A good time for science, and gratitude.

It is actually a very good time for science! I am grateful to have been able to contribute over the years particularly in life sciences, clinical and health sciences; and to be part of the research communities. It is exciting work – there is much to be done and much to communicate.

I am also enjoying other interests including poetry – and being able to experiment there too!

I am grateful to my colleagues and friends in a range of disciplines and diverse areas. ‘Thank you’ to them for ‘keeping me on my toes’. I love exploring different perspectives and being able to appreciate contributions of others and to be able to contribute from a different and general viewpoint.

I love communication. I love poetry. It’s great to be able to experiment and hear of it being enjoyed by others too.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 1/7/21

A quantum leap in my learning

There is a new technology that will impact society and the future of sciences: Quantum Technology. Oh, and did you know that apparently a quantum object can be in 2 places at the same time?

Context and background
In 2020 I participated in the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF2020 Trieste). As in previous years not only did I check out some developments in my own specialisms and interests, but I also took the opportunity to get a flavour of some completely different areas.

I have prepared this short blog as a ‘taster’ to share my own ‘enlightenment’ with you and maybe to spark your curiosity.

Quantum technology has enormous potential. ‘It is expected that this will lead to an exponential growth in computing power, allow information to be communicated in an absolutely secure way and, again, allow measurements to be made with extreme precision.’

Some possibilities which were deemed science fiction in the past may become reality.

Computer power
Aspects of quantum computing are moving from the theoretical phase. We were told to watch out for big developments in the next 10 years or even in the next 5 years!

In classical or binary computing (i.e., the traditional approach) computers are said to perform calculations using “bits” of information. Like on-and-off switches, these exist in only two states: either 1 or 0. Quantum computers, however, use quantum bits, or “qubits,” which can exist as both 1 and 0 simultaneously!

To understand the potential of quantum computing requires a different way of thinking about information and also there are concepts that will be new to many people. An explanation provided in an expert panel discussion, at ESOF2020 helped me. This is the gist of it:

Consider the challenge of finding your way out of a very complex maze or labyrinth. With a classical computer you can think of a stepwise process choosing Left or Right until you find the right path. However, with a quantum computer you can explore all paths at once – can be likened to flushing a bucket of water through the labyrinth. That explanation was an ‘aha moment’ for me!

Elsewhere, I have heard that it is like ‘being able to read all the books in a library at once’. The speed and scope of this new technology viewed in this way becomes immediately more apparent to me.

What could the advantages be for users and citizens?

Here are examples of some potential and possible applications:

• Quantum simulation for use in the discovery and development of new drugs
• Quantum sensors and a role at the human brain interface e.g. potential for communication use maybe even for ‘locked-in syndrome’.
• Satellite navigation – the prospect of providing very accurate location.

Secure communications
Communication security is a top priority for governments around the world. There are some collaborations and there are also competitive aspects. The Chinese satellite, Micius, was launched in 2016 and recently reported a secure method of quantum messaging (published in Nature, 2020) which has generated interest. Other countries and regions are very interested in quantum satellites and are at various stages of research and development in this field.

The Italian ‘experiment’ at ESOF2020
The closing ceremony of the conference featured an ‘experiment’; the first Italian public demonstration of encrypted communication using Italian-made optical-fibre quantum technology. Participants and attendees were able to witness the capability of the technology and its ability to detect and prevent attempted ‘hacking’.

Europe is equipping itself with a quantum communication network called EuroQCI, which includes optical-fibre cables and satellites. Italy is at the forefront of this field.

Beyond Trieste
After the ESOF conference I felt it was time for some consolidation of what I was learning. If this is a new subject for you and you want to learn more you will encounter new concepts and new terms such as repeaters, entanglement etc. We need a better understanding of terminologies and basic physics. Of course, there will be many sources of further information. I have provided examples of videos I found helpful (see below).

