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UFV Science Students Going to London

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An opportunity for students to represent UFV at the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) was announced in January. The event benefits many kinds of research by bringing scientifically-minded students together with each other and experts in a way that they can demonstrate the progress they’ve made at their respective universities and help each other develop their ideas.

For the first time in UFV history, they are sending not one but two students to talk about their research with professionals in their fields and students from around the world.

UFV’s own Tessa Webb, a promising scientist in the field of biology, and engineering physics roboticist Perrin Waldock will be going to Imperial College London for two weeks from July 26 to August 9. There are 500 students selected from over 75 countries to coalesce in this gathering and associate with leading scientists.

Tessa Webb explained the steps she took to apply to attend the forum.

“You could create a presentation or write an essay about where you think science is going, or a possible direction to take science in,” she said. “I wrote a paper about CRISPR, which is a DNA editing technology. It’s a way to edit DNA and turn genes on or off and target certain sequences.”

Three candidate students were shortlisted and then had to build presentations showcasing the utility they see for their focus areas of research. A panel assessed their work and decided which two students would get to go to the forum. Webb’s presentation was on the potential for bioremediation with certain adaptations of bacteria that have resulted in the improved metabolism of environmental toxins.

“Bioremediation is use of biological organisms to help heal the environment or remove toxins that are present which could be from a man-made or an environmental source,” she said. “I was looking at a gene that’s responsible for oil metabolism and I wanted to clone it so that we could figure out how to increase the expression and efficiency of that gene. I was developing a protocol of ways that we can determine the selective pressures that when applied to the bacteria would increase its efficiency of oil metabolism.”

Webb looks forward to the chance to hear from the voice of experience.

“I’m really excited about the keynote speakers and listening to what they’ve been working on because on such a large scale it’s nice to be able to hear ideas and get feedback on what you’re doing as well.”

Perrin Waldock, who will also be presenting at the forum, joked that the event will consist of “largely a lack of sleep,” but he continued earnestly to say, “It’s basically two weeks of science. They bring in a bunch of top scientists from around the world; engineers as well. I don’t know if engineers like being called scientists — or vice versa — but they talk about the interesting things that they’re doing. Last year or the year before, there was a guy who talked a lot about the physics related to bubbles.”

Waldock’s presentation involves the development of robotics.

“I talked about a quadcopter that I’m building and looking at how to add obstacle avoidance systems to. Basically we’re looking at cheap ways of influencing obstacle avoidance. It’s a project we started in January and have been doing ongoing related research. It’s not a whole lot of cutting-edge stuff, but it’s an interesting sort of side project.”

Waldock has a couple of reasons why he thought the panel chose him out of the applicants.

“I have a fair amount of energy and a good sense of humour so I can represent UFV well at the event. I’m also doing some research that I think UFV really wants to show off. I think those are the two main reasons. There were a number of really good candidates available, so I’m honoured that they chose me.”

Webb thinks the opportunity to go to the forum would not have been possible without the dedication she put into her research.

“I’m very passionate. I really enjoy the research that I’ve done,” she said. “Looking back, it was worth all the hours put in and all the struggles. The supervisors here at UFV are absolutely phenomenal and they all want you to succeed. As somebody who was kind of unsure about research, having done it now, I think it was completely worth all the time and effort that I put in.”

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