Christmas, Zurich and revision

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all doing well and had a lovely winter break! I can’t believe it’s over already!

Last month I set off on my journey back home to Sofia for Christmas, it was quite a long day of travelling, but I was really excited. My connection flight was in Zurich and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the airport was only 10 mins away from the city centre! I know right, it really it is so close to the city and a return to the city centre and back is under 10 pounds. So naturally, I decided to make use of the four hours I had and decided to go and explore.  I had prepared a few things to see in a couple of hours and as soon as the plane from Manchester landed I ventured off into the city. I completely loved my time in Zurich, since it is a very lively and beautiful city. I would highly recommend if you have a connection flight and a few hours to spare in Zurich, it is definitely worth doing some sightseeing.


( A stunning view of Zurich over the river Limmat )

Apart from that my Christmas back home was simply perfect. It was amazing to go and see my family and friends again. However, unlike last year, when I was on placement and during Christmas I had taken days off, I actually had to do work while back home. I simply couldn’t escape revision (going to another country did not help either 🙁 )

Before I knew it, it was time to go back to Manchester and continue with revision. And unfortunately, there is nothing very interesting or eventful about revision. It’s the usual really, making your way through crowds of people in front of the library in the morning, lots and lots of coffee being consumed every day and, well, lots and lots of reading.


( Library Opening the day before exams 🙂 )

I do actually have some specific materials I came across during my revision for Cryptography. For anyone, who is currently struggling to remember all the details behind AES and DES, I believe that using CrypTool is actually quite helpful, as our lecturer recommended. Apart from various encryption and decryption functions it contains extremely well designed simulations of how the algorithms work. They are interactive and explain in detail how all the operations work in the encryption and decryption process.


( AES encryption process visualisation 🙂 )

I did find them particularly useful, since I do remember concepts easier when I have a visual image to link them to. Also, I came across some excellent videos on RSA and Diffie – Hellman Key Exchange, explaining the mathematics behind it with a clever analogue of colour combinations. So if you have a few minutes to spare even if you are not preparing for an exam on the subject and are just interested in knowing more about some of the key algorithms ( no pun intended 🙂 ) in Cryptography, I suggest giving them a quick look.

While I was taking a break from all the fun revision times I came across a very interesting article by Cancer Research UK. It isn’t exactly news, since the game I am about to tell you about was launched quite some time ago, but I found it very fascinating nevertheless. The article I read featured the science behind a game, something about collecting a substance called Element Alpha in Space. It sure doesn’t sound very interesting right, just another one of those mindless games to play while you have to study. Well, not quite. See, unlike other games, when you play Genes in Space you will actually be helping the research for cancer. How is that possible, you might ask? To put it simply, in the game you actually have to plan your route through space to collect as much element as possible. However, by doing so you are actually analysing real DNA micro array data and are helping scientists discover patterns in DNA mutations that cause cancer, which can lead to the discovery of new treatments in the future.

When I first read about the game I was fascinated and inspired because it actually involves the general public in analysing scientific data in a lightweight and funny way. Moreover, it is a clear demonstration of how Computer Science, when mixed with a dash of creativity, can actually underpin scientific research. So if you are looking for a game to play during your revision breaks, I suggest you try this one 🙂

Have a lovely and productive day everyone!


Veneta Haralampieva


P.S. It finally snowed in Manchester!


( Snowy Manchester 🙂 )


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