Bringing science closer to children

Science is gaining an essential role in everyday life. But when to start to get people in contact with science? The answer is: childhood. The KinderUni in Vienna is an opportunity for 7 to 12 years old children to explore the university and its life. The motto: We turn the university upside down!

Jeremias and Fabian participated within the student chapter at the Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering to show experiments and principles in the field of optics and imaging. How is milk in water a model for cataract? How do we use mirrors and pinholes to align an optical setup? What does a spectrometer do? Why are we fooled by optical illusions? These and even more questions were answered within 5 different stations we set up for the visit of 30 children at our center.

Fabian and Jeremias in the lab with the setup for the hands-on experiments holding the certificate.

Were we able to explain optics and other connections to children in a way that they learn something and are curious about more things? For Fabian and Jeremias it was important to practice their explanations and experiments beforehand, to have a feeling of speed, depth and wording.
It was a pleasure to see all the children listening to the things we explained and the enthusiasm at the hands-on experiments. Most exciting was seeing the children building up their own connection, as one girl put it: “a cataract, it’s like when laser travels through milk, less light reaches the other side”.
As soon as the children completed a station, they received a certificate with stickers. Looking at the children standing proudly with their certificate and the handouts at the end of the day in the large seminar room was satisfaction enough for us. For us it is clear, that we are participating again at the KinderUni 2019: Maybe with more children, maybe with more complex experiments. Fabian and Jeremias are thankful for the opportunity.

Certificate for the children. The 5 stickers represent the accomplishment of the 5 different stations.

Collecting experiences at Carl Zeiss Meditec

It was mid of March and it had just snowed the week before when I arrived in a small german town called Oberkochen. It is nicely located within a valley surrounded by hills filled with trees and little river emerging from the rocks just some walking minutes to the south of the neighborhood. As I have studied in Jena, which is the birthplace of the company Zeiss, I do notice a certain ressemblance and one may imagine that the young Carl Zeiss maybe hiked through the small village of Oberkochen during his journeyman years before starting his little optical workshop in 1846 which later became one of the largest optical device manufacturer in the world.

The southern Zeiss Campus with the white main building of the CZ Meditec AG and the blue buildings in the background of the CZ Semiconductor Technology and CZ Microscopy business divisions.

So it certainly was the beginning of an interesting period within my PhD as I was visiting our industrial partner, the Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, at their headquarters for roughly three months. During this time I had the opportunity to work in the Department of Advanced Development to develop a first prototype of our newest approach to image 5-ALA induced protoporphyrin IX for neurosurgical guidance. Even though, I had already arrived with a plan in my mind, I was gratefull for the team spirit and support I was given by the staff. It helped me to fine-tune my system and stay focussed to achieve the best possible measurments. I also enjoyed to get in contact with other students working on their bachelor and master thesis and it sometimes felt like being in university-kind of environment. However, I was also able to follow the daily life in the medical device industry where not only scientific and technical but also clinical, regulatory and producibility aspects decide over the development of an idea or prototype to a product. It is this interdisciplinary approach and balancing of the requirements and needs between project leaders, developers, product and regulatory managers which I found fascinating and taught me that it is one step to publish a new scientific method, but it is a series of step till this may be part of a final product.

Interestingly, the young Carl Zeiss also visited Vienna in 1843 to work in the Mecca of mechanical engineering that the city was known for at the time and attend courses in mechanics. As I am finishing writing this post, sitting in my office back in Vienna, I do feel humble to have unconsciously followed his footsteps.

In this sense, I thank everyone involved for my interesting secondment in Oberkochen.

FBI meeting in Eindhoven

From the 20th to the 23rd of February, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and Philips Research hosted the second meeting of the FBI project in Eindhoven. In the first three days of the event, the ESRs had the opportunity to attend two different workshops: one focused on improving their own skills in scientific writing, and the other one to get a flavour of entrepreneurship. During the last day the ESRs presented the progress in their own work.

During the workshop on scientific writing of Tuesday and Wednesday, Nathalie Le Bot and Rosy Favicchio,  editors at Nature, explained what are the strategies and techniques that will help us improving our scientific writing skills, giving us a first-hand insight into the publishing process at top-tier journals. This was a unique opportunity to interact with experienced Nature journal editors, who offered a mix of expert instruction and hands-on support, tips on making the most of our manuscript preparation and, also, providing practical solutions to common science communication problems.

