From 6th Dec 2016 – 31st Dec 2016, I managed a proper global circumnavigation: London -> Thailand -> Indonesia -> Hawaii -> Portland -> Milwaukee -> Boston -> London. It was all down to a series of meetings that clicked into place at the last second – a good example of how disorganised procrastination can sometimes work for good. Had I conscientiously organised any individual part of the journey in advance, the entire trip wouldn’t have been possible. So I’m chalking this one up to the benefit to leaving things till the last second, and trusting the universe to sort out the details.
In Thailand and Indonesia, I was invited to participate in two Royal Society Symposia on Computational Chemistry – one at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, and the other at Institut Teknologi Bandung on the island of Java. Designed to forge links between scientists in the developed world and scientists in the developing world, these symposia provided fascinating insight into a range of computational chemistry applications. Most interesting to me was the extent to which computational chemistry was coupled to urgent issues in each country. For example, several of the Thai scientists were using comp chem to design drugs for combatting various strains of avian flu. Several of the Indonesian scientists were using computational chemistry to analyse the efficiency with which different materials capture solar energy. Or to characterise palm natural product extracts. Or to understand the water filtration efficiency of volcanic zeolites.
In Hawaii, I attended the Pacifichem conference, where I presented some stuff I’ve been working on with Dr. Basile Curchod (who recently found out he was awarded a Marie Curie fellowship!) aimed at developing a non-adiabatic transition state theory for understanding the non-adiabatic and excited state dynamics that arise following photo-excitation in atmospheric oxidation intermediates.
I then visited my brother in Portland for a few days; and then onto Milwaukee to see my family for Christmas; and then onto Boston to visit a friend at MIT, and finally back to London.
It was an amazing trip. During the Indonesian leg, I managed to tack on a few extra days to explore the former sultanate of Yogyakarta and the surrounding countryside. I hired a motorbike and dove into the [insane] Yogyakarta traffic. I visited Mount Merapi, an active volcano just north of Yogyakarta which last erupted in 2010. I also visited the Buddhist holy site at Borobudur, a temple whose top level has 72 Buddhas, all enclosed in upside-down lotus flower stupas with their hands in the Dharmachakra mudra. I also went to the Hindu holy site at Prambanan, to visit a majestic temple that honours the three manifestations of God within the holy Trimurti – Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver), and Shiva (destroyer/transformer).