Organizing Astroseminar

Sometimes public engagement means giving a talk for the general public; sometimes means showing people something they can touch with their hands and learn from it; sometimes means organizing.
In Münster in these last months over all the summer, I joined the organizing committee for the outreach event called Astroseminar, which took place at the physics institute on October 25th and 26th. This year we organized a cycle of lectures on specific topics, laboratory visits and insights on the south pole experiment IceCube together with a model. The attendees were about 300 on each day. There is no astrophysics faculty in the city but there are workgroups whose studies touch the space environment, mainly from the theoretical and nuclear physics side and with me also from the surface science side.

On the right there is a model of the IceCube experiment. For comparison on the table there is also a model of the Tour Eiffel scaled with respect to the IceCube one! The blinking lights simulate a neutrino detection event.

“Dem Unsichtbaren auf der Spur” states the title of the conference, that was in german, and it means on search of the invisible. The title was given after the main topics embraced by the relators, that were gravitational waves, neutrinos, cosmic rays and black holes. Once the relators and the topics were confirmed, many months ahead of the conference itself, the choice of the title came quite naturally. With the science part just settled, it has been time to organize everything else, of course depending on the funding we had.

Organizing means taking care of many little features like: drinks and food supplies; how and when to pick up the relators and managing their lodging; how to carry out the laboratory visits; how much money to spend on each of these points and still more. On the days of the conference then, it’s important to make sure that everything runs the way it should, that also means prepare the coffee for the visitors and provide the snacks.

Even though I didn’t give myself a presentation or I didn’t explain my research to anybody, I experienced one side of the outreach that maybe sometimes can be forgotten or at least overlooked, that is making the outreach event itself possible. At the end of the day what we aim for is to let the general public know more about science and make them passionate about it, and when you see a running woman coming towards you asking for the coffee and being very concerned to be 5 minutes late, starting to telling you how long was she waiting for this event and really thanking you for making it real, you know that you achieved that goal and that it was totally worth it!

This post was written by Lorenzo Maddii Fabiani, ESR 7 who is doing is PhD at the University of Münster.

All the pictures were taken from the Astroseminar organizing committee during the event itself.