One of the classic images of the frozen North, Sir Edwin Landseer's Man Proposes, God Disposes was first exhibited in 1864 and praised for its “tragic grandeur”.

It was later purchased by the medical entrepreneur Thomas Holloway and so found its way into the Picture Gallery at what is now Royal Holloway, University of London. Around 1970, however, rumours began to circulate that it upset some students sitting exams and had even driven one mad. Hence the tradition shown here of covering it up with a Union flag while exams are in progress.


When I gave exam in 2010 in the Picture Gallery I did not find any paintings covered up with a flag !! Strange Fact - but I was bit confused to keep a control of my eyes - how could someone give final written exams in a picturesque Victorian picture gallery!! Paintings were much more interesting than exam questions.. :)

Back in London!

Just thought I’d do a quick write-up of my arrival in London!

If you remember, my first posts on this blog were about my time in London three years ago.  I have now returned and for more than just two days.  I am going to be in London for a full year getting  my Master’s Degree in Public History at Royal Holloway, University of London.  My journey started yesterday at the dreaded Logan Airport.  Perhaps if I flew out of it more often it wouldn’t be so dreaded, but it really is just confusing and oversized.  My bags were, of course, overweight.  Lila and I shuffled things around and ignored the totally unhelpful advice from an onlooker of getting rid of my pillow.

I had no problems checking in once we got the bags sorted out (one was 52 lbs, but they accepted it!).  The one downside was a $100 second bag fee (grrrr Delta), but if that’s all it is, I’ll take it.  I then went through security the likes of pre 9/11 flight days.  I didn’t have to take anything out of my bags, I didn’t have to use any of those gray bins (I usually use at least three), they didn’t even check my liquids!  My only downfall was my cowgirl boots, those did have to come off.  But hey, at least I wasn’t the fool in front of me who tried to go through the metal detector while still talking to someone on his phone!  I’m still not over the fact that I didn’t have to do a full body scan…

The flight was fairly uneventful.  While waiting in Logan there were a few Brits making fun of the Boston accents, which was both amusing and offensive (not that I wasn’t doing the same thing a few minutes before, but ugh, who gave them the right?!) (please note the sarcasm…).  Had some chatty Cathies next to me in these two old British men (fascinating insights to French Canada).  I was served sub-par pesto and the most pathetic salad known to mankind.  I opted out of the breakfast, as it held nothing I would eat.  I would say in all I managed to get around 45 minutes of sleep but also saw the Oscar winning Dallas Buyers Club.

Arriving in Heathrow was also a breeze.  No crazy staircase to a bus this time.   No, only endless walkways to get to border control and eventually my bags.  Border control went very well and then customs wasn’t even set up (???).  My ordered taxi showed up half an hour early (complete with a sign with my name on it).  We hit traffic so I ended up arriving at my friend Teresa’s house just as she was.  Teresa is working as a nanny in the London neighborhood of Fulham.  I decided to come a few days early and stay with her to get acclimated to everything.

We both decided to hit the ground running and grabbed breakfast at a nearby cafe (spent about £14, eek!  That’s roughly $23).  We took the Tube to Westminster to see the quintessential sights:  Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye.  We walked along the Thames until Millennium Bridge where we crossed to get a view of St. Paul’s.  Lunch was take away fish and chips (because how could you not?).  Then it was off to Primark (essentially a wicked cheap clothing store) to exchange Teresa’s sweater and buy me a duvet cover.  It’s a map of the world! (Obviously).

Part of Teresa’s nanny-ing duties are to pick the kids up from school.  Today we just had to get the younger son, so we hung out in the city until it was time to do that.  Everything went off without a hitch and now I’m trying to not fall asleep too early.  Luckily the weather report was wrong and we were blessed with sunny and 77 degrees Fahrenheit instead of rain.

Here’s to hoping the weather will stay good for the next few days.  I move into Royal Holloway Sunday!

The science of teaching: Study finds brain processes that hold the key to understanding students

How does the brain of a teacher work? New research has identified the parts of the brain involved in computing mistakes in other people’s understanding, which is a key process in guiding students’ learning.

In a study published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, volunteers were asked to act as a teacher as they observed the responses of another volunteer playing a computer game. The teachers had to indicate whether the students’ decisions during the game were correct or not, as they lay in a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner.

The researchers, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, used mathematical modelling to see how wrong the students’ beliefs were about their responses.

According to the results, the MRI scans revealed that a region of the teachers’ brain called the anterior cingulate cortex signalled how wrong the beliefs of the student were during the game. These findings provide significant insight into the brain processes that allow a teacher to understand a student’s learning.

“For teachers, understanding what your students believe is a vital part of the teaching process, allowing meaningful and useful feedback to be provided”, said lead author Dr Matthew Apps. “Our study has identified some of the key structures and computations in the human brain that are important for teaching.

“These findings provide the foundations for understanding how the brain works when people are teaching others, which may allow us to develop tools in future to help teachers guide the learning of their students.”

The researchers also discovered other regions of the frontal lobe that played important roles when the teachers were thinking about the student’s predictions, or simply monitoring whether the student made the correct response or not.

Professor Narender Ramnani, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, said: “Our formative years are often shaped by interactions with our teachers, but very little is known about the mechanisms that underpin the teaching process in the human brain.

“These findings have implications for understanding how the brains of teachers compute errors in their students’ understanding, and how teachers provide feedback that guides student learning.”
International Women's Day 2015: history of women in science – in pictures

We peek inside the first university to accept female students. Bedford College – now known as Royal Holloway, University of London – was founded in 1849 and attracted notable alumni, including Sarah Parker Remond, the first black woman to lecture across Britain on slavery, and novelist George Eliot. The college’s labs were used by students to dissect crabs, explore botany – and find out why weak hearts fail.

Chemistry lab at Bedford College in 1874. Photograph: Archives, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Pompeii Photos: Ancient Roman city remains unscathed by 'selfie' generation

Dr Zena Kamash from the Department of Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London, has discovered the photos tourists take of Pompeii are almost identical to those taken by our ancestors.

After examining 19th and early 20th century lantern slides of Pompeii and modern day photos from review site TripAdvisor, Dr Kamash discovered the shots taken around the site are remarkably similar. Surprising still, most photos across the eras contain few people, demonstrating an amount of ingenuity and determination to take the ‘perfect’ photo while avoiding the hundreds of tourists who visit the site every day. The desire for people free photos meant there were barely any ‘selfies’, despite 2014 being named the year of the selfie. Read more.

Sorry for the lack of updates; I’ve been away in Portugal for a week with two amazing friends and spent my time by the pool, on the beach, and partying down the strip. It was a lot of fun and a fantastic way to unwind after a stressful exam season.

And on that note, I received my degree results on the last day of my holiday, and I somehow managed to get a 1st…I’m still in complete and utter shock, I don’t quite know how this has happened, but apparently it has. Jesus Christ.

So that means that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, standing in my way of going to Oxford this October for my Master’s in Psychological Research! I am a for-definite soon-to-be postgraduate of the University of Oxford and I could not be happier. 

And then there’s the fact that MU comes out in a couple of weeks here in the UK…Another reason why I’m avoiding Tumblr because I know there’ll be spoilers, so don’t be surprised if I don’t update again until the 12th.

All I can say for now is that, well, it’s almost like all of my dreams are coming true…In fact, that’s exactly what’s happening. Everything I’ve ever wanted, everything I’ve ever worked for, ever hoped for, is happening. And I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.