Nucleiamo: smashing nuclei and firing protons with the public at Trento’s MUSE!

September 24th 2021

Several ECT* researchers (including Pablo de Vera), covering specialities like nuclear physics, atomic and molecular physics, or radiation interaction with matter, participated at La Notte dei Ricercatori (European Researchers’ Night), where they could explain, in an accessible language, their research projects to the Trento citizens attending the MUSE.

On Friday September 24th, the whole Europe celebrated the great importance that science has in our society, by letting the researchers themselves explain their work to the general public at the European Researchers’ Night in many cities all along the continent. The research centres of the Autonomous Province of Trento did not miss this special occasion, and Museo delle Sciencie (MUSE), Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), Università di Trento and Fondazione Edmund Mach joined the SHARPER Night initiative (SHAring Researchers’ Passion for Engaging Responsiveness) to organise La Notte dei Ricercatori in the modern quarter of Le Albere, in Trento.

The ECT* was present at MUSE with the stand Nucleiamo, featuring many activities with which the scientists explained and illustrated their work to the general public. The different research lines (covering the internal structure of atomic nuclei, the synthesis of the different elements present on Earth inside the stars, the use of computational molecular physics to improve metrology, the connections between nanotechnology and black holes, or the interaction of energetic ions with biomaterials for their use in cancer therapy) were explained with the aid of audiovisual materials, including a poster relating and putting in context the different areas (see below), and videos explaining each topic in more detail.

Pablo de Vera, holding the ECT* homemade, “high technology”, cardboard particle accelerator.

Samuel Giuliani explaining the Nucleiamo poster.

Nucleiamo's poster (click to enlarge).

Video about NanoEnHanCeMent.

Furthermore, the attention of the people was attracted with some scientific games, with which the attendees (especially the youngest ones) could enjoy synthesising some “elements” themselves, or helping “to cure a patient” with “energetic protons”. A homemade, “high technology”, cardboard particle accelerator was used to smash nuclei (made of magnetic balls) among each other, to study how the collisions produced their fusion or fission to yield new synthetic elements inside an “advanced” tupperware-particle-detector. The attendees also proved their aim by firing mock-X-ray photons (light ping-pong balls) to a patient model (made up by green and orange plastic glasses representing the healthy and malignant tissues), to discover how they scattered all around, being difficult to hit the tumour. Surprisingly, the ability of the participants seemed to increase greatly when firing fictitious protons (heavier marbles), simulating the physical processes occurring at the Trento protontherapy centre.

Both the Trentini attending the MUSE and the ECT* researchers had a lot of fun during La Notte dei Ricercatori, the former learning more about the locally made theoretical research on nuclear physics and related areas, and the latter having the chance to communicate their passion for science to the entire community.

The NanoEnHanCeMent project is promoted among highschool students in a talk about the characteristics of a scientific research carrer

April 30th 2021

As one of the actions included in the outreach plan of the action, Pablo de Vera gave a talk, on April 27th, to the Physics and Chemistry students of the 2nd grade of “Bachillerato” (preparatory courses to access the university studies) of the Severo Ochoa highschool in Elche (Spain), during a visit to his homeland Alicante.

Apart from NanoEnHanCeMent and hadrontherapy, they talked about topics which hopefully will be useful for these students, who will soon have to take important decisions about their university studies.

They discussed and chatted about how science works (how research is done, which competences a researcher develop, what are scientific publications, etc.) and how a research career is accessed and developed (BSc, MSc and PhD studies, career prospects after the PhD...).

Thank you all for your attention, and also for the nice opportunity to their excelent teacher, Ángel Ávila Freire.