laura delivering.
  • had me get a mentor from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland for Lablinn through Launchpad (see below)


TWITTERxUNICEF #DigitalYouth17

I was invited by Twitter's EMEA head of third party policy outreach, Ronan Costello, to speak at Twitter HQ as a young person using the internet for advocacy/cool things alongside three other young people with cool stories. So that cancels out all the time I've wasted scrolling Twitter, right?


YOUTH PLATFORM & BUDAPEST

My term as a Council Member of the Youth Platform of the European Council of High Ability (what a mouthful!) continues, so I've been doing the usual work for that and also went to Budapest for a few days over Reading Week for our autumn Council meeting. 

Did lots of work, and had time to confuse people with the pronunciations of Irish names like Saoirse and Sadhbh, so a good mix.




SCHOLS (...and learning how to #hackthelibrary)

I've signed up for schols in all the biology papers, which is kinda hilarious because I didn't even do biology last year. For non-Trinity readers, schols are super hard optional exams you do in January of second year and if you get a first in them you get free accommodation, free dinner and various possibly mythical things as well for five years. You also get to put 'Sch' after your name but I think it's generally seen as a bit obnoxious. Since I'm going in with a bit of a disadvantage, I'm not expecting to get them, but apart from the pressure I am really enjoying studying for them. I just counted and I've written almost 60 pages of notes for the extra biochem study and typed a good few pages for the evolution paper in the last 3 weeks, which was a pleasant surprise. It's really interesting stuff. 

As part of that, I've learned how to #hack the library and by that I mean (a) find out whether books I want are there and where they are using Stella search (b) get them from the section only some people (including me) can access for various reasons like being registered with the Disability Service, so I can take out a whole 8 books and keep them for 4 weeks without renewing rather than 1. So I currently have 7 books out of the library. Even if I don't get schols (it really depends what kind of paper I get), I'm loving being all scholarly and reading a ton and am glad of the skills I've picked up studying for it. 

The annoying thing is the pressure, and how the papers seem very hard to categorise or prepare for in a way I can be reasonably confident of -- so I'll need to get lucky as well. We'll see -- for now I'll just use it as an excuse to learn cool stuff. 

READING

I've mostly been reading as part of studying (so lots of the biochem book I'm using), but I did read Maryn McKenna's book on the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC, which was interesting. The last book I read is The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, and I'm currently reading his book The Blind Watchmaker. Apart from that, lots of papers on evolution. I also bought an evolution textbook (Skelton) on a whim because I found it online for 75 c (75c! for a textbook!) not including postage, but still under a tenner in total. 

LAUNCHPAD 

I've enrolled in Launchpad's Women Who Wow mentoring programme and been assigned a mentor, Sara, from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, to help me develop Lablinn. The launch event was in late November and we had our first meeting in early December. 

WILLIAM CAMPBELL TALK @ ROYAL IRISH ACADEMY

The Naughtons got us Naughton Scholars tickets to hear Nobel Laureate William Campbell talk about his discovery of ivermectin, a life-changing treatment for river blindness and similar diseases in tropical countries, in the Royal Irish Academy. In an awesome turn of events, Belinda was there and we talked a bunch. 

PHYSOC 

I continue to be Secretary of Physoc. It's grand. Probably the best part so far was taking Shane Bergin out for dinner before his talk with us on The Scientist as Advocate -- it was great to see him again, we had very interesting chats. 

_______________________

That's about all I can think of. The vast majority of this month has been attending college and studying, and honestly it's been cool. 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Youth Platform Autumn Meeting in Budapest 2017

Hello from (presumably) somewhere over the Irish Sea! I’m currently on the flight back from my trip to Budapest for the ETSN Youth Platform’s autumn meeting, so here’s a bit of a rundown on how it went.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting, table and indoor

Conference-Related Stuff
  • *      We had a talk on the funding and legal matters of the YP
  • *      We tried out a ‘3D Virtual World” which was really more like a video game that had your documents/stuff from the internet/links incorporated into it. That was pretty technically impressive, to be fair.
  • *      The Council decided we need to have one of us be a supervisor for each project so I chose the blog project and have been helping them out.
  • *      We heard about ECHA 2018 in Dublin and discussed what we’ll contribute to it. Mad how much more expensive Dublin is than most European cities.
  • *      We had lots of time set aside for the project leaders to make progress on the projects. Beforehand, they presented to us about their progress so far or lack thereof and what they’d found challenging or needed help with, and after the project work sessions we had a debrief where they talked about what they’d done. So it was definitely the most practical, work-focused, concrete meeting we’ve had so far, which I appreciated.

