Covid-19 Vaccination: a personal perspective.

My key message is that this is A Super-Efficient Experience!

On receipt of my invitation from the NHS I logged on to the appointment link provided. Of the nearby options offered my choice had to be Alderley Park, of course. (Having previously worked for AZ for 20+ years on this site it seemed fitting.)

Vaccination at Alderley Park

The vaccination process was efficient, professional and friendly.

A high five to NHS staff, volunteers and everyone involved.

VACCINE ROLL-OUT CONTINUES AT PACE!

Please allow me a short digression here for a touch of nostalgia and more about Alderley Park.

Notably, the history includes involvement and important contributions to international research as the location ‘for ICI and latterly for AstraZeneca (after ICI Pharmaceuticals became Zeneca Pharmaceuticals in 1993)’
In 2013, ‘AstraZeneca announced plans to cease R&D work at Alderley Park.’ Although relocated over subsequent years some AZ non-R&D work continued here.
In 2014, ‘Alderley Park was purchased by Manchester Science Parks’ leading to subsequent redevelopment.

For some interesting history of Alderley Park and also for more about Alderley Park today you can find further information in links below.

Recent covid-related news:

In 2020, Alderley Park was in the news for its role as a Lighthouse Lab with an ability to accurately process thousands of Covid tests a day.

February 17th, 2021 was a key date in the commencement of NHS covid-19 vaccination at Alderley Park, now also an NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre!

In conclusion, today, I have a feeling of gratitude and also a touch of nostalgia*.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 17/2/21

[*nostalgia ain’t what it used to be 😉 – sorry I couldn’t resist that joke]

Links for further information:

For some interesting history of Alderley Park here:

And, you can find more about Alderley Park today, here:

From down to earth roots to salad teas

This is a post for the weekend on the theme of positive surprises for January 2021.

Garden Beetroot to salad

And so, for something more ‘down to earth’, back to the garden in Lockdown 1 (2020) when I surprised myself with home grown beetroot.

My dad would have been proud of me for this, and also very surprised. (The salad is a tribute to my mum’s salad teas every weekend whatever the season!). My parents died years ago but their influence of course, is strong.

I am proud of my smart working-class roots and values that have stood me in good stead. Indeed, a dose of Yorkshire grit has greatly helped! I have much to be grateful to them for. I now understand their wise words that I didn’t perhaps fully appreciate at the time and I can chuckle at some of their quirkier expressions and stories.

Be true to yourself.

To warm memories and simple pleasures.

Stay safe, stay strong.

(and you could even beetroot to yourself as well 😉)

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 30/1/21

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

Some happy surprises for Weekend 3 Lockdown 3

It was almost Weekend 3 of Lockdown 3 here in the UK.

The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, however, brought a surprise visitor to the garden which lightened the mood a little amidst all the ‘doom and gloom’. (It also reminded me of another surprise in the previous lockdown.)


[Photos: Goldcrest ‘smallest bird in Britain and Ireland; 9cm from head to tail’ surprise garden visit, 21 January 2021. Ruby Wedding Roses still blooming in Lockdown 2 with the surprise appearance of clusters of fresh daisies (November 2020)]

Saturday of Weekend 3, Lockdown 3 and even more surprises…

I woke up on the Saturday morning to a snowfall surprise ❄️😊.
(This was particularly welcome after the unfortunate surprise power cut the night before).

So, with the music turned up loud, I made the most of it with a suitable soundtrack! A few hours later, after my ‘exercise’ in the fresh air (i.e., building snowmen in the garden), I took a few more photos.

Result – 2 more ‘visitors’ to the garden and a little post to lighten the mood 😉.


[Snow surprises in my garden in Lockdown 3]

I built the snowmen at the weekend for fun to show my young grandchildren (and grown-up ‘kids’) being separated from them all. I got a bit playful and saw there was a message to share more widely😉. We all need some fun.

Here’s to much-needed happy surprises.

Stay safe, stay strong.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 24/1/21

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]

New Year’s Day Message 2021

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

A huge thank you to those who have supported me over the years.

There is much to reflect on and much to look forward to. However, for now, today, 2 thoughts for 2021:

‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’

&

‘When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind’.

So, it’s a Happy New Year from myself and A Tree of Life Sciences®. Always serious about Life, Science and of course Life Sciences! & on occasions playful with an extra twinkle ⭐️.

Here’s to successful science, hugs and happiness for all 🌎 🧬 ❤️.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 1/1/21

Holiday Message, December 2020.