Phases and progress of quantum technology: Where are we now?
Different aspects of quantum technologies are at different points in this path:

Research → Development → Innovation

Discoveries will be made and facilitated by new investments and collaborations including academia and industry. There is already a lot of knowledge in Europe (and Italy is ‘a big player’ in Europe).

It is a promising field where some things are coming already, or some things may come soon, and there are some things where there are still major challenges.

There are likely to be exciting breakthroughs but also disappointments. There will definitely be A NEED FOR HYPE CONTROL!

Call to action
Do not worry if you find this subject challenging to understand, many people do. It is OK to be still grappling with some of the ideas and terms. I am told even many physicists feel the same way. Working through the confusion is how we learn. Writing this blog helped me and I hope reading it helps you.

Be curious.

A small brave step could lead to a quantum leap in your understanding on many levels.

I hope sharing my learning is useful to others.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 26/1/21

Further information:

Recent publication about the Chinese satellite (Nature, 2020)
Yin, J., Li, YH., Liao, SK. et al. Entanglement-based secure quantum cryptography over 1,120 kilometres. Nature 582, 501–505 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2401-y

Videos I found helpful:
Quantum Computers Explained – Limits of Human Technology
Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. You Tube

If You Don’t Understand Quantum Physics, Try This!
DoS- Domain of Science. You Tube

A big thank you to ESOF2020 for the opportunity to learn about quantum technology.
I have written several previous posts about ESOF2020 for example here

Kickstart to 2021: excellence in research

In the first month of 2021, as an uplifting example of excellence in research, I’d like to share a link (see below*) to the December 2020 Nobel Lectures in Chemistry concerning work in the field of CRISPR and gene editing.

See what doing science is like – and how scientists work together.
Feel the joy of discovery – and the clarity of communication.

Dip in or delve deeper to learn about the fascinating science of gene editing.
Enjoy lectures by 2 highly successful scientists, recipients of the Nobel Prize 2020.

The presentations describe fundamental biology and show how research in bacteria and viruses can be valuable for developments in biotechnology. Challenges and opportunities are discussed. There are pointers to where such research is heading and its applications in research, public health, agriculture, and biomedicine. The lectures also touch on its potential use in applications for covid detection and screening, and indeed for future pandemic preparedness.

Hear 2 leaders in their field praising the enthusiasm and commitment of young scientists. It is indeed an exciting time for scientific research, and CRISPR methodology is ‘a powerful tool for young scientists’.

International collaboration is important. The mobility of researchers enables them to work in different labs and encourages the circulation of ideas.

In view of the opportunities and where some of this research is heading I think people should be prepared for wider consultations. It is important to increase the general understanding about this technology.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 20/1/21

*
Click here for the link to the 2020 Nobel Lectures in Chemistry
Thanks to ‘The Nobel Prize’and the scientists involved.

……

[Here is a link to a piece I wrote previously on a similar topic, frontier research in synthetic biology]

Professional communicators and writers – doing the right thing and now!

It is great to see professional groups, networks, forums, associations, companies, institutes, agencies and individuals – speaking out or just getting on with it! Many science, medical, health and medcomms communicators and writers are doing the right thing by promoting and supporting high standards and working with transparency, openness, timeliness and integrity. There were already some long-term proponents of such causes and many more are now rising to such challenges which are even more important in these troubled times.

I made a call out some 6 months ago, which was very well-received. The points are still very pertinent…

‘To the professional communicators in science particularly life sciences, clinical research and medicine. Now is the time to get it right. Now is a good time for you – to write. Too right it is because:

Science writers and medical writers can:
· help with results interpretation and provide appropriate language and wording.
· improve the writing quality.
· speed up the processes of trial and regulatory document development.

Science, medical and medcomms communicators can:
· call out the fake, inaccurate and poor reports.
· improve the quality of messages and conclusions in communications.
· facilitate understanding and evidence-based decisions.

And these are just some of the ways…

You know the need is there and you can help. So, tell them!’