General Abroading Stuff
I have some things to say to Hungary/Budapest/the hotel.
  • *      To whichever receptionist had this wallpaper on your computer: nice Image result for sleep all day party never

    • *      Why did you freak out when I said I’m a vegetarian, and give me fish instead, and then be confused about why that wouldn’t work? Why did you then proceed to give me literal slabs of grilled cheese for future meals? Apparently this is a thing lots of continental Europeans eat. Personally I think the bread/other substrate is an important part.
    • *      Budapest, you need more pedestrian traffic lights, for real. Had some very stressful experiences running down entire long streets to find a crossing in the dark/while running late for flight.
    • *      Why did the hotel have a dentist? Or at least a sign for a dentist?
    • *      Please do not change the stops on your bus route when it goes in different directions. I guess I should’ve believed Google Maps when it didn’t give me the same route back as it had on my way in, but oh man why did the airport shuttle bus stop somewhere I connected to on the way from the airport but then not stop there on the way to it? Very confusing, and led to lots of stressed-out getting lost and arriving to the airport only an hour before my flight when I’d meant to arrive 2-3 hours before it.


    • *      I had great fun getting Anna (from Greece), Marco (from Italy) and Robert (from the Czech Republic) to try to pronounce Irish names like Caoimhe, Siobhán and Sadhbh. They concluded that Irish sounds nice but looks awful and is very inefficient with its letters. It really was amazing fun though, like chocolate for my brain.


    Things I Learned
    • *      Italian is a beautiful-sounding language, oh my God. I got Marco to read out the first verse of TS Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (which is in Italian) and honestly it was amazing.
    • *      Hotel staff can be super helpful. I’m always really dehydrated in hotels and this year I’m super broke so couldn’t buy tons of water bottles, so I went down to the bar and they filled up my empty bottle for free. Also, they printed my boarding pass for me at the desk.
    • *      If you’re lost in a country with a different language (maybe in general to be honest), go into a hotel and ask a receptionist. They’ll generally be able to speak English.
    • *      Czech people (two of them, at least) don’t know that the backwards peace sign means ‘fuck you’ in Ireland.
    • *      Greek has a letter that literally just looks like a curly bracket.
    • *      If you’re really unhappy about something, speak up! You might succeed and change the thing for the better, or you might fail and get impeached/resign and then at least you don’t have to be associated with and work on a bad thing anymore. Win-win when you kick the fear out. Also, if you’re feeling it, chances are other people are too but also don’t want to speak up. So just be open.
    • *      The Hungarian government is intense and oh boy funding has strings attached.
    • *      Survivorship bias is a hell of a drug.

    Personal Development Payoffs
    • *      Having learned in Ireland over time that buses going in different directions generally have their stops on the opposite sides of the same road really helped when I needed to find the bus from the shuttle bus to my hotel without being able to read Hungarian.
    • *      I realised that I’ve actually picked up a lot of knowledge and experience in my five years of blogging and was able to help and advise people with actual good, actionable advice.
    • *      All my public speaking practise has definitely made me more articulate and better at thinking on my feet.


     I am very much in Dublin finishing this post ten days later, in case you were concerned that I've been in an airplane for that long. But yeah, there's a quick rundown on the meeting. You can watch a video one of the project leaders made about it here.

    Thursday, 2 November 2017

    Review: October 2017

    Hi guys! I've been hella busy this month but just with college and studying mostly, not with a ton of super exciting events like last year, oops. Have been generally happy though, so that's cool. I'm gonna talk about the modules I've been doing (next week I'll have a blog post on each module talking about what I've learned in the first six weeks), Lablinn, pals, Physoc, conferences n things, Harvard grades, going outside, Hurricane Ophelia and other miscellany.

    COLLEGE: EVOLUTION MODULE 

    This is probably my favourite module. It covers the mechanisms of evolution (natural selection, genetic drift, founder effect, bottleneck effect, allopatry/sympatry/parapatry, polyploidy and hybridisation, etc), the evolution of animal behaviour (co-evolution between predators and prey including arms races and mutualisms, Batesian and Mullerian mimics, sexual selection and dimorphism, cooperation (including mutualism, reciprocal altruism, kin selection, the evolution of intelligence and more)), endosymbiotic theory, biogeography, genetic evolution (genotypes and evolution, phylogenetics including tracing the origin and evolution of HIV, and upcoming lectures on human evolution, evolution of development, and disease genes). 

