Preparation for the Summer School (Azores, Portugal)

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In my typical fashion I had completely filled up my schedule for my entire summer. I had and expedition in Japan on the 10th of June, traveling through Scotland from 2nd of September to the 15th, and in-between holidays in Portugal and Geneva.  As a result of my concurrent activities, I was relatively underprepared for this summer school. However, it seems inappropriate to go into detail now so please refer to the Daily Diary section and Lessons Taken Away. I would have liked to present the iChip data from either Iceland or Japan, but unfortunately this was not possible. In the confusion caused by continuous travel, I was convinced that a poster was mandatory. Therefore I decided that I only had one remaining option: use slides from my UROPS presentation to create a poster.

Daily Diary

The trip started with a moment of anxiety, I received an email from my Honors project supervisor that there were major issues with proposal the morning I left. However, I decided that is was simply too late the implement the changes that he suggested. At the airport in Terceira I received a warm greeting from one of the co-organizers and got the chance to meet the majority of the summer school participants, who had arrived on the same flight from Lisbon.

On the first full day of the summer school, we were instructed to put up our posters and I was made aware that posters NOT compulsory, so considering how off-topic my poster was I was hesitant about putting up poster. In the evening I stumbled upon a conference in Edinburgh June 2017, which is perfectly relevant for my poster.

After a day of lectures, we had the opportunity of going on an excursion.   On the excursion, we absorbed the overall atmosphere of Azores and how what we are learning is relevant to the islands, volcanism, and life origins.  We visited two different lava caves to get impression of artificial lighting caves that we will soon be able to contrast with non-touristy caves. Additionally, we made a stopover at a cheese factory and traditional Azorian restaurant for a meal.

The next day was a series of talks by Karl Stetter. He is a worldwide expert in culturing difficult-to-culture microbes. I learned lots from his lectures and subsequent conversations, feel that his advice will prove invaluable in honors project. The next speaker was Diana Northup from the University of New Mexico. Her talks were very engaging and made me consider doing my PhD with her as my supervisor.

In preparation for the sampling day, I needed to go shopping for a torch because forgot to bring one to the summer school. Sampling day was very exciting. Because our group was very efficient we had the opportunity to visit both the caves that were part of the summer school program. I also realized as part of this summer school that Caves may not be an ideal sampling site for a PhD or postdoctoral as I’m not the correct dimensions or very comfortable in tight space.

After the sampling day, it was back to a very interesting series of lectures on the connection between volcanism, plate tectonics, and life. These lectures were followed by an equally interesting open discussion on how important plate tectonics are for the existence of life.  The next excursion gave us a view of a broad range of volcanic features which was very cool because I remember seeing similar features when traveling through Scotland. The next set of lectures were redundant, but it was nice to have some free time as the program is becoming more flexible. For me the practical portion wasn’t relevant for me and therefore I felt disappointed by this portion of the course.

The next two days were spent preparing for our proposal of how we should take the project forward. We spent a considerable portion of the day working through the slides, but unfortunately the team I was in didn’t gel very well. The summer school ended on a high as I talked to Jessica and Lurdes and set up the MAFIC project for next year.

Lessons Learned

  1. Make better use of Outlook calendar, get more efficient and tightly pack things into the (summer) schedule
  2. Buy more equipment for future field studies and summer school, such as kneepads, good durable gloves, more field pants, and helmet with headlight
  3. Make checklist for all the things that you might need for a field excursion or summer school weeks in advance, add things and take things off as you think of them

A Geological Expedition of Albania

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Arriving in Tirana, the capital of Albania I was so scared as this was my first time travelling to SE Europe, I was alone, and I couldn’t speak a word of Albanian! This photo shows a beautiful Sandstone outcrop (with a WWII bunker-tunnel system beneath it) and Mt. Dajt in the background.


I travelled to Enver Hoxha’s (the Communist leader of Albania from 1944-85) largest bunker to discover and use old geological maps of Shqipëri (Albania).


A fantastic example of cross-bedding on a sequence of rock.


In my spare time I visited the World Centre of the Bektashi, a Sufi Mystic sect of Islam originating in the 1500s in the Balkans.


