Nanoblog: "Get together young nanoscientists!"

Authors: Heli Lehtivuori, Sanna Niinivehmas, Sanna Rauhamäki and Mira Kuusisto

Purpose of the "Let's play together!" Nanoscience center (NSC) spring meeting was to bring young nanopeople together. The NSC community has more than a hundred researchers who have the background in biology, chemistry or physics and who take the experimental and/or theoretical approach to their work. We believe that both formal and informal connections are vital to strengthening NSC community and enhancing young researchers’ career success. We formed our vision for this meeting after learning that only Master students, PhD students and Post docs were coming to Konnevesi research station. We wanted to make the meeting very informal and accessible to everyone. We are convinced that the meeting really helped us to know each other and everyone had opportunities to practice public speaking.

Starting the spring meeting, ten Post docs and older PhD students gave 5 minute presentations that introduced the current research themes of NSC to young nanostudents. The themes include Biological nanostructures, Organic nanochemistry, Spectroscopy of nanostructures, Experimental nanophysics and Computational nanoscience. All presentations were great. They did not overlap too much and they covered their themes efficiently and sufficiently.

After the delicious lunch, it was time to really get to know every young scientist of the NSC. The next activity was speed dating. Chairs in the Konnevesi lecture hall were placed facing each other. The crowd sat down, and the clock started ticking. To the organizers’ relieve, the room was immediately filled with cheerful chatter. Every five minutes people in the other row of chairs moved one chair forward, giving everyone a new partner to date. The icebreakers we prepared beforehand for uncomfortably long silence proved unnecessary since everyone dove head first into the discussion. Although serial dating can be a daunting task, at the end everyone had more friendly faces to greet at work and some even formed new cooperation partnerships. In any case, kind and open atmosphere was ensured for the rest of the event thanks to learning new and surprising things from each other.

 After warming up our social mode in scientific speed dating, the program continued with elevator pitches. The idea of an elevator pitch is to introduce and summarize yourself in the short time with the listener being a possible dream employer or the guru of your field. In this case, our Master's and PhD students gave elevator pitches to our Post docs and senior PhD students at NSC, who acted as a panel of dream employers. However before going to the actual pitches, we had some time to rest our voice and plan the pitches, while snacking and drinking over a picnic. The elevator pitches in the afternoon were all amazing and well thought! The panel of dream employers voted for the most convincing speakers and the best were rewarded with small awards. Effective communication is one of scientists' many assets and it’s fun to practice those skills in warm atmosphere.

In the second day of the spring meeting it was time for brainstorming. The participants solved global challenges in multidisciplinary teams. The topics covered the availability of clean drinking water and novel renewable energy solutions etc. Sharing our idea with other nanoscientists is the key idea and driving force at NSC community. The goal of these project plans was to spark this essential interdisciplinary thinking. Creating multidisciplinary project plans appeared to be both challenging and rewarding. Collaborative work connected people from different groups and fields and provided plentiful opportunities for knowledge sharing. Clearly, the most popular solution among young nanoscientists to the variety of problems is smart nanomaterials. It seems that there is no problem a group of experts could not solve with smart materials! The project plans are visible in the Nano coffee room in a form of old school draw-cut-paste posters.

In a nutshell, the spring meeting really connected people from different backgrounds together. We as organizing committee wish that this positive interaction will continue in our everyday life in NSC. Everyday there are numerous opportunities in the Nano coffee room and other places for starting interesting discussions between fellow nanoscientists in NSC community. We thank all for you who participated in the spring meeting and Konnevesi research station for doing such a good job in hosting our event!