I wrote this message and posted it to my networks on LinkedIn and more publicly (early in the pandemic and again more recently).

I am proud to know a lot of good people out there who are doing the right thing.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 02/11/20

Chance, Choice and Defining Moments ©

This is a title and theme of several of my talks.
I have also expressed it in a short piece I have written:

CHANCE, CHOICE AND DEFINING MOMENTS ©

Reflecting on what I have learned so far
From life and science.
(And, I am still learning.)
There is this thread that seems to hold true:
Progress in both life and in science (and other matters matter too)
Is often down to a matter of
Chance, Choice and Defining Moments!

My message to newcomers,
In either case.
And what I would tell my younger self,
Is this:

A story will evolve, and you may not see it
Until later on.
Maybe it was there all along.
Or maybe we ‘cherry pick’,
Or tease out a story in hindsight.

There will be chances you have,
And see
Or don’t see.
Chance itself clearly plays a part.
The choices you make
May be right
Or may seem wrong.
The defining moments that set us
On a new course,
May be different from what you think
At the time.

Remember, when we are grown up
At heart, we are each still the child we once were.
It is still in me
And it is still in you.
And there is always scope for growth,
More that you can do.

So, take it all seriously
But not too seriously.
Serendipity is at play.
Don’t overthink and worry too much.
Keep on learning and try to enjoy the ride,
On this rich tapestry
of Chance, Choice and Defining Moments.

©Julie Charlesworth, 2020

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 21/9/20

The Funny Onion

To those who ‘know their onions’. If someone says you know your onions, it means you are experienced in something or you know a lot about a particular subject. Of course, we should take our work seriously but maybe we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

And on that note for the weekend I’ve written this very silly short rhyme.

THE FUNNY ONION ©

There was a funny onion 🧅
Whose life felt less appealing
They say I smell.
I make them cry 😢
Bring them to tears.
I don’t know why.

Noses running,
Eyes smarting.
Windy bellies,
Someone’s starting ;)
Who did that?
‘More tea, Vicar?’ ☕️

To the silliest rhymes
In the strangest times.
Let’s bring out the funny ones.
High five to gaffes and lots of laughs
🖐 😂
To those who know their onions.

🧅 🧅 🧅

©Julie Charlesworth, 2020

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 18/9/20

Science & Society. ESOF2020 gets a stamp of approval; a resounding success.

EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF), is the largest biennial general science meeting in Europe.

* International * Multidisciplinary * Science & Technology * Society & Policy *

“There was never a question of cancelling this event! It was unthinkable precisely during this crucial period in our history, where the discussion between Science and Society is more important than ever.” Michael Matlosz, president of EuroScience.

Stefano Fantoni, Champion of ESOF2020 remarked, “We must not be afraid of knowledge especially in times of crisis”.

ESOF2020

ESOF2020, scheduled for July this year, had to be delayed due to the covid-19 crisis. Trieste, the European City of Science 2020, rose to the challenges and restrictions imposed by the pandemic. ESOF developed and organised ‘an innovative hybrid organisational model’ for the conference with in-person and on-line sessions running for 5 days from September 2nd; thus, enabling maximum participation. ‘Online visitors came from 52 countries across 5 continents.’

Programmes were packed with intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking sessions: excellent keynote talks, a plethora of diverse presentations, and panel sessions. There were even some exhibition stands as well.

Three key themes were SCIENCE, BUSINESS, and CAREERS.

I think the revised timing proved to be even better because covid-19 also needed to be discussed widely, openly and across many disciplines; with national and international perspectives and from many aspects of science and society. Moreover, other than the current pandemic, there is much more going on in the world and in the world of science that needs to be debated and discussed. Science communication is very important as is the subject of communication itself.

