Romania joined the European Union in 2007, continuing to be one of the poorest of its member states – for comparison, Germany’s GDP is currently €38 000 whereas Romania’s is instead €8 600. However through education and research a way to a better future can be paved. It was for this reason that we went on the road in October 2017. We wanted to tell our Romanian colleagues about the different possibilities that European light sources offer to their research, and about which funding possibilities they could apply for. Hardly any of them were aware that the use of the facilities is free of charge for University researchers, nor did they know that two of the users could also receive financial support for the measurement time.
CALIPSOplus and the Twinning Programme
My boss, Antje Vollmer, who leads the User Coordination office here at HZB, presented the European light source landscape, CALIPSOplus and the Twinning Programme at several Romanian Universities. After the presentation, we had the opportunity to visit different Departments and to have small chats with the scientists about their research and their specific needs for the partnering programme.
In general, the information was received with enthusiasm and great interest. Some colleagues from Romania were even already prepared to submit a beamtime proposal while in parallel participating in the Twinning Programme – a programme in which a guest user is partnered with an experienced group and enjoys a hands-on introduction to synchrotron-based experiments. The research they presented in Romania is very up-to-date and innovative, and all scientific insights were shared with great enthusiasm. There were several groups involved in Solar Cell research, but we also learned about interesting projects in Microbiology, Magnetism and Bionics.
Curious graduation students
In Timisoara I had my own presentation to last year high school students at the request of Professor Daniel Vizman. I wouldn’t have imagined myself that such young students could be interested in these subjects. My lecture was aimed at attracting new students to Physics, and particularly to the University of Timisoara. Why? All the colleagues we spoke to in Romania had the same complaint: there are fewer and fewer graduates choosing to study Physics or Chemistry. Other fields, such as Computer Science or Economics, are more attractive offering a better financial future. Unfortunately, this leads to fewer people to drive Romanian research further.
I held my lecture in Romanian. I was brought up in Romania as a young child, so my Romanian language skills are good enough to have proper conversations. Some technical words and expressions were however a bit tough. That ended up to my advantage, because I was then able to engage the students who were very eager to lend a hand and correct me whenever necessary. Since they also spoke very good English – movies, tv shows and many books in Romania are routinely available in English – they could help me promptly without any communication issues.
At the end of my presentation, the young students were very inquisitive and interested. I told them many details about our light source and what we can investigate with it, but also which job prospects exist in science. One student was especially interested in Patents and how they work. As you can see, money plays an important role even for such young people. My boss Antje told me later that I received a “standing ovation”. In the end, I think the lecture was indeed very much worth it for the students, even if only for the many questions addressed in the end.
Indispensable: Personal contact
This first visit as part of the CALIPSOplus Partner Program showed us how important it is to personally contact colleagues from all over Europe and to discuss possible cooperation and EU-wide opportunities. In countries like Romania, but also in other new EU member states (EU13 countries), there are many talented people, who are full of ideas and who develop sophisticated measurement setups even with the little money they have! It is indeed a pity that there are few opportunities to finance them. Here in Germany I was lucky, I was paid during my doctoral thesis – in other countries it is not always the case. Of course, young people are then often directed toward more financially rewarding careers.
And now the hard facts:
At the very end, the important hard facts: The EU-funded CALIPSOplus project supports international exchanges of researchers and transnational access to European light sources. In particular, the program is aimed at scientifically integrating EU13 countries, which have so far not been taking advantage of the excellent light sources available in the European territory.
You may find more information here: http://www.calipsoplus.eu/
Translated by: Ana Sofia Freire Anselmo