Looking to the future in the Museum of the Future, Dubai.

Are you curious about what the future will look like for humankind? Are you ready for a voyage to explore the possibilities?

Indeed, I am!

Please join me as I share some snippets from my recent experience at the Dubai Museum of the Future.

On arrival my first impression is the immaculate, airy, and futuristic architecture and design of the building both outside and inside.

Dubai Museum of the Future

In the foyer there are wise words to greet the visitors. This particular inscription resonates with me:

“We may not live for hundreds of years, but the products of our creativity leave a legacy long after we are gone.” *

I don my wristband provided for the purpose of access control and with its scannable code to enable (literally) hands-on experiences and interactivity with many of the features on display. I am ushered into an elevator with my husband and a small group of other visitors, together with a guide (in person or digital at times).

Up, Up, and Away! Get ready to use your imagination.
The elevator is a now a rocket ship: the start of the journey to space. Feel the exhilaration and rapid ascent. See the spectacular views of Dubai below; other views looking back on Earth; views of planet Earth itself from far beyond. The doors open and we arrive at Orbital Space Station Hope (OSS Hope), the centre of the SOL energy project envisioning a world powered by solar energy. OSS Hope is a hub for science and innovation. The space exhibits are informative, educational, and interactive.

I am drawn to this quote “Space is for everybody” Christa McAuliffe 1948-1986, NASA STS-51-L, Space Shuttle Challenger.

On a fun note, an interactive themed attraction enables me to imagine myself as a future astronaut.

It’s time to get back to Earth.

We leave OSS Hope. On the way to the next level, the windows depict glimpses of Dubai in 2071. We head towards the next stop. It is the ‘HEAL’ exhibition with the theme of the future on Earth, and covering many challenges but also great innovative opportunities. We are told ‘At HEAL we are working to repair the Earth’s natural ecosystems’ ‘with the help of Artificial Intelligence and Bio-design’.

Today’s first focus is the Rainforest and in particular, the Amazon is digitally represented. How can we repair the damage from years of deforestation?

Next, it’s THE LIBRARY “HEAL’s DNA vault, where we store the genetic code of thousands of species” The displays of species are a scintillating spectacle! A hand-held remote device can be pointed at each exhibit to retrieve specific and more detailed information.

We are then welcomed to the HEAL Observatory and HEAL’s ecosystem simulator, where the impact of new species on their environments can be tested. When released into ecosystems around the world the impact of new species will be closely monitored.

There are many possibilities to ponder. For example, a fire-resistant tree – that sounds interesting!

I continue my descent using the stairway and arrive at the Al Waha (Oasis), where the theme is future happiness and well-being. The interactive experiences cover calm and connection, the senses and spirit. I admit that although I checked out what was on offer I spent relatively little time there which is ironic (but not unexpected for me). The theme is about life balance and taking time to look after our own health and wellbeing. I have something to work on – or rather just do more of calmly and enjoy! Another time I’d spend longer in this area.

As I descend the stairway I am increasingly intrigued and I find myself entering the exhibition hall, ‘TODAY TOMORROW’, This is ‘an ever-changing display of near future technologies’.

The room houses an array of prototypes and currently available technological products. It is a very interesting and informative exhibition, that also encourages us to look beyond the present to the possible. ‘Technology might be part of the solution of addressing our future needs but what questions are we asking of technology today?’ Here are some of the questions:

Questions Today Tomorrow

[On a different level there is a floor dedicated to a playground for children with their own world to explore, immersive games for their enjoyment, and challenges to complete, on their way to becoming “future heroes”. (Another time I’d bring the grandchildren).]

As I leave the Museum of the Future, I can report back that this is a thought-provoking voyage that also captures the imagination. ‘The ancestors plant the trees, the descendents enjoy the shade.’

As one thing leads to another, such tempting tasters can increase the appetite to explore further. If you are local or happen to be in Dubai, I would highly recommend this experience.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 21/11/22

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[*His Highness Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum as inscribed on the Museum of The Future.]

Science fun: Playtime, reflections, and illusions.

Half-term reflections and fun with my young grandchildren (fun for ’grown-up kids’ too). We took these photos at the Museum of Illusions in Dubai. I highly recommend a visit there.

Photos of JDC and Illusions taken at the Museum of Illusions

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 09/11/22

‘Jabbed to go’, proceeding with caution, and a trip to the UAE.

I have just arrived back from a few interesting, invigorating, and enlightening weeks in the UAE. This visit was primarily for an important personal family commitment in Dubai, but I was also making the most of the trip on many levels, some of general interest to me and some work-related. On the basis of ‘jabbed to go’- I did go but still proceeded with caution by having my 4th covid vaccine jab some 6 weeks ago (and the annual flu jab around the same time). The trip proved to be an excellent and productive experience.