    I know I just listed all the stuff we've studied, hope you survived that paragraph, but anyway it's so fascinating and fun and I'm learning so much while having a blast. The practicals are also all really creative -- they're all self-directed, which is pretty challenging, and one was to go down to the Trinity Botanic Gardens and answer a ton of questions about plants there and their evolutionary relationships, one was to go to the Zoology Museum and build phylogenetic trees of animal lineages based on morphological characteristics, and for the upcoming one we have to test a theory of altruism by designing and completing our own experiment out in the world. Surprisingly challenging, but very cool. Also, the lecturers have in general seemed to love their subject and be friendly and positive, and all around it's just a great experience that I'm delighted to get to experience. 

    COLLEGE: BIOCHEM I MODULE

    This is a strong contender for favourite module; it's a lot of work because of the module structure, and it's harder, but it's super interesting. It's taught as a flipped classroom, meaning we're given recorded lectures to watch and take marked (for continuous assessment points) quizzes on before attending the lecture, and then extra material is covered in the lecture or we get more quiz questions in the lecture via clickers, which are great because we can answer the MCQs on the slides without having to risk shouting out an answer and being wrong, and also the lecturer can see what percentage of the class picked each answer so they know how much we understand. 

    Because we often have two or three presentations and quizzes to do per lecture, it can mean that we essentially have 12 Biochem lectures a week instead of 4, but I do like it because it makes sure I stay on top of things and because we get the results of each quiz and I generally get 100% so (a) I know it's contributing lots to my CA marks (b) I know that contrary to what members of college admin said, I am in fact capable of doing this subject despite not having done it for first year or Leaving Cert. They really wore down my confidence despite all the work I'd done to get up to speed but this is a really nice means of validation and of seeing that I am in fact capable of doing well/getting 100% instead of failing like they acted like I would. So I like how this module gets me to work hard but does reward me for it. 

    So to get to the actual stuff we cover:

    • Eukaryotic Cell Structure (cell anatomy and means of transporting molecules in and out of organelles; the cytoskeleton i.e. how things are transported around and arranged in cells; DNA, RNA, Transcription and Translation; the Cell Cycle and Apoptosis i.e. programmed cell death)
    • Proteins (Amino Acid Chemistry; Protein Purification & Analysis; Protein Folding)
    • Enzymology (Michaelis-Menten Kinetics, Briggs-Haldane Kinetics; Enzyme Inhibition modes; Enzyme Regulation)
    • Neurochemistry (chemical synthesis of neurotransmitters; action potentials and signal propagation through nerves; neurotransmitter reuptake and degradation; medical applications including Parkinson's and depression medications)
    • Signal Transduction (upcoming)
    I didn't really like enzymology but acknowledge that it's important so will learn it. The other stuff has on the whole been fascinating -- there are so many disease-related applications, for one (imagine how excited I was learning how Triple Therapy for Parkinson's works and being able to understand why), and just getting to learn so much and understand so much about how life works. It's an intense course with the essentially 8 to 12 lectures a week thing but it's meant I've learned an incredible amount. I never thought I'd be able to understand this much after just six weeks of college (and a lot of work over summer) and it makes the hard work so worth it. 


    COLLEGE: CHEMISTRY

    Chemistry has been my least favourite module this year but it's been alright. We had a week of Kinetics, which was very intense and squished into fewer lectures than it should've been, and since then it's been Inorganic Chemistry (Coordination Chemistry of Transition Metal Complexes and Molecular Orbital Theory). Our Inorganic lecturer is good with creative analogies, and I did like Crystal Field Theory and the associated field splitting diagrams. My appreciation for them isn't really because they helped me understand stuff that much, it's more just that I got them quickly and like making logical diagrams and populating them according to logical rules. 

    COLLEGE: MATHS (MULTIVARIABLE CALCULUS)

    Maths has been way better this year, mainly because we have a really good lecturer now and also some stuff seems to have clicked because I had to finally learn them for the summer exams, like finding a vector product using matrices and using the various techniques of integration (I can't believe it took me until after the first of the summer maths exams to just learn that stuff properly). 

    There have been some things I haven't understood but I've generally felt comfortable asking the lecturer during or after class because she's really approachable and cheerful, so that's been really helpful. The maths can get pretty crazy though -- look at this from today:



    LABLINN

    We've been working hard over at Lablinn. 