The entrepreneurship workshop, held by professor Jes Broeg from the Technical University of Denmark, offered us a broad overview of  the importance of extending research ideas into a business model. He did offer a wide variety of practical examples, such as Google and Facebook and he shared his own experience as entrepreneur, from his first discoveries as a PhD student to the funding of his own start-up. During the afternoon, the ESRs tested what they learned with a pitch competition. Divided in three teams, they had to propose their own service/product in front of a jury representing a future customer or investor.

On Friday morning, the ESRs shared their own progress in a brief presentation.  A follow up discussion allowed the ESRs to receive inputs and suggestions on their work opening for future collaborations among the several organizations involved in the FBI project. During the afternoon, the ESRs enjoyed a visit to the clean room of TU/e. Two experts guided them in the lab, showing the equipment they use and explaining the several processes involved in the microfabrication.

Me, Roger and Rastko, as ESRs organizing the event, would really thank all the FBI members for participating in this meeting. For us, it has been a pleasure hosting the meeting in our city and overall we hope this gave you some inputs in pursuing your own projects.

FBI represented at the Days of Photonics in Belgrade

Organizers of the event, former students and student-members of the local chapter of the Optical Society.

In the last week of 2017, eight former students of the School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade came together to give short talks on their research in the field of photonics. In the audience of about 25, current students from all levels of studies and their professors were curious to hear about the experience of studying abroad and the latest research being conducted across Europe and Japan.

The first speaker of the event featured FBI – there was talk of how the FBI-students benefit from the structure that this project provides in the form of secondments, frequent meetings and workshops, and other forms of training and networking. The importance of research dissemination in academia, industry and general public was highlighted. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) was discussed in particular, and how it connects with the expertise that the bachelor level electrical engineering (EE) students are acquiring. From image processing to nanotechnology almost every sub-specialization of EE could see themselves contributing to the multidisciplinary field that OCT is.

The event was well received, with many questions. Most speakers agreed that we should do this again, if time allows.

FBI Annual meeting- Vienna

From the 13th to the 15th of September, the Medical University of Vienna hosted the first annual meeting of the FBI project. The event was targeted at creating a stimulating and enriching environment for all participants, Early Stage Researches, supervisors and project leaders.

On the first day upon arrival in Vienna, Julia Warner, a professional trainer in communication, offered an interesting workshop on how to give a captivating presentation. Participants were invited to approach the subject from the audience’s perspective, thus having a better and more immediate understanding of how important it is to deliver a concise, yet striking presentation. Overall, the workshop was structured in a dynamic way, with Julia Warner always keeping the debate alive and encouraging all participants to express themselves.

The remaining two days were reserved to the presentations. All ESRs had the opportunity to introduce his or her project. Each presentation was followed by a lively discussion, during which the speaker was given suggestions and inputs by the audience on both the presentation and the project.
An exciting lab tour was also organized by the ESRs based in Vienna, allowing us to get in touch directly with their work.

Overall, it was an enriching experience, that let all the attendees broaden their perspectives, learn interesting and useful information on how to effectively present a subject, as well as have the opportunity to network with other fellow researchers.

Finally, special thanks go to the Medical University of Vienna, and in particular to Fabian, Jeremias and Mikael, for having impeccably organized such an interesting event.

Understanding ultrafast optics

How can you generate visible light out of the invisible? Can you amplify light by light itself? And how about measuring surface potentials with nonlinear optics? FBI gets answers at EPFL.

From the 10th to the 14th of July, five Early Stage Researchers in FBI from Austria, France, Germany and Slovakia had the opportunity to get answers to these fascinating questions of modern optics. Prof. Sylvie Roke from EPFL (Switzerland) offered her excellent introduction into nonlinear optics which sent the well visited auditorium to a journey covering light-matter interactions, crystal optics and nonlinear optical phenomena. This included second harmonic generation, phase matching conditions as well as optical damaging, to only name a few topics. The calculus intense theory was applied in short, supervised exercise sessions during the lecture. Therefore everybody was able to follow the course, even when the higher dimensional susceptibility tensors entered the room.

Towards the end more applied assignments as well as lab tour allowed the students to connect the theory with the experimental side and Prof. Roke presented her latest research concerning surface potential interrogation using second harmonic microscopy.

Finally the ESRs from Lausanne, together with their supervisors, organized a networking BBQ where all ESRs attending could meet researchers from EPFL working on biophotonics. In conclusion, this course gave many of us a new perspective to rapidly growing area of optics and we thank Prof. Roke and her assistants for their great work.

The Innovative Training Network “FBI” is hiring PhD candidates

Find available positions to shape the future of biomedical imaging in our Marie Curie Network here:

After a successful kickoff meeting, we are looking forward to get applications for 15 PhD candidate positions. Keep an eye on our homepage for updates, and follow us on LinkedIn.