More to come about this mini adventure…

Meanwhile, I have a few comments about proceeding with caution:

Having received NHS invitations for my 4th covid vaccine jab and seasonal flu jab I ensured I was booked in as soon as possible.


‘Jabbed to go’.

Mask wearing although required in some specific situations seems to be largely a matter for personal judgement these days. My experience in the UAE felt safe and reassuring. However, on arrival back in the UK seeing the packed airport arrival hall and extensive queuing of hundreds of unmasked people I immediately put a face mask on as a precaution. The staff were doing their best in difficult circumstances. Such situations at airports really need to be improved!

I am still feeling ‘picky’ about travel and events – making the most of any trip I do take and getting maximum value out of any event.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 6/11/22

University Foundation Day Celebrations 2022: an uplifting occasion.

I was delighted to accept an invitation from the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor of Manchester University to attend the Foundation Day Celebrations 2022. It was a particularly special occasion because the ceremony included the installation of the new Chancellor, Nazir Afzal OBE.

The Chancellor is the University’s ceremonial head and also one of its most prominent ambassadors.

Foundation Day 2022 manchester University

Foundation Day 2022 was an uplifting experience. Notably, it was a time to reflect on the achievements of students in these difficult times and to hear about the aspirations of the university for the future.

Nazir Afzal delivered powerful words in his speech. It is a time to look forward and I wish him a successful and enjoyable 7 years in the role.

Thank you to Manchester University.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 12/10/22

ESOF: Looking back & moving forward from the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF2022).

ESOF2016 was the start for me 💡. There were ESOFs (EuroScience Open Forums) before that but Manchester was my first! What an eye opener it was. I was inspired to write a poem ‘Science transcends boundaries’. I had discovered a whole new world of science and thinking. I felt honoured to have been invited to the ESOF2016 Press Office to participate in discussions.

I was hooked from the start and I went on to participate in press conference discussions and generally as a scientist and a science communicator in every ESOF thereafter (in person whenever possible or otherwise on-line).

Poem science

ESOFs cover core areas of science, society, business and careers. Reflecting on the mottos and themes of each event it is not surprising that I, along with many others, have been captivated and inspired.

Manchester 2016: (On-site)
The Motto ‘Science as Revolution’ was an invitation for breakthrough ideas to continue scientific revolutions and encourage focus on past, present and future path-breaking science.

Toulouse 2018: (On-site)
‘Sharing science towards new horizons’ was a theme strongly committed to international openness, dedicated to science and innovation. There were also high-level multidisciplinary exchanges around the big scientific and social issues at stake for the future.

Trieste 2020: (Hybrid. On-site and on-line)
‘Open Knowledge. Fair Future’ and ‘Freedom for Science. Science for Freedom’ .
The spirit of openness and inclusiveness was expressed in the motto. Freedom for Science referred to the ‘open-ended and unresolved questions that science is facing, with method and curiosity, without restrictions of credo or prejudices’. Science for Freedom refers to ‘the inclusiveness of science and its language, which goes beyond borders and conflicts and brings together people of any colour and gender’.

Leiden 2022: (Hybrid. On-site 2 locations and on-line).
The latest enticing overarching theme was ‘Crossing Borders, Engaged Science, Resilient Societies’, also with the forum’s objective of ‘connecting curious minds’. The ESOF2022 theme stems from ‘a need to continue to break down geographical borders in order to share knowledge and collectively solve the complex, intertwined, and universal challenges that all societies encounter’.

Going forward there is a ‘necessity for scientific disciplines from the humanities, the social sciences, the natural, medical and physical sciences, and also people from all walks of life such as scientists, policy makers, the media, and the general public to unite, collaborate, and innovate.’ ‘Only by sharing a single vision for a sustainable future for people, society, and the environment can we overcome our current challenges.’ I share these sentiments.

I have reported previously on the above ESOF events (see notes below). I also have still more to say about the latest ESOF2022.

I am grateful to have been able to learn so much and meet such interesting people over the years. This has enabled me to continue to develop as a scientist and become a better communicator so that I can contribute more effectively to the life sciences field and beyond.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 4/10/22

[Note: Manchester, Toulouse, Trieste, Leiden. For some of my posts and reports on these events searching ESOF on on this site using a laptop/PC will bring up a number of previous posts. Otherwise you can scroll through the ‘Got 2 Minutes?’ section of blogs.]

Looking forward: Life Science students and early career researchers.

Very best wishes to all those embarking on studies and research careers, particularly in life sciences and of course generally as well. How the world and humankind need you! How we should all be encouraging and supporting the younger research generation. For all those students and researchers driven by a passion for their subject it should be a time to really enjoy studying and research for the sake of research; a time to explore interests and have a great life and social life too. It’s not the easiest of times and research can be very frustrating with many ups and downs. It was ever thus. It is however an adventure with opportunities to grasp, whilst keeping a sense of perspective and having fun! Many of us are willing you on to a great future!