After spending a few days in Tirana I began to realize that the people were hugely friendly and nothing like the Albania “gangsta” stereotype perpetrated by Western media. Hearing stories of kidnapping by bandits, robbery and human trafficking had previously scared me before travelling to Albania. It was only when I spent time with the people and tried to integrate myself into their culture that I began to see that the Albanians were actually very hospitable and kind.


I then travelled to Berat, a city in Southern Albania in order to explore The Tomorr Mountain National Park, the Kuçova oil field and surrounding geological features.


The countryside around Berat was stunning although difficult to hike!


An overview of the city ft. me during my ascent.


Berat County stretching out into the distance with the River Osum in the foreground.


On one day I travelled to the Bogove waterfall and explore the karstic landscape and the nearby valley.


On another day, while trying to access a Nickel mine I stumbled across some oil pipeline structures and began to follow them!


Travelling down to Vlorë I was stunned by the amazing coastal geological features and took various rock samples of the Mesozoic Limestone. It was interesting to travel along the promenade and learn about Albania’s coastal management strategies and explore the karstic structures of the Karaburun Peninsula.


I was super worried about travel before I departed on this expedition but actually found it to be very easy (with beautiful scenery) to get a minibus between cities. I learnt that you just have to be confident and go up to people and more often than not they will be willing to help you!


During his time as leader of Albania, Hoxha built over 700,000 conrete bunkers to avoid invasion. These now derelict structures are dotted everywhere around the Albanian landscape.


Finally I travelled to Sarandë, part of the Cika anticlinal belt and famous for its Limestone and silty clay soil deposits. Albania was an INCREDIBLE country to travel to and I have learnt so much about myself following this trip. It has taught me lessons in self confidence, preparation and communication as well as increased my knowledge about Geology hugely! I couldn’t have done this without the help of the PGAF and I thank them for this truly life changing experience.

Conference in Hong Kong

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I attended the 3rd Mount Carmel conference, an international forum on religion and society in Hong Kong during the mid-August. The theme of this annual meeting is “Traditional Values in the Secular Age: an inquiry from cross-disciplinary perspectives”, and which attracts nearly one hundred scholars from the disciplines of theology, philosophy, sciences and cultural studies. Co-sponsored by the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Alliance Bible Seminary, this conference has become one of the most significant academic events in the field. As an invited speaker, I presented a paper entitled “Beyond the Politics of Redemption: Tradition-based Visions of Responsibility in the Thought of Karl Barth and Mou Zongsan”, which discovers two distinct moral accounts of responsibility for democratic governance from a cross-cultural perspective.

The whole conference consists of two sections in a chronological order. The first section was an internal roundtable discussion among academic experts, focusing on the emerging issues and challenges in the research of religious traditions and secular values in contemporary society. In the forms of keynote speech and collective discussion, participants engaged in intensive dialogues among each other and undertake intellectual and ethical reflections on the issue. The second section took a form of public forum which was open to the public audience. In this section, scholars drew attention to the conflicting understandings and applications of religious traditions in concrete situations such as family, media, and social service. It was hoped that, through an in-depth conversation between the experts and the general public, new academic and practical agenda could emerge as possible solutions.

As a student of Christian ethics, my scholarly ministry is focused on the evangelization of mainstream intellectuals and college students. This conference, therefore, provides a good opportunity to prepare myself for an academic career in the future. Specifically, it helps me explore the dynamism between religion and society, and identify possible approaches of intellectual movements of evangelism. Moreover, this activity is also important for me to formulate a clearer vision of my own spiritual and practical life. By engaging in personal communications with exemplary scholars and intellectuals, I look forward to enriching my experiences and broaden my horizons, and thus preparing myself for a life-long witness in the scholarly ministry.




Vienna – Chichi Kabaso

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Thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad fund, I had the opportunity to travel to Vienna for the conference of geoscientists and engineers. This was an incredible opportunity and I had a great time meeting students from around the world and getting to know a new and beautiful city. Prior to my departure, I was anxious about travelling to a country in which English was not the main language. This was also my first time travelling on my own! All my fears dispelled once I arrived in the city. Yes, everything was in German but the majority of people and expats spoke English! It was also a great excuse to learn some German. During the day I attended the conference where I found out about great research and developments being made in the engineering field. After the conference, I explored the warm, vibrant and diverse city. It was an incredible experience and I can’t wait to visit Vienna again someday.