ESOF (and everyone involved) – can be proud of providing an important and timely platform for discussion and debate during this ‘crucial period’. Italy and Trieste can also be proud of hosting ESOF2020. The number of expert scientists and eminent authorities who participated is noteworthy and included the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

My final thought:
When something is important enough – you can do it.
Adapt and even experiment.
Take the learning forward

Sometimes, in some ways the result can be something better!

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 12/9/20

[The photos include: the brochure I picked up whilst attending the previous ESOF2018; a photo of the slide of a limited-edition stamp to commemorate the event in Trieste; a photo of a slide shown on the final day of ESOF. Open Knowledge. Fair Future. Like a beacon of light in difficult times.]

‘Freedom for science, science for freedom’. Thank you ESOF2020!

Thank you also for granting me Media Accreditation and for the Freedom to dip in and out with access to everything. As a science communicator, I have so many stories to tell from Trieste. It was an exhilarating conference! What an inspiring start to September.

The motto of ESOF2020 Trieste is important and timely.

FREEDOM FOR SCIENCE refers to the open-ended and unresolved questions that science is facing, with method and curiosity, without restrictions of credo or prejudices.’

SCIENCE FOR FREEDOM, on the other hand, refers to the inclusiveness of science and its language, which goes beyond borders and conflicts and brings together people of any colour and gender.’

I will be spreading not only the serious science but also the joy and hope of science.

Watch this space…

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

Science and uncertainty – some thoughts.

People are looking to scientists for answers, and scientists are working all-out to provide solutions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. I think it is timely to put this in perspective and consider aspects of how science works. Notwithstanding that absolute certainty cannot necessarily be achieved, scientists aim to facilitate evidence-based decisions. A few thoughts are captured in a short piece I have written in verse.

SCIENCE AND UNCERTAINTY ©

People seek answers
And often crave certainty,
Maybe more so in difficult times.

Maybe we cannot always
Know everything.
It is good to acknowledge that.

And that is a scientific approach.

Scientists seek evidence.
Test hypotheses.
Are prepared to change
Their opinions,
In the light of new evidence…

They may propose new hypotheses
Seek evidence
And so it goes…

On the way,
Science may develop products
Or deeper understanding.
Either of these or both together
Are worthy aims and outcomes.

Research often brings surprises,
Which may prove to be
Even more important
Than the original notion.

Curiosity is a driver.
Tenacity and persistence are necessary.
Collaboration helps.
Openness is better for all.

Uncertainty is accepted.
Integrity is key.

©Julie Charlesworth, 2020

A little piece I have written in ‘lockdown’
Take care and stay safe.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 17/5/20

Hairdos in Lockdown – time for a new look?

Is it time for a new image and a new look?

TO HAIRDOS AND FAIR DO’S (IN LOCKDOWN)©

The Corona Lockdown Look.
What will it be?

Rags and rollers
Ringlets and curls
Plaits or bobs
(Your uncle)?

Bunches.
Ribbons.
Give us a twirl.
Short back and sides,
Besides.

Or try – the brave new hairdos:

The mum-cut, the dad-cut
A glum cut, a glad cut
A crooked fringe
That’s far too short!
Oi – don’t whinge!
Stop!
Cut it short!
Enough is enough – well, fair-do’s

For those with shades of grey
Well – we won’t go there ;)
Salt and pepper
You look dapper.
Backcomb a bouffant.
Where did that come from?

Highlights of the day.
A new look,
An old look.
A wrap it in a scarf – with sunglasses look 😎
Plastic rain hoods – remember them? 🌧
Old-time lads and lasses
How time passes.

Straighten or wave it.
Thinning?- Shave it!
Skinhead or punk style.
Define yourself like that style.
Perm it,
Or Put it up.
Ponytail or bun it up.

A little bit of this,
A little bit of that.
If it all goes wrong
You can put on a hat!

Really? Do you like yourself like that? ;)
….
©Julie Charlesworth, 2020

…..
A poem to amuse, written by me in ‘lockdown’

Take care and stay safe.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 5/5/20