    • We held a Training Day to train the team members in holding workshops and worked out logistics for going out in pairs to schools. Also did all the associated things (there are so many associated things) like refining the presentation, writing a script, minutes, FAQs, templates...
    • We have a workshop organised for a school in Meath next week, and two more being organised at the moment. 
    • We have an interview underway with APOPO, the organisation behind the HeroRATs that detect TB and landmines.
    • I've drafted Lablinn's themed weeks, which run every two weeks, from November until May. Next week is Diagnostics week, so we'll have our APOPO interview and some articles from me on nanodiagnostics and the relevance of diagnostics to antibiotic resistance. 
    • Daniel, a Gaeilgeoir member of the team, is heading up a project to get some of our material translated into Irish so we can talk to Gaelscoileanna as well. 
    • Ella wrote an article for the blog about presenting her research at the Young Scientists' Journal conference.
    • Members of the team have in general been really great at taking the initiative and coming up with e.g. interviewees to contact and articles and ideas for developing Lablinn.
    • I've been invited to speak at Twitter Dublin about our work next week. 
    We're also doing a bunch more that I'll share later but yeah, I'm really loving the momentum we have going. Lablinn team is cool. 


    HURRICANE

    Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland so college was cancelled for a day. It was pretty windy out. That's it really -- we had prepared to lose electricity but we were lucky and didn't even though thousands of people near us did. So a pretty chill hurricane on our end. I did see a tile fly off a roof and over my head and smash on the ground in front of me though, which was pretty cool. 

    HARVARD GRADES 

    I got my grades back from the Harvard Business School thing I did over the summer -- got 100% (800/800) on the Statistics exam, 96% in Economics and 93% in Accounting, which was cool. Kinda funny since I don't like business but in fairness I do like stats so. 




    OUTSIDING

    I went outside sometimes! Climbed the Sugar Loaf (a mountain, for the unacquainted) on the bank holiday we had off college with a bunch of college pals. Here we are.




    LEON

    Have been officially living with Leon for a month and a half now. It's pretty good. This month we went to the cinema to see Maze, which was about an IRA prison breakout, and bought a new board game to play together called Forbidden Desert as a Halloween treat. We've mainly been playing Magic and Carcassonne this month, which are both fun. We were playing Pandemic a ton (epidemiology? yes please) and he got sick of it so  "accidentally" left it behind when we moved out. 

    PHYSOC

    I'm Physoc Secretary this year, which as an exec position actually has some responsibility attached. I quite like being Secretary; my responsibilities are to write the weekly email to our members and take minutes at meetings. I stress a bit about having the wrong information in the email but generally it's worked out pretty fine and I like it, it feels like I have my own domain which is nice. 

    SPEAKING

    I've been invited to speak at a Twitter-UNICEF event on Thursday November 9th at Twitter Dublin HQ about my work with Lablinn and "raising your digital voice", so that's a thing.

    CONFERENCES N THINGS

    I'll be off in Budapest 10th to 13th November at the Youth Platform's annual meeting there. 

    IN GENERAL

    In general, I've really buckled down over the last few months after transferring to a subject I love and am doing fewer conferences and superficial things and more just keeping my head down and putting the work in. Conferences are fun and I'm open to doing some if asked (see above), but I'm not seeking out that sort of thing quite as much and am instead studying a lot and working away building Lablinn up. It feels really nice and wholesome and fulfilling. 

    I should have significantly more blog posts in November I think because I'll be writing about my impressions of each of my modules after six weeks, Budapest, Twitter, and maybe some stuff about Lablinn. If you want to keep up more with Lablinn, you can check out the website or @LablinnTeam on Twitter. 

    Sunday, 1 October 2017

    Review: September 2017

    Did I do anything this month? Hmm.

    BIOLOGY: Continued studying biology, writing notes on chapters of Campbell's Biology. I had to take a week off because handwriting ~90 pages and typing another ~30 over the summer gave me tennis elbow, according to the doctor. It was the most frustrating thing -- I never realised how many things I used my hands for until doing anything with them was paaain. To add illness to injury, over the last couple of days of September and the start of October, I've come down with a horrible cold/flu and it has rekt me. 

    Anyway, I eventually finished the Genetics and Evolution units. 


