• scissors
    July 2nd, 2011ImogenUncategorized

    Do you have a place you walk past every day, always wondering what’s inside? For me, that place is the Wellcome Trust. As a student at UCL I often cut through Gower Place and I always peer in the windows to get a glimpse of the beautiful trees and cool professional-looking people chilling in the Wellcome Trust’s atrium. I always think how great it would be to work there. That would be my cafe! Those would be my colleagues! Also, they have revolving doors. How cool is that?! However the other day, by the grace of a very generous friend, I was lucky enough to have to chance to explore its hallowed halls.

    The Wellcome Trust held a competition the select the lucky participants of their “Tweet-Up Tour” and my friend Ant Newman was witty enough to win a place. However, when he found he couldn’t go he managed to wangle me on in his place. So it was that I rocked up to 215 Euston Road at five to 6 last Tuesday feeling rather jammy.

    The tour started off with short talks about the massive paintings in the two seating areas off the reception. The one on the left shows 16th Century scholar Dr John Dee demonstrating a scientific experiment. In the audience in his home in Mortlake are Queen Elizabeth I and assorted courtiers. The second is of participants of one of the first International Medical Congresses at a garden party held by Angela, Baroness Burdett-Courts in 1881. Both are stunning, and free for the public to admire (as is the rest of the Wellcome Library). So next time you’re passing I would thoroughly recommend popping in for a look. As an added bonus, you get to go through the revolving doors when you go in (always fun).

    We then continued into the 7-storey high atrium that rises between the open-sided floors of offices. At the Gower Street end of this space is the Bleigiessen sculpture. This was definitely my favourite part of the tour, just because of its sheer awesome glittering-ness. The sculpture is formed from 142,000 glass beads about an inch across strung on 840 kilometres of wire. At first I thought the twisting shape was suspended from above but we were informed that each vertical wire holds about 3 beads, suspended in just the right place to form the three dimensional shape. This makes it look a bit like the sparkling cloud is hanging in a steely haze. To see a video about its genesis click here.

    My phone's camera was blinded by the awesomeness of Bleigiessen, but I think you can see how excited I was.

    The sculpture is visually stunning, but a huge amount of planning went into its formation. The original lead shape (about the size of my hand) was scanned at a London hospital to create a 3D plan for the assembly. I would have loved to have known more about this bit but I think my fellow tourers were not quite as nerdy about medical imaging methods… The Thomas Heatherwick Studios also did more than 400 tests to form the perfect poured shape to be scaled up. A lot of science went into forming this piece and in my opinion the end result is truly worth it.

    After zooming up in the glass lift to see the sculpture from the top, we went back down and crossed from the Gibbs building to the Wellcome Library next door. In the Rare Materials Reading Room were exciting treasures to behold such as an original manuscript of John Dee’s (that guy in the painting in the foyer) and a sketch of the DNA double helix by Francis Crick. The latter drawn before the paper which was to win him and his partner James Watson a share of the Nobel Prize was published. See a picture of this taken by my fellow tourer Deborah Granger (@DebGrainger) here. The blunt-pencilled sketch is beautiful in its imperfection. You can still see where he rubbed out the guidelines and the bases look slightly blobby and misaligned.  I found it incredibly heartening to know that even the “discoverer” of the double-helix structure met slight problems when trying to draw it by hand, as do students up and down the country. Just because you know what something should look like doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to realise it on paper, however much or a molecular biology genius you are.

    In the semifreddo climate-controlled store room we were shown a couple of paintings stored on very nifty sliding racks (kind of like vertical drawers). One was actually a poster promoting the mineral water Agua de Vilajuiga. Our guide (the Curator of the Wellcome Collection, I believe) told us that this was the favourite water of Salvador Dali, and ruminated that perhaps the high lithium content (as promoted in the last line of the poster) was a contributing factor to Dali’s eccentricity.

    Being foolish and too in-the-moment I did not take note of any of the names of the wonderful members of staff who showed us round. However they were all very friendly and generously shared a huge amount of knowledge with us. I’d like to say a massive thank you to the Wellcome Trust for letting us in and to the staff for giving us their time.


    If you want to see the Bliegiessen for yourself (I think you do) then the video link above gives details of the tours that run on Friday afternoons. Also you should check out my good chum Ant at @ant_newman because he was the one he made this possible.


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  • scissors
    March 19th, 2011ImogenUncategorized

    Once upon a time 8 years ago my fellow year 7s and I had to make a powerpoint presentation. Oh the fun we had with the animations, making pages of text fly in letter by letter, and bringing warped photos swooshing in from the sidelines. However, times have (thankfully) moved on and today’s trendy swooshing is coming from the viewpoint and not the subject matter. This is down to Prezi.

    The main idea behind this web-based tool is to create a non-linear presentation. You arrange your text, pictures diagrams et al on an infinite canvas and map a route between them, rotating and zooming as you go. To see what I mean watch any one of the public examples on the Prezi site. Click the “next” button and get transported on a visual journey.

    I have my dad to thank for showing me the future of presentations. He was searching for a new Google programme for making slides (possibly a subset of Google Documents), but instead happened upon Prezi. He introduced me to it but I have never heard about it anywhere else. According to the website they are now turning over a profit, so Prezi must be selling enough subscriptions to survive through word of mouth alone. I actually use it with a free student license, so I feel obliged to express my gratitude via some mild plugging.

    These are my 4 fave things about prezi:

    1. The unpredictable path makes it a bit more interesting.

    2. You can hide things by making them really small and then zooming in

    3. The audience gets a sneaky glimpse of slides to come as you move between images. Alternatively, this could spoil the surprise, but that’s where no. 2 comes in.

    4. None of my audience so far had ever seen it before, so they all thought I was some kind of technical whiz. Once you get the hang of the unfamiliar control pad, Prezis are actually quite easy to make. Just don’t tell my audience that.

    So yes, I am pro-Prezi. I find it such a great tool that I can’t keep it to myself. I just wish there was a way to spread the word among all of the Presenters of the world and none of their Presentees. Oh well, I suppose the mystery couldn’t last forever.

    A Prezi I made recently for a presentation on a Letter to the journal Nature about a new nano-scale imaging technique

    Go forth and present!

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