Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Dr Oliver Sacks, 1933 - 2015

It was with great sadness on Sunday morning that I learned of the passing of the great Dr Oliver Sacks.

Like thousands before me, it was Dr Sacks that first aroused my interest in neurological conditions with his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat - because who can ignore a title like that?! That was only 6 or 7 years ago (I was still doing A-Levels!) and I have since been working my way through the rest of his books. I was struck by the way he writes about his patients; it is obvious he cared deeply for each and every one, and invested a lot of time and energy into getting to the bottom of these strange, and sometimes wonderful, symptoms. I have also never seen so many footnotes in all my life! He had so much to tell us, but he seemed satisfied that he has left us having done his part.

I can't really express my gratitude in words for the inspiration he has provided, and will probably always be regretful that I never got around to writing him a letter when I had the chance. There is not much that I find more fascinating than the brain, and it was great to have such a prominent author providing such insights and bridging the gap between science and the interested lay audience.

As another great, late author once wrote "No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away", and for Dr Sacks those ripples may never fade.

***

"I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest." - Oliver Sacks, 2015

Friday, 24 July 2015

Summer Scientist 2015

All preparations are finished (I think!!) and now begins the countdown to Summer Scientist 2015, which starts on Monday 27th and runs through until Friday! Every summer the University of Lincoln's School of Psychology hosts the event which brings over 200 children to the university to take part in our experiments which are presented as fun games. Researchers get the opportunity to gather data to further our understanding of child development and the children get to take part in our games, play in the "Fun Zone", and graduate as a Summer Scientist!

This year is my first Summer Scientist Week (SSW) and I will be supervising the Super Shape Sorter game with the help of my student assistant Sarah, which comprises a visual search task related to the Eyelander research project. Eyelander is a computer game that encourages strategic visual searching and it is hoped that it can be used to improve vision in children with visual field loss, as this has previously been shown to be beneficial in adults. The project is a collaborative effort between the WESC foundation and the University's Psychology and Computer Sciences department. This week Tim Hodgson and myself met with Jonathan Waddington from the WESC foundation to go through the experiment in more detail, and now they've left me to my own devices to run it for the week...I hope they don't regret that decision!

The tasks, or "games", for SSW will be similar to those in the Eyelander game but with physical objects rather than a computer screen. Children have to find specific objects amongst an array of things on the table, and we'll time them so they must do so as quickly as they can! Let's hope things don't get too competitive :).

Safe to say I will be exhausted by Friday!

On a sad note, Friday also marks my last day working as a Research Assistant in the School of Psychology department. It's been fantastic, the perfect first graduate job! It's absolutely flown by and I hope to stay in touch with everybody here when I move on to postgraduate study and keep up to date on the research. Lincoln has a wonderful department and I will be sad to leave, but I must move on to my next adventure...Manchester, here we come!