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School Outreach

The Erlangen YM Section continued their program to visit local schools and tell them about how fundamental science works. With this, they not only showed how research is performed, but gave a peak into the actual life of a researcher. Starting from developing an idea in the shared kitchen of the group, drawing first experimental sketches on the whiteboard and building a first setup – these are the roots of experimental research that get everything else started. Continuing on the topic, the pupils were taught that every experiment and every theory always undergoes some sort of revision process that usually starts with analyzing some measurement results, goes on with a discussion and commonly ends with an adjustment of the experiment or theory. Finally, research needs communication. Without that, nobody would know today about the great achievements of science and nobody could base their work on the millions of papers already published. The pupils (11th grade) were very intrigued by the honest and insightful picture that was given to them and asked many questions both during and after the lecture.

The presentation was accompanied by an experiment that the section brought along to show that whatever was told in the presentation has some realism to it. The pupils were able to make the connection and continue with their questions in a hands-on manner, while being fascinated that single molecules can be resolved by a portable tabletop experiment.

The pupils were not the only ones who learned something. For the Erlangen YM section, it proves to be a valuable lesson to step out of the research lab for a day and do something completely different. Explaining your research during an outreach event grounds you and lets you reconnect to the value of your findings. Through this event, one member of the section was even able to re-visit his old school and delve into past time memories.

Public outreach – “Blue Night”

Blaue_Nacht_20_The “Blaue Nacht” is a famous cultural event, during which representatives from science and art present their work to the broad public of the residents of Nuremberg. This year’s event motto being ” Truth”, our Young Mind section was asked to present experiments around optical illusions and related phenomena.
The Erlangen YM section together with the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (MPL) set up a large number of experiments in the inner yard of the “Bildungszentrum” of the city of Nuremberg. Experiments covering topics such as refraction, total internal reflection, polarization effects and visual perception attracted a continious stream of interested visitors of all ages and educational levels over the whole night.
Our evening program was complemented by short presentations given by researchers of the MPL and members of our Young Minds section, which allowed the visitors to gain insights in ongoing research projects at the MPL and current hot-topics in modern optical science. The huge interest and over 800 visitors made this event a great sucess for us, making both fundamental optical phenomena and current research accessible to the broad public.

How does fundamental research work?

Erlangen_HDFRW__02This year, the Erlangen MPL YM Section organized three school outreach events. On July 27 we had the first school outreach event with 23 students from the Gymnasium Fridericianum in Erlangen. This was followed by a similar event on August 20 with 18 students from different local schools. Finally, on December 8, we hold our school outreach event for 15 winners of the German youth science competition “Jugend forscht” who were visiting our home institute.
Many people are fascinated by and interested in fundamental research. However, only a few have a realistic picture of how science really works. With our school outreach events we want to convey a realistic picture of what it means to do fundamental research and why it is of importance. To do so, we first give an overview of the organization of our home institute, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, and then give an insight of our daily business as researchers. We answer questions like: How do researchers get new ideas? What steps are necessary to conduct an experiment? What problems do usually occur? How do researchers make other aware of their findings? We try to share our real-life experiences from our scientific work in the field of optics. This first part is followed by a demonstration experiment that relates to a current research topic in optics. Currently, we have set up an experiment to make single molecules visible. Another experiments let the audience experience actual quantum fluctuations. The experiment are accompanied by an interesting introduction to the physics involved and an explanation of the observations. In addition, we usually screen a short movie that explains (free-space continuous variable) quantum key distribution, a current research topic at our institute. Members of our chapter answer questions after the movie. When the school outreach event takes place at our home institute, we also offer the participants a tour through our labs.
By talking about a topic beyond the regular curriculum, we try to fascinate the high-school students and infect them with our passion for optics. Moreover, we emphasize the impact of optical technology in the present and future. In addition, we want to motivate young people to study science, in particular optics, and later on become part of the scientific community. Due to the personal experience of the presenters and the different styles of presentation during the events, we usually raise a lot of interest and questions among the audience. We plan to continue this successful series of school outreach events also in 2016.

Scientific Cinema

Scientific_Cinema_01The Erlangen MPL YM Section  organized a social evening for a screening of the documentary feature “That’s the story”, which shows an interview with the Nobel laureate Prof. Roy J. Glauber about his time at the Manhattan Project.

Professor Glauber is the last living scientist from the theory division of the Manhatten Project at Los Alamos. In his interview he gives first-hand information on the daily life at Los Alomos, the scientific team there and its work, the test of the first nuclear weapon (Trinity test), the bombing of Japan and the political aftermath of the project. We invited Prof. Latorre, the producer of the documentary to the Max-Planck-Institute at November 13 to share the documentary with us. The screening was followed by an open discussion, for which we invited two experts from politic science and history. The first one was Wolfram Ridder from the institute of politic science at the FAU and the second one was PD Dr. Stephan Geier, who did his doctoral thesis about the nuclear weapons nonproliferation treaty. Stephan Geier is currently at the University of Warwick and therefore participated via skype. A lively and controversy discussion among the three invited guests as well as with the audience took place about ethic issues of science and the responsibility of scientists. After the discussion, we provided a buffet, where people had the opportunity to continue their discussion on the topic. The event was a great success as approximately 80 people were attending it.

MPL Laboratory Visit

The students of the Erlangen Section visited the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (MPL) Laboratory.
The second Autumn Academy at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light took place from 30 September to 2 October 2013. The aim of this two-and-a-half day event was to introduce Bachelor and Master students to the fast moving field of optical sciences including topics such as quantum information processing, meta-materials, nano-optics, photonic crystal fibres, nonlinear optics, imaging and sensing. The response was excellent. From more than 70 applications, the EPS Young Minds section of Erlangen, Germany selected 26 students and invited them to Erlangen for a packed schedule.

The participants received an overview over the wide range of research fields covered by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light [MPL] at the poster session that was organised on the first evening.

In the course of the Academy, the participants attended several lectures given both by the Institute’s directors Prof. Gerd Leuchs, Prof. Vahid Sandoghdar and Prof. Philip Russell, by PhD students and group leaders from the MPL and also by the invited lecturers Prof. Florian Marquardt (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg), Prof. Cornelia Denz (University of Münster) and Dr. Jonathan Matthews (University of Bristol). The lectures addressed a wide variety of topics ranging from photonic crystal fibres over nano – and biophotonics to optomechanics to name only a few of them.

Between the lectures several laboratory tours were offered, that allowed the participants to learn about the actual experimental implementations of the research presented in the lectures.