Science Rocks UK visit IC!

Tuesday marked the beginning of something brilliant: the introduction of Megan and Elizabeth @ Science Rocks UK to Imperial College. M&E are year 10 students who love science, and explain it very well in a series of online videos. They are somewhat of a teenage legend, winning science competitions up and down the country.

I got in touch with Science Rocks UK because I wanted to show them how cool science was at university, and how awesome IC is- I genuinely could not be more proud of my university. We arranged for the visit to be in the Easter holidays, but hadn’t predicted it would be the day before the beginning of exam week.

With some pretty careful planning, eight years of IC connections/ contacts and an incredibly painful leg, the IC Science Rocks UK day was action packed:

Time Activity
09:00 – 09:40 IC Campus Tour
09:45 – 11:45 STEM potential course (Reach Out Lab)
11:45 – 12:30 Maths lecture
12:30 – 13:00 Lunch on Queen’s Lawn
13:00 – 13:30 Interview with Professor Steve Schwartz
13:30 – 14:20 Superconductivity with Dr Simon Foster
14:20 – 14:35 Interview with PhD students Zan and Nilushi
14:35 – 15:20 Queen’s Tower Tour
15:20 – 15:00 Sir Alexander Flemming Medical School Tour
15:50 – 16:30 Hamlyn Centre of Medical Robotics tour

Prof. Schwartz, ever the favourite undergraduate lecturer, gave the girls some pretty perfect insight into space physics and univeristy life.

Simon Foster, my idol in the physics department, arranged a super cool experiment where we saw one of superconductivity‘s weirdest attributes- when cold (below their critical temperature) superconductors expel magnetic field. It basically means they are puting all of their electromagnetic energy into being super-conducting (it is their job!) and haven’t got any left to be magnetic. So when you try and put them in a magnetic field, they’re all like “UHH! NO!’ and pust themselves away. We used YBCO, which has an warm critical temperature of 150 K. Using liquid nitrogen we cooled the superconductors, then put them on a super strong ferromagnet (a magnet with a permanent magnetic field). It was SO COOL (!) – get it? M&E filmed the experiment for their website.

Meriame Berboucha was a perfect comrade for the afternoon, having met M&E at the Big Bang fair before she started her undergraduate degree at IC. Zan and Nilushi from the IC WiP committee, who are championing the IC g4g day, chatted to the girls about their experiences doing physics at univeristy and postgraduate level.

The Queen’s Tower never ceases to amaze me: the prestige of the Imperial Institute, beauty of London’s skyline or perfect separation of the royal schools of science, mines, music and art. Lead by the perfect guide, Kim Winter, we scaled the 325 steps of the QT. For M&E’s parents, who aren’t into heights – fair enough really- we took the lift to the top floor of SAF, which still gives you pretty awesome college views. It also lets you see inside Norman Foster’s wonderful creation- a perfect postgraduate research environment encouraging discussion between all groups within the medical school.

We finished with a tour of the medical robotics group at the Hamlyn Centre. My whole review of it  could be condensed to… ‘wow, really?’. You can read about it properly on their site, but big thanks here are owed to the most impressive person I’ve met in physics to date (Felicity McGrath). Felicity isn’t only the vice president of the best worldwide SPIE optics society but also has her own cows in Ireland ! She’s been awesome at helping with IC WiP stuff too. Felicity hooked us up with Neil Clancy at the Hamlyn Centre, who welcomed us to the mysterious world of level 5 in RSM. We were shown the medical robots by Petros Giataganas , who showed us how quickly things have developed since 2008. Petros doesn’t only have a few da Vinci systems to play around with, but 5 3D printers and insane expertise in how to use them. Next Neil showed us the photonics side: how they measure absorption, use the gold nanoparticles to deliver drugs and wiggle optical fibres/ HD cameras into places we don’t really want people to go. I had to stop myself from asking too many questions- imaging / spectroscopy doesn’t seem to change whether you’re looking at cancer cells or organic semiconductors. It was like falling in love with science for the first time again. If you’re ever on campus and feeling gloomy, I advise you head over to the Hamlyn.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited or tired in my life. I think I maintained a good level of Jess enthusiasm throughout- despite majorly hobbling down the steps of the QT and a slightly traumatic cycle home. M&E seemed super happy with the views of London, heart dissection and levitating superconductors! We exchanged Science Rocks UK lab coats, IC merch and heaps of plans for future collaborations!

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