​ISSI 2017 Guest Blogger: Helen Stephens

Helen Stephens And Charlotte For Web
Helen Stephens with fellow ISSI participant Charlotte Zemmel

Our latest Bessie Blogger is Helen Stephens. She attended Sutton High School for Girls and is about to take up her place at UCL to study Chemical Engineering.

ISSI Experience Reflections by Helen Stephens

The chance of being able to work alongside scientists within such a prestigious Institute was one which I knew I could not miss out on. Before applying for this programme I was amazed that the opportunity allowing 80 likeminded and curious young scientists from around the world to share such life changing experiences existed, and I will be forever grateful that I was one of those 80 people. 

 As I approached the Institute I was completely overwhelmed at how large the campus was, and it took me a while to acknowledge that I would be based in such an incredible environment. 

The scientific project formed the bulk of our month in Israel, spending 3 weeks completing the task set out by our mentors. Myself and two others, Adi from the UK and Anna Lena from Germany were based in the WASP laboratory within the Physics department and our mentors were the one [more like two] and only Noam Morali and Aviram Steinbok. Our project came in two stages; programming a graphical user interface to acquire spectroscopic data from the Lock-In amplifier remotely, and then comparing the results from this, and from the mathematically manipulated raw data. This was in order to allow our mentors’ team be able to control the lock in device on the computer, at whatever time was convenient for them. Before ISSI I had no experience with any programming languages, but by the end of the project I had a better understanding of coding which is a skill I know will be extremely useful to me when I go to university. 

The laboratory was incredible, it was well equipped and despite being a physics laboratory there were many sections for chemistry too, which for me was particularly interesting. Throughout the project our mentors ensured that we understood everything along the way, even if they had to go completely back to basics in order for us to visualise the concepts we were using in order to complete our project. 

During the working days, social activities were organised in the evenings and sometimes the late afternoons. These allowed the 80 of us to bond more as a group, and we were also asked to give country presentations which was something I found rather interesting and entertaining because I got to find so much about countries from all over the world. 

We were also given the chance to explore the cultural, historical and religious aspects of the whole of Israel, which I know I would not have been able to do so thoroughly had I not been part of the ISSI group. Walking through the hustle and bustle of the Mahane Yehuda market was such a memorable experience and being able to sleep under the stars at the foot of Masada the night before our hike up it was incredible - even if we were being surrounded by wolves. I am also so thankful for being able to take part in the hiking expeditions we had. Waking up before sunrise to pack our bags and begin walking whilst it was still cool outside may not seem particularly exciting, but hiking in such beautiful environments and bonding more with our peers was fantastic and I have made so many cherished memories from them. Still now I cannot believe how much of Israel we were able to explore and I will be forever grateful to have shared this experience with such inspirational people that I am now such good friends with. 

The month I spent in Israel was undoubtedly the best month of my life and an experience which has completely changed me. I honestly believe that if you have curiosity, passion and a genuine enthusiasm for science then you need to apply for this programme because should you be lucky enough to gain a place, your life will be changed for the better forever. It may sound like an exaggeration but unless you are part of it you will never know how amazing the Dr Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute is. 

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More information about the Bessie Lawrence Summer Scheme.

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Published: August 31, 2017

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