Paris Conference: Turns me into a storyteller – Sarnali Basak

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Every student has gone through the same challenging path during the dissertation period like I did. Lots of reading, attending meetings and discussions, coding and validating the results, and so on. As an informatics student, I needed to gather up-to-date related work which could give me useful hints as to how to model my own research work. I felt lucky, because that time I got the chance to attend the International Conference on Computational Creativity (ICCC), 2016, in Paris for a week, which was solely related to my subject of research. The conference was a full package of workshops, tutorial sessions, and valuable speech of the scholars from different universities all over the world. I was very much interested in joining the event, and taking part in the interactive learning sessions. It was a really practical and competent platform for my research works, and it later helped me a lot in my dissertation. In addition, it was a great experience to get to know such a vibrant city like Paris for the first time.

However, before stepping outside the UK towards France, I had to think about several issues such as my personal safety at the new location, using public transport at night, calculating my budget, avoiding crime situations etc. I managed to take care about all these, and came back with an wonderful experience. Coming from a far away country, I was always curious to know more about the locals and the culture of Paris. I managed to attend several social events such as cocktail parties and the Casparo opera, talk to renowned professors and researchers, as well as to visit the famous City hall, Hotel de Ville by the invitation of the honorable Mayor. Of course, I did not forget to see the majestic night view of the Eiffel tower either. My entire journey was excellent. No doubt, this international experience assisted me to enhance my personal and academic skills, and to make valuable connections around the world.


City hall, Hotel De Ville,Paris, France (Clicked in June, 2016)


Honorable deputy mayor was giving speech, Hotel de Ville, Paris (Clicked in June, 2016)

Internships in Washington D.C.

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In April of 2016, I accepted a position with the US Marine Corps, working as an analyst preparing briefings. However, due to an administrative complication I was unable to assume my duties, and I was told I would have to wait until my paperwork was processed.

Yet when I accepted the paid Marine Corps internship, I had rejected an unpaid offer in a US Senator’s office and I was left without an internship. I therefore started looking for temporary work to bide my time until my paperwork made its way through the bureaucracy of the United States Department of Defence.

One of the original aspects of my proposal for the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund was the incredible number and variety of educational events in the Washington, D.C. area. So, once I received my grant, I purchased a ‘SmartTrip’ public transportation card and a student membership to ‘LinkTank’, a networking and event platform that compiles think tank events in the DC area into a single calendar and began attending events.

At university, I focus on International Security, and as such the first event I attended was the ‘Defense One Tech Summit’. The summit was an all day affair, and included events ranging from an exhibition of new software to help service-members deal with PTSD, to a speech by the US Secretary of Defence. At the Summit, I met Geoff Orazem, the managing partner of Eastern Foundry, a start-up accelerator for government contractors. I had emailed Geoff earlier in the week to determine whether or not his company was hiring interns, and though I hadn’t received a reply, I was able to secure an internship through speaking with him.

However, I was still eager to find something related to my degree. I eventually secured an internship at the American Council of Life Insurers, where I worked in the international policy department performing international legal research regarding the implications of cross-border data regulations.

At Eastern Foundry, I planned a curriculum focused on providing online business education to small businesses and businesses new to the government contracting. At ACLI, I created a reference matrix for laws governing data protection and cross border data transfers in over 40 countries, a project which was picked up by the US Chamber of Commerce. Finally, I was able to attend more than 20 think tank events across the area, collecting information, asking questions, and interacting with members of the government as part of my dissertation research.

My initial summer experience was unbelievably humbling. After being rejected from nearly 15 internship programmes, I was finally accepted by two—and neither worked out due to circumstances beyond my control. However, I learned a hard lesson about the power of perseverance, and was able to gain valuable experience and build relationships with professionals in a variety of fields which have since paid off immensely.

I cannot thank the University enough for both the education they have provided and the funding to make this trip possible.