Take care, stay safe, save Santa 🎅😊😉.
He really wants to come and spread a little magic.

Christmas card 2020
(A card I made earlier – in a playful moment)

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace and Perspective in this run-up period in strange times.

Take care and have some festive fun fellow Earthlings❤️🌎⭐.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 17/12/20

Some Pictures and Perspectives in the Autumn of the Pandemic

Here are some moments captured in photos I took during the first autumn of the Covid-19 pandemic. I’d also like to reflect on some thoughts I had in these moments.

Early October, 2020

Keeping things in perspective

There’s so much happening out there in the world, that sometimes, it is important to try to see things in perspective and also to try to get some peace and slumber, for our own sakes and well-being. My photos are of the sun setting in Nice, France, taken just days after raging storms. Here’s to peace and quiet at times and the ‘honey-heavy dew of slumber’ to carry us through the nights.

Sunset in Nice, France
[P.S as always no filters used – it’s the real thing! Sun setting as it happened, snap shots left to right.]

These photos brought some warmth, colour and perspective. A reminder to take time to pause, sleep and take care. Tomorrow another day begins, and some things may look different again. The simplest things in life give us the most pleasure.

Late October, 2020

Staying positive

I was serving 2 weeks of self-isolation in accordance with current rules. I was at home up North in the UK. Autumn brings warmth with rich tones of foliage in the garden. In the evening they contrast against the chilly grey sky. As nightfall descends the soft suffusion of colours blend into pitch black darkness.


(My photos left to right capture different perspectives of autumn from my home)

The next morning heralds another day. Peeping through the front window blinds, I am drawn by a new perspective. I raise the blinds to behold a glorious golden spectacle of Nature. Life is good and I’ll soon be out and about again.

November, 2020

‘Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’

But on Bonfire Night, November 5th – here in England – I thought a spark in the dark or rather a sparkler in the darkness was fitting. We probably needed a bit of sparkle on Day 1 Lockdown 2.

Bonfire night Lockdown 2
(Photos taken Day 1 Lockdown 2 up North here in England)

November is coming to a close now and the end of Lockdown 2 in England (UK) is in sight. Restrictions will continue but will be eased in some respects; these are still uncertain times. December will be a different phase and there already is a sense of optimism with recent scientific and medical developments. Nevertheless, many people are suffering emotionally and in different ways that may not be immediately obvious. The last month of 2020 will be a time for reflection on how we have felt and what we have learned. Autumn will pass and winter approaches.

We are here, we are in this together and we go forward together.
Here’s to keeping things in perspective, staying positive and seeing the light ahead.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 30/11/20

Open Science in a Pandemic: Some Learning Shared at ESOF2020

Open science, and in particular data sharing to improve research, has long been a theme of the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF). Most recently, a session at ESOF2020 discussed some learning from experience in the current Covid-19 pandemic. A link to the recording of the session ‘Open science in time of pandemics: the experience of the Research Data Alliance WG on COVID-19’ is provided below*.

Starting in March 2020, over a 3-month period several working groups were formed and many people were brought together to address the challenges of data sharing in the pandemic. It was an advantage that the Research Data Alliance (RDA) already existed (since 2013). There was also some collaboration between the RDA and the EOSC group (European Open Science Cloud – an infrastructure currently being developed). It was an intense 3-month period resulting in the release of a document produced to record and share the learning so that others can be more prepared in future. Key steps that were identified include the listing of data that can be trusted and the setting of standards for describing and defining data. An important consideration is that undue influence by any one particular jurisdiction should be avoided because the pandemic is affecting everyone and in many different ways.

The ESOF session included discussion of the kinds of collaboration needed. Cross-disciplinary interaction is very important in a pandemic because of the need to look at many different aspects. International aspects also need to be taken into account. Tools need to be able to quickly find out what is of use in such times of emergency. We may need better systems and infrastructure to handle pandemics in the future. Global problems have the challenges of harmonisation, and this might be facilitated by the development of appropriate frameworks.

The session also aimed to increase awareness of the existence of the document ‘RDA COVID-19 Recommendations and Guidelines on Data Sharing’ (reference below**)

A message for the future: Data sharing is possible and there are ways to do it; progress has been made because of this pandemic.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 23/11/20

Sources and further reading:

ESOF2020 Press Conference September 2020

*ESOF2020 session ‘Open science in time of pandemics: the experience of the Research Data Alliance WG on COVID-19’

**RDA COVID-19 Working Group. Recommendations and Guidelines
on data sharing. Research Data Alliance. 2020. DOI:
https://doi.org/10.15497/rda00052

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