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Physics beyond physics: secondary school teachers meet researchers

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Publié le mardi 28 mai 2019

On 6 May 2019, the Scienteens Lab organised an afternoon of training for Luxembourgish teachers on Limpertsberg campus. Titled “Physics beyond physics: From liquid crystal-enabled design to microbes in a changing climate”, this event covered the interdisciplinarity of physical sciences, and was opened to a wider audience within the framework of the “Physics meets Biology” initiative.

Orchestrated by David Kieffer and Maren Krüger (Scienteens Lab), this event successfully brought together around 40 participants, including teachers from Luxembourg secondary schools and researchers from the University of Luxembourg.  After a short welcome speech by Dr. Elisabeth John, team leader of the Scienteens Lab, highlighting activities of the Scienteens lab in bridging the gap between schools and the university, the two presentations followed:

Professor Jan Lagerwall, head of the Experimental Soft Matter Physics Group at the University of Luxembourg talked about the history and future of liquid crystals: from demonstrating an incompleteness of physics to revolutionizing society. He showed with examples from the research undertaken in his group that the use of liquid crystals in society goes very far beyond displays. As an example, they explore the use of liquid crystals in making security tokens that can help in the fight against product counterfeiting. Apart from such potential avenues towards future applications of his group’s research, he also brought up curiosity-based motivations for conducting the research. For instance, the patterns seen in liquid crystal shells produced in the group’s labs are reminiscent of patterns seen in Nature, like in fruits and vegetables, since they follow the same laws of topology that regulate the development of orientational order within curved surfaces.

Assistant Professor Anupam Sengupta, an FNR-ATTRACT fellow and head of the Physics of Living Matter Group at University of Luxembourg, showed us the interdisciplinarity of natural sciences in an impressive way with his presentation  “A Bug's Life: Lessons from the tiny marvels in a changing world”. He presented several vignettes of cross-disciplinary approaches that his Group uses to analyze the impact of environmental changes – both local and global – on microorganisms like the photosynthetic algae in our lakes or the bacteria making up the human microbiome. The Sengupta Lab is in pursuit of the general biophysical principles that underpin these seemingly disparate microbial systems. He concluded his talk with a perspective on the exciting cross-disciplinary opportunities that lay ahead of us, where researchers, educators, and crucially, the future generation of scientists, can come together to help unravel the mysteries of these tiny marvels. 

The exciting presentations, followed by engaging discussions with the audience about the prospects of future collaborations across the disciplines (physics, biology and chemistry, but also beyond) and the best practices toward a successful implementation of a cross-disciplinary mindset, made this event a real success.