Looking forward…

The skills learnt will be transferable for many different career options. Early career researchers have much to contribute, and they deserve to be challenged, encouraged, and supported in their research careers. They also have so much potential in many walks of life and different spheres.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 27/9/22

Summer reflections and perspectives.

Summer holidays are coming to a close for many people. On reflection I’ve had mainly a fun and productive summer, but I am conscious that it has not always been so for many people including myself, particularly recently. Looking back to a previous holiday earlier this year I share some photos I took capturing some different moods and moments over a period of a few weeks in the same place on a different holiday. We shouldn’t take things too much for granted in life or how other people are feeling.

Moods and Perspectives sea views

Here is another photo I took from my garden on return from my holiday back to the UK last weekend.
Rainbow and trees from the garden in the UK
(Photo capturing a moment on the evening of 18/9/22).

Behind many a photo lies an interesting story to tell…

To hope and optimism.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 23/9/22

‘Looking back so that the view looking forward is even clearer.‘

It is a period of time for thoughtful reflection.

It has been an emotional time in the UK and worldwide, with many different feelings and perspectives.

This week as the world bid farewell to Queen Elizabeth ll the ceremony was impressive in its scale, impact, and organisation. Whether it was to everyone’s taste or not, for a great many people it provided a focus – a coming together, and time to pause and reflect on many things.

Let’s hope this is an impetus to build on the ways we are similar, because despite our many differing views, there are some values and dreams that most people hold dear and aspire to for future generations and for the future of humankind.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 21/9/22

(Note: original source of quote is unknown)

Stay with me – a poem of loss and comfort.

I have very occasionally had the most vivid dreams about each of my parents which brought me great comfort. My mum died 10 years ago this May and my dad died 27 years ago this September. I recently wrote this poem to capture some intense feelings of loss and comfort. I thought it might be timely to share my poem with you as many people will be missing loved ones.

STAY WITH ME©

In a dream
You are here.
I can see, touch, and sense you.
I know it’s a dream
But just for now
Please stay with me a moment.

Life hurts.
I still miss you.

©Julie Charlesworth, 2022

Losing one parent was hard. With the second parent also gone I felt a profound sadness and a surreal sense of emptiness. However, their most precious legacy is their values, and the stories that continue to be passed on. In this way, I still feel the closeness and love of my parents.

I wrote this poem in memory of my parents and thinking of all those in mourning or missing loved ones.

Thinking of families and individuals who have lost loved ones or are reminded of the loss of loved ones, particularly this week and during difficult times.

It is also a period of time for thoughtful reflection.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 10/9/22

PhD.  First-author publication in Nature. Grateful for the chances that made this possible.

First-author publication in Nature on my own cancer research and DNA repair work! I still regard this as a career and life highlight. Published as a PhD student! The joy of science discovery and success in my early to mid 20’s (after an earlier blip at 18y).

[It was a key paper in the field – published in 1979 during my PhD research years and in my maiden name Buckley; my subsequent publications are in my current name Charlesworth.]

I am grateful to those at Manchester University who gave me a chance at 18 years old. Over the next three years I earned my degree in biochemistry. Thereafter, I went on to achieve a PhD and research success in my early 20’s at the Paterson Institute and the Christie Hospital, Manchester, UK.

Significance of research findings. As far as we were aware this was the first published evidence of such inducible DNA repair. In this case ‘Pretreatment with acetylaminofluorine enhances the repair of O6-methyl guanine in DNA.’ Other researchers subsequently published similar findings in other systems. My findings were found to be reproducible and the basis of further research by many others in the field.

It is noteworthy that these research results were the opposite of my initial PhD hypothesis and expected findings. However, the results turned out to be so much more interesting!

I was not particularly skilled in lab technique. I wasn’t the best PhD student.

My success was largely down to dollop of luck and sheer tenacity!

I am particularly grateful to my supportive supervisor Dr Peter O’Connor (‘PJ’) and helpful technicians at the Paterson Institute, Christie Hospital. Fellow PhD students, Post docs, and a lively and diverse scientific community made this an unforgettable experience intellectually and socially!

There would be many ups and downs to follow.

Little did I know how many different opportunities would unfold over the years.

I could not have predicted that writing, medical communications and science communications would feature strongly later in my career. Although at the time I really enjoyed researching and writing the introduction to my PhD thesis. There would be many twists and turns to come – life happens.

My interest in cancer research and my fascination in DNA continues. It seems DNA is ‘in my DNA’😉🧬😊.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 25/8/22

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