Cutting-edge Research Goes Back to School: Prizewinners and Students Experience Science Together
Good science depends on continuously acquiring knowledge – across the generations. Austria's top researchers have long since realised this and have now enthusiastically accepted the challenge to inspire interest in science among young people. To achieve this aim, they established the Wittgenstein Academy, a community of scientists, all of whom are winners of Austria's most prestigious science prize, the Wittgenstein prize. The extensive programme, which ten classes and several individual groups have already participated in, is now starting with a pilot phase consisting of the first exciting presentations and discussions on the prizewinners' current work.
Research & Teaching
Explaining the background to the Wittgenstein Academy, Prof. Jörg Schmiedmayer from the Institute of Atomic and Subatomic Physics (Atominstitut) at the Vienna University of Technology and 2006 winner of the Wittgenstein Prize, stated: "The aim of our initiative is to give young people an opportunity to personally meet scientists. This can set the scene for inspiring enthusiasm for research and sparking interest in science." In order to achieve this aim, the Wittgenstein team working with Prof. Schmiedmayer adopted a very pragmatic approach when planning the initiative. "We noticed that after the Examination Boards meet at the beginning of the summer, the routine classes become a challenge", explains Prof. Schmiedmayer. "We wanted to offer an alternative – a visit to a truly high-tech laboratory under the personal guidance of top researchers." Thanks to the strong interest, this offer was eagerly accepted already in the first year of the Wittgenstein Academy.
This meant that in the second half of June, students were able to find out about cutting-edge research topics such as quantum physics and its "craziness" or information processing at cellular level. They learned how to make individual atoms visible and discovered what the coldest material has to do with precision clocks and how the Middle Ages affect our present-day prejudices. But instead of dry lessons from a school book, the students enjoyed the explanations given by enthusiastic scientists in their laboratories, who also provided a realistic and exciting picture of their everyday research work at the same time.
Sharing & Challenging
The involvement of the members of the Wittgenstein Academy, however, extends beyond simply sharing their knowledge. They are also offering genuine incentives to students to apply their enthusiasm for research to specific projects. As a result, the students are invited to creatively examine the cutting-edge research conducted by the prizewinners involved in the initiative and to submit their ideas about the research to the Wittgenstein Academy. There are very few restrictions – experiments or videos are just as welcome as art projects or plays. As Prof. Schmiedmayer explained: "A jury from the Wittgenstein Academy will reach a decision on financially supporting the implementation of projects, up to an amount of EUR 1,000. In this way, we would like to create an awareness of the everyday life of a researcher in which the competition for external funding challenges us and encourages us to aspire to excellence in science and research."
In fact, in addition to sharing the latest findings in the world of science, this FWF-supported initiative also provides a very personal and individual insight into the professional life of Austria's top researchers. Authenticity is ensured by the personal involvement of Wittgenstein prizewinners, who, due to their outstanding achievements, also constitute ideal role models for future scientists.
Photo and press release available from Monday, 28 July 2014, from 10.00 am CET at:
Further information, including a complete list of Wittgenstein prizewinners, is available at:
FWF Austrian Science Fund
The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is Austria's central funding organization for basic research.
The purpose of the FWF is to support the ongoing development of Austrian science and basic research at a high international level. In this way, the FWF makes a significant contribution to cultural development, to the advancement of our knowledge-based society, and thus to the creation of value and wealth in Austria.
Prof. Jörg Schmiedmayer
Vienna University of Technology Institute of Atomic and Subatomic Physics
1020 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 58801 141 - 801
Austrian Science Fund FWF:
Haus der Forschung
1090 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 505 67 40 - 8114
Copy Editing & Distribution:
PR&D – Public Relations for Research & Education
1090 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 505 70 44
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