Croatia!

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Thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, I had the opportunity to attend and present at the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services Annual Conference in Split, Croatia. It was such an amazing experience, I made friends with students from all over the world, and got to spend time with and network with people who have the same research interests as my own. Before I left, I was worried that I might forget something, but made sure to have a checklist of everything that I needed to bring. While I was there, I presented two pieces of my research, one through a poster presentation and one through an oral presentation as part of a symposium; I was also awarded the ‘Best Presentation Award’ for my poster! At the conference, I learned all about the other research that is being conducted in my field. After the conference ended, other students and I explored Croatia, and took in as much culture and local food as we could! I learned all about the history of Croatia by doing tours and by talking to the locals there. Below, you can find some highlights of my trip!

We had one day off before the conference started, so naturally, my friends I spent the day at a beautiful beach.

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The view from the hotel where the conference was held was pretty amazing, and the abundance of sunshine made it difficult to stay inside!

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On the first day of the conference I presented my poster, and did my oral presentation on second day.

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After the conference, some fellow students and I took a day trip to Krka National Park, one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen.

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The next day we took a ferry to Dubrovnik from Split, and spent the day in the ancient walled city (of course pretending to be in Game of Thrones 🙂 )

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This trip was so much fun, and Croatia is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, I can’t wait to go back!

Neptune – Sophie Burgess

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This summer I attended EASA Denmark. EASA, the European Architecture Students Assembly, is the largest network of architecture students in Europe and this year the workshops and events accommodated around 600 students from 200 different architecture schools. Every year since 1981 this event has been held in different locations around Europe, incorporating lectures, workshops and networking.

For my time in the town of Fredericia, I attended the workshop called Neptune. This workshop aimed to provide the fishermen in the harbour with a place to prepare and cook the fish they had freshly caught. The diverse fishing community, although at first seeming antisocial, gradually welcomed us and by the end of our time there we exchanged warm goodbyes. As well as building for the fishermen we became part of the community by fishing every day, managing to catch mackerel and garfish.

The workshop culminated in a day of cooking fish and sharing it with other EASA participants and the fishing community.  The structure is left standing and the hope is fishermen will continue to use it to cook their catch. Our workshop developed many of our skills including construction, woodwork, welding, fishing, cooking, talking, laughing and dancing. We hope EASA’s international community has left its mark in the wonderful town of Fredericia and that our work will benefit the local community.

APEX 5 High Altitude Research Expedition: Bolivia

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This summer, I was part of the APEX 5 high altitude research expedition to Bolivia. This is the 5th expedition to altitude the charity has undertaken. The project is completely student-led and was supported by the University of Edinburgh Medical school. I was acting as research participant in several scientific studies exploring the impact of altitude and hypoxia on blood coagulation, immunology and infection, and vision. The findings of this expedition have the potential affect millions worldwide; both patients living at high altitude and patients in the UK with illness-induced hypoxia.

Our make-shift research lab was 4,800m above sea level at Huayna Potosi base camp in the Bolivian Andes. But the first couple of days were spent acclimatizing in the hostel and city of La Paz. Huayna Potosi is one of the mountains that dwarfs the city of La Paz. We were to be based at the camp for 7 days; taking blood samples from everyone on day 2 and day 6. This would be able to show us if any changes had taken place due to acclimatising to the new altitude. I was part of the platelet research team; which involved titrating chemicals and mixing various agonists and antagonists with the blood plasma in 96-well plates. There were also three other studies taking place at the same time; immunology, vision and psychology. Having completed my first degree in pharmacology, I enjoyed the practical lab aspects of this project and loved having such a super team to work with!

During our downtime, we enjoyed venturing out to explore the area; to the nearby lake, glacier or the aqueduct. A particular highlight was hiking up above the base camp to the Huayna Potosi glacier. From here we were able to see incredible views of the summit of this mountain standing at 6088m above sea level. One of the reasons I applied for this expedition was to experience the Andes, but little did I know that by the end of the trip I would be standing on the top of this particular mountain!

Above 3000m, it is expected that western people may experience some effects of altitude sickness. However, the entire group remained healthy throughout the trip at 4800m! Having completed our 7 days at base camp safely and successfully, everyone returned down to our base in La Paz and to the comfort of real showers and wifi before headed out for a celebratory dinner! However, after 2 days of recovering in La Paz it was time for some more adventure. A group of 6 of us bravely booked a guided climb of Huayna Potosi. This was by far the most rewarding experience of my life and was so thankful to able to complete this climb with my friends by my side. Three days of climbing later, we reached the summit at 6.45am just in time for the sunrise over the Cordillera Real of the Andes, where the views were undoubtedly stunning and it was the best reward for the complete physical and mental exhaustion we had endured. Overall this expedition has given me the opportunity to be involved in vital research into the many pathological effects of hypoxia in patients, and to continue my interest in altitude medicine.

