Category Archives: BLOG

We ARE knowledge into solutions

A new day begins for an individual from the dominant species on this planet. With the sweet sound of his alarm clock, our friend struggles to get up (to snooze or not to snooze). Achieving his first victory of the day by leaving the bed and switching the lights on, he gets ready to take a hot shower regardless of the temperature outside. Our friend then rushes out to put on some clothes, stick his hand on the fridge and grab anything edible. Then he takes a bus to work.

If you feel identified with our friend, you’re part of an increasing number of urbanised and privileged groups of people, who use day-to-day high-tech gadgets as naturally as breathing is for other species. However, most of us ignore the history of technology, which is in the energy, transport, food, and communication, and that we summon each time we turn on the lights, press a key in our Smartphone, or eat a bit of toast.

Let’s imagine that we are suddenly transported through time and space to the land where the first registered human beings from our species lived around 200,000 years ago. Let’s also suppose that we forgot everything about history, in a prehistoric scenario, where our small, weak and naked ancestors shared the land with massive creatures, armed with big, dangerous teeth. If someone asked which of the present beings would be the dominant one in the future, our ancestors wouldn’t be our first answer. So, how do these small naked creatures managed to be the dominant species and scatter around building large cities where people live in nowadays?

Well, if we had a film about the human history and we were able to forward it at a controlled speed to see the major events on humanity, that mystery would become much clearer. We would probably see that there is a GREAT chunk of the film where rarely any progress was made. Our ancestors very gradually perfected their claws and teeth and turned them into tools to compensate for their lack of physical power. It’s not until towards the end of the film (let’s say the last six minutes if it was a two-hour movie) that we would see significant breakthroughs beginning with agricultural systems. Towards the end of the film, the industrial revolution would show enormous machines propelled by massive amounts of energy, freeing lastly our antecessors from the limiting chains of muscle power. The last nine seconds until the morning when our friend struggled with his smartphone would be so overwhelming that we would probably play the film in slow motion so we could understand and appreciate everything in detail.

                                 bofo 1

We might then conclude that the key point, which explains the power of our ancestors, is intangible: the capacity to generate and share knowledge focussed on solving individual or communal problems. However, we have to be conscious that the way the questions and challenges are proposed, and later answered, revolutionises the world of ideas, which are the bases to create feasible solutions that transform our reality.

To recognise this is to be aware of the ethical issues which arise from knowledge and its solutions: How, where, by, and to whom should these solutions be applied?

We began this blog post talking about a mutual friend and his daily routine in a heavily technological environment full of modern services. However, even in these privileged realities, there is still an unquantifiable number of issues that need to be addressed. The number and severity of these problems increase when we transit to more disadvantaged realities. Generating knowledge is not enough to satisfy our curiosity; we need to generate knowledge while addressing the most pressing global, regional, and local issues

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Francis Bacon once said that “knowledge is power,” and we, humans, have been conscious bearers of such power since we named ourselves homo sapiens – remember those almost helpless naked guys from the film? In the end, who we are has been defined by the use of knowledge and most certainly who we’ll become will be determined by the solutions that come out of our progress. After all, we ARE knowledge into solutions.

by Adolfo Mejía Montero

Keep calm only 4 week to go

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Edinburgh Castle, May 2016. Photo by Rosinda Fuentes

The XIV Symposium of Mexican Students and Studies is coming. In less than one month, Mexican students from all across the United Kingdom will meet in Edinburgh to present their work, network and enjoy a wee bit of Scotland.

 

It has been almost ten months of work for the organising committee. We have gone through experiences ranging from the frustrating to the most rewarding. The work for us started last July in the excellent Symposium organised by the great people of UCL. It has been hard work since.

We started preparing our bid for the symposium one week before the elections. Luckily, we won. We were really proud even though we were the only bid. So it was decided, the symposium was coming to Scotland for the first time.

I think we didn’t realized how much work it meant. It starts with the bid. Then moves to getting a team together. Then you meet, and really don’t know where to start. You talk to the University, but really don’t know what to ask them. Then you apply for funding. You receive a resounding NO regarding the funding, so you apply again. You repeat this until you get the money.

Also, we had to meet with people from the Embassy. The first meeting didn’t start very well, as only men were present. Fortunately, one of our female teammates arrived before the gender equality topic came up. By the way, it was just unfortunate that women arrived late that day. However we still had to get more people.

