03 March 2017

Students enjoy AAAS science trip to Boston

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During half term, Lower Sixth science students and teachers departed to Boston for six days to attend the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The meeting is a conference for scientists around the world and we were very privileged to be able to partake in this event. The meeting covered an impressive array of topics, ranging from the importance of microbiomes to the future of astrophysics. This greatly appealed to us since it provided more than enough lectures to satisfy each one of our individual interests and our group was extremely diverse with hopeful research scientists, engineers, medics and more.

In addition to the symposia that we went to, all of us attended a plenary lecture where some of the most prestigious scientists in America discussed current scientific topics such as climate change, science policy making and the decline of the honeybee. Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, was a personal favourite as she reached a consensus with all of us in her talk on climate change and her passionate delivery and structured arguments, dispelling the audience’s indifference towards the importance of speaking up for climate change by reminding us of the changing world that we live in and received a much-deserved standing ovation.

As an aspiring medic, I went to symposia on health policies, microbes, pandemics and so forth. However, some of the lectures I enjoyed the most were not labelled ‘Public Health and Medical Sciences’. Under ‘Physics and Astronomy’, I relished in the results of collaboration between the development of 3D particle imaging and its application in medicine through screening for cancerous growth and learned to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of science. The biological lecture I found the most interesting was about the intervention of Alzheimer’s disease through dietary prevention. It highlighted essential factors that we sometimes overlook in medicine: The fact that we live in a rapidly ageing society, that there is still much about the gastrointestinal tract that we are oblivious to and that there is a struggle to generalise data produced by research. The AAAS meeting truly opened our eyes to the possibilities and gratification of scientific research and it was definitely one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had.

Aside from the lectures, we also had a rich experience of American culture. A few of us joined a rally organised by the scientific community, which protested President’s Trump attempts to subjugate the work of some scientists. We found this peaceful, powerful and inspiring. We also had the opportunity of experiencing an NBA basketball game – Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers – an astounding experience at the TD Garden.

A tour of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) featured in our trip as well, in which some of the common stereotypes of Ivy League universities were dispelled by our tour guides. Northeastern University provided some more insight on the sports in US universities, namely ice hockey, as we witnessed the Northeastern Huskies beat University of Connecticut in an emotional game.

The AAAS Boston trip was a rich experience for all of us, and would not have been possible without the support and hard work of our teachers: Dr Parsons, Miss Bonsall, Mr Dickinson and Mrs Pitcher.

Cathy Tse and Daniel Izu

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