About Me

From August 23 to September 1, I will be travelling to Israel as part of an 8 person delegation representing Australia at the Asian Science Camp. During the six day camp, around 200 talented young people will join Nobel Laureates and world class researchers to share their science experience through plenary sessions, round table discussions and student master classes. There will also be social and cultural events to enjoy.

I currently study Mechanical Engineering and Business at University and want to share my love of maths and science with all of Australia. This blog is about connecting Australia with the camp, by providing a medium through which students can comment and ask questions about the camp and the speakers. With any luck, I'll be able to ask your questions and get some answers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 5: Stem Cells and Blue Brains

Day five is by far our longest day. We started with a follow up lecture with Professor Yuan T. Lee entitled "Dynamics of Chemical Reactions and Photochemical Processes". He expanded upon his ideas from yesterday. The Professor is extremely passionate about climate change and the need to find more efficient ways to produce energy. He spoke passionately about the need for society to "return to nature" and become a carbon-less society. This all relates to his work with finding new chemical reactions to produce the energy that we currently produce using combustion.

Our second session was with Aaron Ceichanover, following up the discussion from his lecture. It was very interesting to be able to discuss the ethical concerns of genetic analysis, including the controversial topic of abortion. This is one of the most important things to be able to do, not just as scientists but also as human beings. Being able to talk about ethical concerns with behaviour, research and innovation in an open and respectful way is one of the most engaging things I have done so far at this camp.

This session was held in the library which has the most amazing stained glass window I have ever seen! That's what Jerusalem is like, it sneaks up on you. 

One part of the Stained Glass Wall at the Library
A view of the lectures in the Auditorium
We had two more lectures in the Auditorium. The first lecture was entitled "The Blue Brain Project" which is an experiment involved in simulating the human brain. This is an exciting future project as once we have the simulation set up we will be able to experiment with mental diseases and potentially discover causes or more effective ways to treat and manage these illnesses. Currently, we have an almost perfect mathematical model of the neurons in the brain, our main limitation is the computation power to run enough neurons. The current computer is only running a small segment of the brain, but as computers continue to become more and more powerful, the full brain simulation is only a few years away.

Our second lecture was about Israel and how the Hebrew University has been making significant global contributions since its founding. It was very interesting to hear about the success stories of the Hebrew University and how it is looking to the future.

Our final two sessions of the day were "Footnotes of Life" by Howard Cedar and "Human Embryonic Stem Cells: The New Frontier in Research" by Nissim Benvenisty. Whilst I didn't see all of Howard Cedar's lecture, it was incredibly interesting discussion on protein folding and how genes work to produce these proteins.

The second session was a wonderful discussion of the ethical concerns and the possibilities for stem cell research. It was fascinating to hear the different understandings of what constitutes a human being as well as how new research has found pathways to create stem cells that are able to be used for the medical applications without using a human embryo. We are on the edge of another medical revolution where not only will organs be transplanted, but so will individual cells, which will provide cures and treatments for a large number of illnesses that currently have little to no treatment.

You might be wondering why I missed part of Howard Cedar's lecture. There is an Israeli media team that has chosen a number of delegates to interview as part of a movie they are making about the Asian Science Camp. I was lucky enough to be chosen to do so. As such, they have been following me around at some of my activities and yesterday I was interviewed about my experiences and expectations of Israel and the Asian Science Camp.

Our final activity of the day was an evening tour of The Old City. It was a beautiful evening with a fantastic view of the city, a colourful and fun light show and a tour along the walls that explored the detailed history of the city. We had a fantastic time and learnt a lot about Jerusalem and how it developed from a single square kilometre to the sprawling metropolis of today.

Outside the Old City of Jerusalem

The view of the new city at dusk

One of the buildings in the Old City

The Moat around the Old City

Me outside the Tower of David

Me at the Light Show
Don't forget to keep an eye on the live twitter feed (@elyse_h) of the lectures and I will see you all tomorrow!

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