Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The privilege and joy of Science

Today I had the enormous pleasure of watching a group of UTC Y12 students attend their first scientific meeting. The event was the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine's annual postgraduate symposium, held in one of Liverpool's many famous iconic buildings: the Adelphi Hotel. The day was organised by Professor Richard Pleass and Eleanor Carr, who had kindly incorporated a poster competition for the UTC students. The meeting is unusual in the breadth of material covered in the seminars; all of which are presented by postgraduate students who are well into their projects. Much of the material was of a high level, nevertheless, the students all showed great patience and tenacity in concentrating through the day's talks and, after a number of discussions with me and LSTM scientists,to clarify points, they were able to hold thoughtful discussions and begin to frame questions, showing considerable scientific maturity. I was incredibly impressed, as were the academics at the symposium. 

When it came to assessing posters, the students were asked to make individual choices and then to reach a consensus. They approached the challenge, not only enthusiastically, but with professionalism and in a highly logical way. There was a majority for one poster, with another coming close second. They prioritised the clarity and accessibility of their choice, after working their way around the 30 posters on display. They engaged with the postgraduates in discussing their work and really entered the spirit of the day as if they were postgraduates themselves. They ended the day by composing a joint "tweet" and we selected a winner that best described the reason for their poster choice from Rachel Winrow, which included Einstein's quote on communicating your results:  

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

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