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11th International Symposium on Bilingualism – Limerick, Ireland

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I spent an exciting, albeit rainy week of July at the West Coast of Ireland, where the University of Limerick was hosting one of the largest academic events related to bilingualism: the 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism. I boarded the plane with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh – myself full both of excitement and nervousness about presenting at a symposium that would be attended by as many as 900 other presenters and delegates. One of my main concerns was related to the fact that this was going to be my first presentation at an academic event outside of the comfort zone of my University. However, I was ready to invest all my efforts into presenting well the University of Edinburgh and my study on the bicultural bilingual identity of Native Americans in Mexico. Despite the fact that Limerick welcomed us with heavy rain over its bright green landscape, the Organising Committee had planned a wonderful schedule for us, packed with great talks and tasters of the Irish culture!

In each of the symposium days, there were many simultaneously run workshops and presentation sessions, ranging in topics – from bilingualism in the family, and minority languages, to writing systems, psycholinguistics, and research on the bilingual brain. It was a great pleasure to meet many like-minded young researchers and discuss each other’s projects. Some of the very important things I learned were tips on improving my presentation skills acquired by watching different people presenting. In addition, it was interesting and useful to inform myself on how bilingualism research is done (including – what are the “hot” topics) across various institutions around the world.

Despite the fact that all the days of the symposium were busy from early morning until late afternoon, our hosting institution had organised for us a traditional Irish barbecue dinner, with Irish dance and music performances, which gave us time to relax and interact. It felt truly culturally enriching to be able to experience a small bit of the Irish traditions and learn more about the history of this culture. In addition, a large proportion of the symposium presenters and guests were speakers of Irish language and were very kind to introduce me and my colleagues to the basics of the language. So, at the end of the week, I boarded my flight back to Edinburgh with more knowledge, fresh ideas, new friends, and research enthusiasm than I had imagined I would gather!

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A small part of the audience caught during one of the plenary talks!

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Impatiently expecting the afternoon traditional Irish barbecue

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On a magical walk from the University of Limerick’s campus to Limerick town by the coast path

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I will always remind myself of this sign on a Dublin hostel’s wall when I travel and encounter difficulties! Deal with it!

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Saying goodbye to Ireland, from hectic Dublin

Making Soap in the Dominican Republic

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Thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, I could join my team on a trip to the Dominican Republic to help set up our soap making social enterprise business. Our aims were to help people who are studying at University fund their education through making and selling soap, and to develop a soap recipe with mosquito repellant properties, which will hopefully help combat hygiene issues.

Before flying out, I was admittedly nervous about the trip. It was my first time travelling on my own (my team flew out a couple of weeks before me), and we were staying in a rural village where only one or two people spoke English. As well as the language barrier, I was worried about how long it would take me to settle into their way of life. But, little did I know, it would only take a night’s sleep to adjust to bucket showers, having only a couple of hours of electricity each day (yep, meaning no air con for sleeping!) and there being goats EVERYWHERE.

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The village we were staying and working in: Bombita, Dominican Republic.

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The reservoir in the village, where we came to relax at the end of the day and watch the glorious sunsets.

While we were in the village, we taught our beneficiaries how to make and sell soap. We had some problems with our recipe because of the intense heat, and lack of electricity. This meant we only had a short window each day for the blending part of soap making, and nowhere cool to store it. Luckily, through trial and error we found a successful recipe using coconut oil. This experience truly taught me the meaning of problem solving, as we couldn’t just ‘Google it’ or nip to the shop and buy something. While, it was frustrating, it was great because we did it, and it reminded me that I could benefit from using my brain more often at home instead of just always reaching for the 3G!

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Two of our beneficiaries preparing to pack a successful batch of soap

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The finished product! We were able to locally source moulds, oils, wrapping materials and business cards locally (mainly from the next big town over, Barahona), giving even more back to the communities.

