The London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF), formerly the London International Youth Science Fortnight, is one of the oldest residential science conferences in the world, hosting approximately 500 students (aged 17-21) from 65 counties all over the world in London,. Students interact with experts at the top of their fields in a world-class program of lectures, with access to premier research centers, scientific laboratories and leading educational institutions, including Cambridge and Oxford universities. Participants at the forum are often winners of national or international scientific competitions, but the conference also emphasizes inter-cultural communication through various social events, and in 2016 LIYSF was granted UNESCO patronage.
The idea of a science forum that would bring together top science students from many countries was most evidently considered after World War Two, when this idea was realized in the form of student exchanges between different schools and communities in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Czechoslovakia. In 1959, writing that “out of like interests the strongest interests grow”, one of the LIYSF founders Philip Green initiated a coordinated program housing all participants in one location, the University of London.
In the next decades, the conference expanded across the globe, starting from the United States of America to Eastern Asian countries. The initial goal was to put science into perspective and to encourage those attending to be aware of the needs of the world and what was happening in disciplines other than the one they were studying.
From 1971 to the 21st century, LIYSF has attracted a range of a wide range of notable presidents, including four Nobel Prize laureates, and innumerable distinguished speakers and lecturers.
Top speakers attend each year and have recently included; Professor Fiona Watt, Lord Robert Winston, Professor Sir Roy M. Anderson, Professor Mark McCaughrean, Professor Lesley Yellowlees, Professor Dame Carol Robinson, Professor John Ellis, Professor Sir Christopher Llewellyn Smith and Professor David Phillips.
This year the theme of the 2016 conference was “Great Scientific Discoveries” and I was invited to be one of the eight specialist speaker on the specialist study day.
The idea of the specialist day is that the student body of around 500 students are broken down into smaller groups to consider different themes. The groups will be led by the specialist and begin with a short lecture from the specialist outlining their area of expertise and raise key points. It is then up to the students to spend the remainder of the day to prepare to present this information to the rest of the student body in the afternoon plenary session in the form of a dance/song or drama.
This conference was one of my biggest professional challenges. It is not every day that I present to 500 of the world leading young scientist and the other speakers representing their field were top class. This included a professional science communicator for Discovery channel as well as a scientist from CERN. Nevertheless, the leader of the day Professor Clare Elwell, stated my title was her favourite – Mathematics: The Queen of Science. Of the 500 delegates, 65 choose to come to my one hour lecture and sub-sequential two hours workshop. This was only one behind the most popular session – The Substomic Zoo of Elementary Particles by the CERN scientist Prof Freya Blekman. In my group I had students from Canada, China, New Zealand, France, Malaysia, Poland and India, all were very enthusiastic and I had one hour to prove to them that Mathematics was indeed the Queen of Science. My argument was that not only does mathematics support science, it also leads science especially when it came to the field of mathematical modelling. I focused on the application of my PhD thesis – Extension of the Gambler’s Ruin Problem played over Networks. Firstly, I showed by using the Gambler’s Ruin Problem how we could predict the conditions for a World Economic Crash. Secondly, I discussed the potential of using the Gambler’s Ruin Problem to minimize the potential of Artificial Intelligence Takeover. The talk was well received, the highlight being when all the students shouted WOW when I showed them my main PhD result. For the workshop the student had to put together a 6 minutes presentation based on my talk in the form of a dance/song or drama. My group opted to do a Hip Hop Musical which was very creative and enjoyable to watch. I have never seen my mathematical research translated into this art form.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this day. It was an honour to have the opportunity to inspire the future leading world scientists and showing them that mathematics is indeed the queen of science.