We had to work with CONACYT. They have been fantastic, but also as you can expect, it means a lot of bureaucracy. There was even a point in which two biologist were trying to translate a contract. We didn’t understand what it said in Spanish, much less were we able to translate it. Quick simple question, do lawyers hate to use periods in their sentences? Or are they just scared of short sentences? If someone asks you, how many biologists it takes to translate a contract? The answer is definitely more than two.

The next thing was to look for speakers, turning every stone available to find the best line-up possible within budget. This basically means turning down anyone that cannot pay for the trip, unless they come from St. Andrews. The £12 bus ticket was affordable enough for our budget. However we have managed to gather more than 10 speakers coming from different parts of Mexico and the UK.

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        Some members of the Organizing Committee of the Symposium, March 2016.              Photo by Rosinda Fuentes

Since it is a symposium, it is based on the participation of the assistants. So a “Call for abstracts” was written. I think we have received over 100 abstracts from over 5 countries. However, I cannot comment much in the process as I wasn’t really involved in this part. Probably one of the members of the committee can write how the experience was.

We are now in the final stages of preparation. We have the speakers, participants, money and the venues; the four most challenging parts. Now, we have to make sure that the details are as perfect as possible. We are hoping to be able to have a world-class symposium, so that it is a rewarding experience for the participants, and smooth sailing from here on out to the committee.

See you in exactly four week in the XIV Symposium of Mexican Students and Studies. And start preparing your Ceilidh moves.

Post by Alvaro de Obeso

 

Aye for Edinburgh!

cropped-cover-photos-finales-18.pngLast summer we had the privilege of organising the XIII Symposium of Mexican Students and Studies at UCL. During three days (23rd-25th of July) we had a unique opportunity to present our research and engage in great debates in the areas of science, technology, social sciences, arts and humanities. We also had the opportunity to enjoy the keynote presentations from different leaders in their fields, like Professor Carlos Frenk (University of Durham), who talked about Dark Matter and the creation of our Universe; Professor Feggy Ostrosky-Solís (UNAM), who talked about the criminal mind from a Neurobiology perspective; or Professor Denise Dresser (ITAM) who presented an exquisite analysis on the socio-political situation in Mexico.

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The title ‘Connecting ideas, building the future …’ came from the conception of the Symposium as an open and plural space, with multi-disciplinary knowledge as a driver of change to achieve a better future in Mexico. We strongly believe that the Symposium is a free space, organised BY students and FOR students. Because only in freedom is when ideas, initiatives, and projects can prosper into real change.

That’s why last year I recalled one of our greatest minds, Carlos Fuentes, a close sponsor and friend of the Mexican Student Society in the UK. Among many writings, in 1997 he published an essay called, “Towards an inclusive progress” [Por un progreso incluyente] which focused around the value of education and the great inequalities in Mexico. Carlos Fuentes said:

“Are we willing to concede the existence of “two Mexicos”? Should we bet only to the Advanced, Globalised and Technological Mexico, and thus deny the Poor, Ignorant, and Sick Mexico? (…) We have already had that debate (…) we have already walked that pathway, many times in our History, with the same result: The wealth remains concentrated up, and the misery remains concentrated down. Therefore, we should work in a new consensus, a participation that provides a fair value to the public and the private sectors (…) The bridge between both of them is called civil society. And the only thing that can enable that civil society, is us [the students] through education”.

So to me, the Symposium is above all a great opportunity to unite, as students. To become more aware of our privileged situation –most of us are studying post-graduate programmes and hold grants or scholarships of some kind—. Throughout the vast ideas to be shared and known, we can find a space to think about the “other Mexico” that Carlos Fuentes outlined: Many of our fellow students back home will not be able to attend even college, nor to get a university degree. A good number of them will be forced to abandon their education in order to get a job to support their families. Many of them lack of basic conditions at their schools, and won’t be able to have the opportunity of getting a scholarship, nor to live abroad.

So my invitation for the forthcoming XIV Symposium continues to be to enjoy this great multi-disciplinary opportunity, and to reflect on what can each and every one of us do for our MEXICO from the UK, five thousand miles away distance. Perhaps more than ever, it is clear that our country needs our knowledge, our young passion, our strong commitment.

We know that our friends of Edinburgh are giving their very best for the XIV Symposium of Mexican Students and Studies, and we are sure this event will be even better than last year’s, so apply, attend and enjoy!!

See you all there!!

Banner Symposium

 

Blog by Tonatiuh Anzures (in representation of the 2015 Organising Committee)