We were originally going to stay in charity accommodation nearby but I’m so glad we didn’t, because we truly learnt the value of our project. We didn’t hire a translator like we had planned to, and instead took the opportunity to improve our Spanish and improve their English and bond with our beneficiaries. One of the villagers asked me to show them some pictures of ‘Escocia’ and I happened to have a video at Murrayfield singing O Flower of Scotland and they were slightly horrified by the bagpipes! I saw how important work like this is to people, and while I gained a lot from this experience it has the potential to be life-changing for them, and I am honoured to have been a part of that. I am more motivated than ever to continue work like this.

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Some team members and some of our beneficiaries with our finished product. It was the first successful batch so we were all very excited!

Making clean water under the Andalusian sun

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Earlier in May of 2017, I travelled to Spain to assess the use of natural sunlight as a clean, free and plentiful energy source for water decontamination in the research facilities of Plataforma Solar de Almeria (PSA). PSA is in the Tabernas Desert and it is the biggest solar technology R&D centre in Europe. Below you can find some of the highlights of my trip, enjoy!

1- From the scientific point of view…

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Heliostat field for the collection of the solar thermal energy-view from the tower (central receiver) in PSA.

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Large-size parabolic-trough solar collectors in PSA.

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Heliomann-parabolic collectors concentrate the solar radiation onto the tubes where the wastewater flows through (PSA).

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This is the compound parabolic collector pilot plant where I carried out my experiments in PSA. The plant consists of 12 borosilicate tubes, solar reflectors, a recirculation tank, a centrifugal pump, connecting tubes and valves. The wastewater mixed with a catalyst flows through the tubes. The catalyst is then activated by the solar energy leading to the degradation of the organic pollutants in water.

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While on duty, here I am mixing the reagents before adding them in the recirculation tank (PSA).

2- One, two, three – ready, set, go!

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The Desert of Tabernas has been the film location for many classics such as Cleopatra, King of Kings, Lawrence of Arabia, Once Upon a Time in the West, Indiana Jones, A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and many more!

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The Cathedral in Renaissance style-one of Almeria’s must-sees.

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Alcazaba of Almería; a fortified complex dated back to the 10th century-a view of the gardens.

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Panoramic view of Almeria and its port from the Alcazaba fortress.

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Beautiful ladies in traditional dresses celebrating the El Rocio- the most important and colourful Pilgrimage in Andalucía.

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Panoramic view of the charming city of Granada.

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The picturesque Alhambra- a citadel and palace, the most renowned Andalusian Islamic monument. Sierra Nevada can be seen at the back.

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At Malaga, Pablo Picasso’s birthplace-view of the promenade.

During my work in PSA, I gained access to unique experimental facilities and analytical instrumentation. This visit was also an exceptional opportunity for scientific networking and promotion of future collaborations. Nevertheless, as well as the specific research benefits, PSA was an educational experience overall, since the diversity of ongoing research (i.e. solar power generation, solar water treatment and high-temperature industrial processes) make it the ideal place for everyone that would like to know more about solar energy.

This international experience was of great benefit to both my academic and personal development. I had the opportunity to experience the Spanish lifestyle and learn a lot about the Andalusian culture. The highlight of this trip? The people that I met and the new friends that I made!

Acoustic conference in Boston and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

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I went to Boston and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for one month between mid of June and mid of July. I attended the 173rd Acoustic Society of America conference and gave a presentation about my PhD research. Our research result gives a deep impression to the researchers in the oceanography acoustic. Meanwhile, the Flowave Facility that based in Kings’ Buildings campus is the state of art facility for the ocean engineering research. The following figure shows a stone lion in front of a hotel beside the meeting place in Boston.

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I visited the MIT and Harvard University during my stay in Boston. There has a lot many tourists in these two famous university. We could join in the campus tour in the Universities, which give us a first view and some simple introductions. I think MIT is much friendly to tourists from all other places in the world. We could get access to the guest WIFI freely in MIT and could use the library resources. In the Harvard University however, we should make an appointment to use the public resources. I took some pictures in these two Universities.

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I also attend the Offshore Energy and Storage 2017 conference in Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and give two presentation about the ocean acoustic tomography.

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It is a good chance for research network in the conference. Some researchers have interesting discuss during rest time in the conference.

The Woods Hole is a famous tourist destination in the east coast of America. The lobster is quite good.

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We have a visit to the research vessel (R/V) Atlantis and saw the ROV Alvin. The Alvin is the most famous ROV in the world, it take part in a lot many ocean exploration dive around the world including take first photo of RMS Titanic in the sea floor.

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From this visit I meet some researchers in other institute and make network for our research. The America research environment is a little different form UK. We hope to attend more conference and present out research to other researchers.