European Researchers’ Night in Brussels

A key aspect of European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions is their commitment to engage in outreach activities. This is reflected the best by their key funding area: European Researchers’ Night, an event organized across entire Europe where EU-funded researchers are invited to engage with public audience, especially young people, to stimulate their interest in research areas.

The flagship event ‘Science is Wonder-ful’ is organized by MSCA in heart of Europe at European Parlamentarium in Brussels, which is visited by thousands of participants every year. Spin-Nano had the opportunity in this year’s event to exhibit our research area through several interactive activities. Seven ESRs (Matthew Brooks, Alessandro Catanzaro, Marco Manca, Riccardo Pisoni, Matteo Pompili, Luca Sortino, Samarth Vadia) represented our ITN on 25-26 September 2018.

Our exhibition stand was titled ‘Quantum Tech’ and was targeted towards giving a basic idea of quantum physics and its’ importance in next-generation technologies. Our interactive activities were focused on explaining tools and techniques physicists use daily for their research inside a laboratory.

Probably the most important of them is light. Using a set of 3 polarizers, we demonstrated a fundamental property of light known as polarization and how can it be controlled with accuracy. In another activity, we demonstrated interaction of light and matter using fluorescent objects. A simple explanation of electron excitation was aided with fluorescent markers that enabled young children to get creative.

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Another component for future quantum technology is 2D (two-dimensional) materials, they are basically one atom-thick layer of material which facilitates special properties.  In a hands-on experiment, we showed how to produce 2D layer made of carbon atoms using an exfoliation method to remove layers of material until only one layer remains. The last activity was designed to introduce some optical components inside a lab in form of game LABattle. It has been developed by Matteo Pompili (ESR at TU Delft) and was also highly successful in our earlier outreach event in Sheffield.

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The language used for dissemination included not only English but French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and German with the help of interpreters present at the venue. The stand was visited by people from all age groups ranging from 1st grade school kids to families and elderly people. However, a stand would have been incomplete without measuring the impact of the activity on visitors. We used a two-pronged approach, we used a feedback wall and individual audio interviews to evaluate the quality of outreach and learn what they take away from the visit. We received numerous praises from the audience as well as some interesting insight on what they understood and how we can improve in future events.

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Our personal experience was also highly positive. Personally, amazement and joy on the faces of kids is extremely satisfying upon explaining something. Hence, overall it was a wonderful experience to participate in European Researchers’ Night ‘Science is Wonderful’ and we want to thank our ITN Spin-Nano and MSCA for giving us this opportunity.

Samarth Vadia, PhD student at attocube and Nanophotonics Group of LMU Munich, Munich, Germany

 

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