Tuesday, 16 January 2018

2017 Review

Yo. I've just finished my Schols exams so here I am, back at the blog. Here's how 2017 went down for me. 

January 2017

In January I went back to college for my second semester of first year and experienced this:

Hung out with the gang a bunch, including ice skating at the RDS: 

worked on a precursor to Lablinn, visited the BT Young Scientist and read Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom, Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre and The Social Animal by David Brooks. 

February 2017

I kicked off February by going to the Trinity Science Ball:

Then I went to UCD to run a workshop with Shane Bergin's Science Ed masters students on antibiotic resistance education:

I started dating Leon on the 11th of February and celebrated Valentine's with him on the 14th (obviously).

I spoke at Dublin Tech Summit (for some reason on a panel about entrepreneurship?) shortly afterwards:

I also spent a lot of time in February working on a book proposal I'd been commissioned to write about citizen science. 

At the end of February, I went with Leon and the gang to Edinburgh for the Physoc trip:


March was pretty busy. It featured the end of the Physoc trip, submitting my book proposal, being featured in two documentaries. learning to code in (and becoming obsessed with) Ruby, cool dates with Leon including seeing Hidden Figures and visiting the Real Bodies exhibition, participating in a workshop on implementing the Bratislava Declaration of Young Researchers in Ireland, celebrating Leon's birthday with a weekend trip to the seaside, running for Secretary at the Physoc AGM and getting it, starting work on Lablinn's website and interviewing people, and going to Budapest to run the European Youth Summit. 

The documentaries were the Outbox Incubator documentary -- my feelings upon watching it were: "It was really nice to see, and it felt awesome to be featured prominently. It was very weird seeing my name come up at the end in one of those typical documentary "Elle is now ...." with a picture of my TEDx talk because I'm used to that exact formatting being in documentaries about actual famous people. "  -- and a documentary about the Women on Walls project in the Royal Irish Academy, which I'm in for 2 seconds at the end by accident because I attended the launch. 

Budapest is beautiful -- here's a photo by Lukas Frankl, one of the attendees of the conference. 

Through the Bratislava Declaration meeting I got to put some ideas on inquiry-based learning in pre-tertiary education into the recommendations document released from the meeting, which was cool because of the possibility it could have an impact. It was funny because when accepting my invite I had to register and the closest box I could tick in terms of career stage was 'Pre-PhD student'. 

March review is here. 


In April, I had the last day of the European Youth Summit in Budapest, was selected as one of 100 people under 40 from around the world to be a Young Global Changer and attend the T20 Summit in Berlin in May to come up with ideas for world leaders, got a job, signed up for Harvard Business X CORe, studied for my annual college exams, started realising that I really liked Biology and should probably be studying it, interviewed someone for Lablinn, consolidated my various open science and outreach things into Lablinn, and booked some workshops for the antibiotic resistance talks. 

April review is here. 


I had my 6 annual exams, talked to six classes of students (three primary, three secondary) about antibiotic resistance: 

published the Lablinn website, went to Berlin as a T20 Young Global Changer, and had fun playing board games with Leon. 

I wrote this about the Berlin experience: 
  • Cool speakers included Nobel Laureates George Akerlof and Joseph Stiglitz, Sweden’s Minister for Finance who was awesome, and other big economists including Jeffrey Sachs and Lord Nicholas Stern
  • Berlin was HOT. The minimum night-time temperature was 18 C.
  • I met so many awesome people from all around the world there and learned so much about different cultures. Such an incredible learning experience. For example, here’s a photo with five people from five different continents: Europe (Ireland), Asia (Vietnam), Africa (Ethiopia), South America (Venezuela) and Oceania (Fiji). "
It was super cool, met a lot of interesting people and am glad to have been given the opportunity. T20 was awesome even though there was no one my age there (I was the youngest by like 6 years). 

May review is here


In June, I started my job as a Teaching Assistant at CTYI and met my lovely Instructor colleague Belinda, gave antibiotic resistance workshops to around 170 students, recruited the Lablinn team who are very cool (lablinn.com/team, check them out), hit 100,000 blog visitors and celebrated my 5 year blogiversary, researched degree paths intensively and tipped to favouring Biology, did the first third of the Harvard course, read/reviewed 4 pop science books and moved out of digs

June review is here


July was mostly taken up by my job at CTYI (which was pretty enjoyable but definitely hard work and involved 16-hour days including commuting), hanging out with Leon (including lots of board games, Brooklyn 99 and a nice trip to Glendalough), working on Lablinn and getting to know the team, making 30 pages of Biology notes from Campbell and loving it, doing half of the Harvard course, and reading two popsci books

July review here


August was pretty busy and involved visiting three different countries, which was cool. At the start of the month I went to London (thanks Stemettes) for a Lablinn-related business trip, then the next day to a work reception back in Dublin:

Then I put in my new subject choices (biology), and the day after had my six month-iversary with Leon and my 19th birthday (on the same day) -- unfortunately I spent it crying because the Biology department in college were refusing to let me switch to Biology (despite meeting the prerequisites) because they thought I'd fail and after all my research and study I'd realised it was all I wanted to do and I'd have to drop out if I couldn't do it. That extremely stressful situation went on for a month managing to ruin my whole month and two holidays before, through drastic measures, I finally convinced them to let me in (I now have an average above 90% in the Biology modules I've got marks for, so there). Thank you to the students union for your advocacy for me though. 

