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May 2012

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I’ve been an avid viewer of TED online since a high school teacher introduced me a few years ago. Since then I’ve spent countless hours watching videos on all sorts of topics and being amazed by the ideas I’ve heard, and have done my best to spread the ideas to anyone who’ll listen. So when I heard that I’d won a double pass to TEDxSydney I was quite excited to say the least.

Being at a TED event is an experience completely different to sitting at home watching videos, and I’m truly honored to of had the chance to go. To be perfectly honest I think that had I been at home I would never have listened to a talk on weeds, or training bees, or quantum computing, but these were the topics of some of the most fascinating talks I heard throughout the day. I think that is the magic of TED, it spreads the passion and intellect of amazing speakers to people whom otherwise would have never heard their ideas. Mixed with the amazing musicians who played and the diverse crowd of people who were there it was truly an engaging and enriching day that has left me excited to spread the ideas I’ve heard, and even left me with some infant ideas of my own.

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TEDxSydney 2012 featured a line-up of passionate speakers, musicians and – of course – who can forget Sam Simmons's comedic exploration of the importance of incorporating some ‘silliness’ into our lives.

This year’s TEDx had a unifying theme of being connected to those in Sydney, those living near us, those who are similar and different than us, members of the global community and finally to the universe. Of the many memorable talks, I particularly enjoyed listening to Mandyam Srinivasan talk about his research into the cognitive functions of bees, and the exciting new prospect of monitoring physiological responses in bees to determine if they feel joy, fear, anxiety and love.

Kate Burridge's talk on euphemisms had the audience (or at least me) think of the way we talk, and how we choose our words. Satsuki Odamura and The Sydney Koto Ensemble’s performance was mesmerising, and left me wanting to hear more. And having moved to Sydney only a couple of months ago, I was introduced to Katie Noonan’s musical genius by a jazz enthusiast, and was delighted to be able to watch her live and sing along with the TEDxSydney audience.

If I took anything away from TEDxSydney, it was that an idea combined with the passion to pursue a question will inevitability result in a change. Whether the change is small or big, it’s often worth it.

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The Sydney Writer's Festival has come around once again, celebrating achievements from the academic and literary world. As always, there's a range of Sydney Uni staff and graduates participating in various events.

'OccupySWF', held in the Great Hall of the Quad on Thursday 17 May, talked about the impact of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ – a campaign encouraging the ‘99 per cent’ to stand up to the ‘1 per cent’ who control the world’s wealth and decision-making. On the panel was Italian author Loretta Napoleoni, US author and Occupy participant Chad Harbach, and John Keane, Professor of Politics at Sydney Uni. They spoke to Simon Tormey, head of the School of Social and Political Sciences.

I must admit, I was going into the talk without a huge amount of background knowledge on the topic. I walked in with an open mind, hoping that everything wouldn't fly over my head - and you know what? It didn't at all.

Read more...

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To most, Lidcombe train station is known as the stop where you change trains to get to the Olympic Park. Life outside the turnstiles is not thought about, not glanced at, not even considered. For a certain group of students, however, this is the last stop before university.

When I tell people that I study health sciences I nearly always get the response "Oh, so you're way over at the other campus then, aren't you?". Always said with a downward inflection, a tone of commiseration and sometimes, if you find someone really negative, a sideways head tilt. The perception that they feel so sorry that you're missing out on the incredibleness that is Camperdown and Darlington.

But Cumberland isn't like Camperdown campus and it seems wrong to compare the two. Camperdown is amazing because of its constant state of liveliness, its culture and its flair. Cumberland is more down to earth, more together and like a pleasant day at the park. Like being at a dinner with close friends rather than a massive rave where you lose your only other contact within the first minute. And because we are all health science students, we're more like-minded - we hang out together, we eat together, we complain about the difficulty of anatomy together and there is always someone near by who knows the answer to your question.

But don’t for a second think that we are quiet, studious and exactly the kind of spouse-in-law every mother would want all the time. Every few weeks there is always some sort of cruise, some sort of ball or some kind of party that makes all the Cumbo kids forget that they are training to be health professionals. These are events that could arguably make Snowball look like a children’s birthday party, the king of which is the annual Lab Coat Pub Crawl, an event that starts somewhere in Kings Cross and ends wherever you find a soft spot to rest your head. We get kicked out of places (it’s not good) (but it is).

So the next time you meet someone from the 'other' campus, remember that we all love it. We may miss out on the hustle and bustle that is the city, but we get the peace and tranquility that lies just outside. We get the livelihood when we want it.

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As we approach the pointy end of semester when major assessments, exams and all that other good stuff is due, there’s one thing we all have to learn to master; good self-control. And as this just happens to be my thesis area, I’ve been reading up quite a bit about this tricky skill.

Self-control basically involves overriding one behaviour (usually an impulse or urge) in favour of another. Poor self-control; choosing to go to the pub the night before an assessment. Good self-control; going home to study instead.

Some researchers have shown that self-control behaves a lot like a muscle that depletes in energy. When you use self-control in one task, you have less of this energy available for the next task.

This means that after exhausting your self-control throughout the day – when you choose the healthier option at lunch, when you go to your stats lecture instead of taking a self-awarded early mark – by the time it gets to deciding between going home to study for your assessment or going to the pub, you’re much more likely to say, “Bring on Hermann’s!” than “Bring on the books!”

The good news is there are ways to increase your self-control. Practicing self-control regularly makes the muscle stronger. Increasing your motivation and using if-then statements (for example, “If I study first, then I can go to Hermann’s”) also works. But your best option is probably to boost your blood glucose levels with a good glucose containing food, as this actually restores your self-control to all its muscular glory.

So, before deciding whether or not to blow off this evening’s study for the pub, have a good hearty meal. You’ll be better equipped to show self-control and nail that distinction average that all good little uni students dream about.

Meanwhile, here's some Uni resources to help with self-control and other student life challenges.

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