    Also, studying Biology is the best. At the start of the month, I couldn't stop talking to everyone I met about what I'd just studied (Cell Cycle and Speciation). It's just so cool. A cool thing that happened, for example, was that after spending the day studying genetics with the example of genetics of labrador fur colour and what makes it yellow/brown/black, I stepped outside and ran into a yellow lab and a brown lab. Very cool. Some pictures of me having fun studying: 

    HARVARD: I did my Harvard final exam in a Pearson testing centre in Dublin on the 1st of September. It went alright, still waiting on my results though. 

    MOVING OUT: Leon and I moved into our new apartment on the 15th. It's in a gorgeous area, right next to the DART, is super bright, gives us a really nice room, is pretty cheap and has a dishwasher. Nice. I've honestly been finding doing chores like laundry fun because adulting.

    STARTING BACK AT COLLEGE: I've had two weeks of college so far, Freshers Week where I (wo)manned the Physoc stand and then one week of lectures, though only Chemistry and Maths lectures and a Biology lab because Biology lectures don't start until this week. I love my maths lecturer so much, she's great. Doing the Biology post-practical homework was pretty fun too, and the Evolution labs look like great fun. Tonight I have to watch David Attenborough videos for homework. 

    PHYSOC: Like I said, I was on the Physoc stand for Freshers Week from 18th to 23rd September, and apart from that am settling into my job as Secretary (fewer errands and more responsibility in comparison to last year's role as first year rep, which I like). Sending the emails and taking minutes suits me better so all g here. Also had a good time at the Quiz we ran last week.

    LABLINN: We've been organising a Training Day for the team for workshops, talking to schools, and are working on planning the competition. Also, we published this post by Ella Willsmore on why it's so hard to develop a malaria vaccine. 

    LEAKYCON: Went to the last day of LeakyCon on the first of September. Pretty good. 

    BLOG: I published 8 blog posts in September and started working on a ninth (about my experience finding accommodation during Dublin's rental crisis). I'm writing posts at about double the rate I need to hit the goal of a post a week but college can get very intense so want to stock up. Click for links to posts:


    READING: I read three books and started a fourth in September. Click for links to my reviews:
    I've just started Beating Back the Devil by Maryn McKenna, and next up is probably Kelly Hoey's Build Your Dream Network. The goal is to read an average of two books a month so, like with the blog, I've been trying to do a few extra in prep for intense college times, though definitely being more successful with the blog.


    So the answer to the question at the start of this post is ... sort of. It feels like I didn't do much, but it's more that I did a couple of big things and very few one-day events that would be listed separately. 

    Saturday, 30 September 2017

    Review: Mort by Terry Pratchett



    Mort is a short and hilarious romp through Terry Pratchett's Discworld featuring:

    •  Mort, a teenager whom no one except Death wants to hire as an apprentice and whose name people find it impossible to remember
    • Death, the reaper tasked with transporting important people to the afterlife and who's very confused by the mortal concept of fun
    • Death's daughter 
    • an unkempt magician
    • an obstinate Princess. 

    After a dispiriting day of waiting in vain to be hired at the town hiring fair, Mortimer is just getting ready to trudge home from the town square when Death appears looking for an apprentice. Mort's father is a bit confused, but after making sure that it's a job with good employment prospects that'll make a good contributing member of society of Mort, off Mort goes to Death's home outside Time. 

    386372The plot essentially consists of Mort taking a few people to the afterlife and then making a big mistake when he tries to save a princess he has a crush on and manages to create a hole in the fabric of reality itself. Hijinks ensue.

    The plot, while perfectly serviceable, definitely isn't the main draw of this book -- the writing is just hilarious. Whether it's:

    Pratchett just has incredible voice, and so his very-involved-narrator role works really well. 

    "“Well,----me,” he said. “A----ing wizard. I hate----ing wizards!” “You shouldn’t----them, then,” muttered one of his henchmen, effortlessly pronouncing a row of dashes.” 


    The worldbuilding of Mort doesn't really stand up to rigorous scrutiny, which is fine. This is lampooned by Pratchett a few times, when he says that he has no ambition of creating a consistent Discworld and is perfectly happy for the rules of magic/physics to be different in different places, and when a plothole is explained away by Death telling Mort not to rely so much on mathematics. He also explains people not being shocked by the appearance of Death/Death's apprentice or not seeing them as 'people see what they expect to see'. 

    Some quotes (not even necessarily the best ones honestly, just the ones I could find, which are still great...)

    [Quotes are from here or Goodreads Quotes]