I went to Prague to visit Lukas from the Youth Platform:

Then to Brno: 

Then to Vienna to visit Lili from same: 

The trips were definitely a strain on my finances but I only had to pay for flights so I managed it and they were pretty cool.

I finished up my Harvard course, had a photoshoot for the launch of TEDxDrogheda, and read Sapiens, Superbug, and Brave New World. I also went to LeakyCon, the Harry Potter convention, wrote nine blog posts, studied Biology and worked out how successful I'd been with my 14 August 2016-July 2017 goals:

  • Dropped (realised not a priority): 2
  • No significant progress: 3 (organise a college science fair, do a research project, open 3 open labs -- these goals were a little unrealistic)
  • Significant progress i.e. halfwayish done: 3 (reach 1000 students with antibiotic resistance talks, get a first in college, publish 20 paid freelance articles)
  • Complete: 6 (exercise 30+ mins 90% of days, read 15 popsci books, write 52 blog posts, speak at 6+ events, run two youth platform projects, complete Nobel Physics blogging project). 
Blog post about progress on the goals here, and August review here


I did my Harvard exam on the 1st, went to another day of LeakyCon, moved into my new apartment with Leon, womanned the Physoc stand for Freshers Week, started back at college, organised a Lablinn team workshop Training Day, wrote 8 blog posts, read 3 books, finished writing my 100 pages of notes from Campbell biology and....developed Tennis elbow from studying too much (and without proper arm support). Never realised how much I used my arms and hands til doing anything with them was paaaaain. D'oh.

September review here


College really got started in October and I got to experience studying Biology in college which is a m a z i n g -- you should totally read the October review for info on my experience of each module, but basically they were awesome. I was even better at Maths and Chemistry just because being in a subject I loved made me so engaged and happy. 

We did a bunch of stuff at Lablinn including a Training Day for the team, interviews and booking workshops. Hurricane Ophelia hit, I got my Harvard grades back (passed with Honours, got 100% in Stats, 96% in Economics and 93% in Accounting), and I went outside and climbed a mountain with college pals (not all on the same day):

Leon and I played a bunch of Magic: the Gathering and Carcassonne, and saw an IRA film in the cinema, and I did various Physoc secretary things. Overall though, I mostly studied because I had a lot of work and it was really fun. 

October review here


November was mostly spent studying as I'd signed up for Schols, Trinity's super hard optional scholarship exams, in four Biology papers. I was also continuing to love college, finding Maths interesting, being fascinated by Biochemistry and not even minding Organic Chemistry. 

Apart from that, Lablinn was super active (held workshops with 120 students and booked some more, published a bunch of articles and an interview with the very cool APOPO HeroRATs on the site, and had me do a talk about Lablinn and enroll on a Launchpad mentoring scheme for it), I spoke at a TwitterxUNICEF event at Twitter Dublin HQ, I went to Budapest for a few days for a Council of the ECHA Youth Platform meeting, went to a William Campbell talk in the Royal Irish Academy (he won the Nobel Prize for discovering a treatment for river blindness) thanks to the Naughtons, and did the usual Physoc stuff plus going out for dinner with our speaker Shane Bergin, which was fun. 


I had my first meeting with my mentor for the Launchpad program at the start of December. College ended in mid-December and from then on I upped my Schols study to 12 hours a day so I really had time for nothing else -- I couldn't even think about anything else my brain was so full. I learned so much but it is nice to now have a little bit of brain space to think about well, anything else. I celebrated a little bit of German Christmas with Leon's family and then went to my own for Christmas day, then back home to the apartment and celebrated New Year's by watching Die Hard with Leon and Gráinne. 


All in all, it was a good year. Switching to Biology was one of the best decisions I've ever made, because I adore it and am getting 90-100% so it certainly seems like I can do it. It's so fascinating and I love studying now whereas last year it was just like an obligation. Over the summer, thanks to Leon, I learned how to embrace the concept of fun rather than just working myself into the ground -- I still subsequently worked myself into tennis elbow, but at least then it was doing something I enjoyed rather than just working out of workaholism. He even got me into playing board games and then, slightly, video games (the horror). In general me and Leon had a lot of happy times and have now been living together for four months (although we were effectively doing so for many months before that). I stepped back a bit from conferences as the year progressed so I wasn't actively seeking them out anymore but did still go to some cool things I was invited to. I learned a huge amount by being engaged in college and it  was awesome. Lablinn grew from having only been piloted in one school to having reached about 700 students, gained an international team and a website, and lots of other cool stuff that I'll talk about in a blog post shortly. There were definitely some bad times too, but I'm happy about the progress made and especially about making the right decision to switch to doing what I really love rather than what I felt was expected just because I thought it was illegal or whatever to have fun -- I'm really loving what I'm doing at the moment. Here's to a good 2018 :) 

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