For my LiA I worked in the University of Parma, Italy.
During my LiA experience I performed research on a topic in quantum computing which I then used as a foundation for several science outreach activities. I performed a workshop with a group of secondary school students in Parma where I introduced basic quantum physics and the very topical field of quantum technology.
Over the course of nearly two and a half hours I successfully performed a presentation on the workshop content and answered many questions which the students had along with just having a general physics discussion with them. The students were very enthusiastic about the information and asked plenty of questions which was great and made my job easier. I have no doubt that the students now have a clearer understanding of physics research and the path to getting there.
I learnt about the ways in which students will try to learn about a subject they’re passionate about and how they need to go beyond normal schoolwork to do this. Along with this I also learned how much respect enthusiastic students will give to someone in a position to teach them a subject they enjoy. This was highlighted when one of the students continuously called me “professor”, which unfortunately is incorrect.
I learnt that there are approaches we can take to make complex ideas in various fields(in my case physics) clearer and accessible to students who are confused by them or put off pursuing the subject because of them.
Working in an unfamiliar environment in an unfamiliar country was something I had never experienced before. A small, but important aspect of settling into this environment came on my first day of work. Before we properly discussed any plans, I was introduced to all of the members of the research group, even people who I wouldn’t be working with. This gave me a feeling for the dynamic of the university and the research team, along with showing me that even though leadership involves a lot of continuous development, being able to make the right start where possible is crucial. This encouraged me to fully embrace the experience and trust both myself, and the team I was working with to achieve the goals of the LiA. I found that approaching tasks with enthusiasm and a self-awareness to be able to offer the right solutions was key in being productive in the early stages of my LiA. With this approach there was automatically a trust in place between me and the university that our collective goals would be achieved and I could be trusted to represent the university both in a science outreach capacity and a research capacity.
Having completed my LiA experience now I’m confident that there will continue to be a positive impact on the goals I set out to achieve. The students enjoyed the workshop a lot and I’m sure they will continue to develop their interest and curiosity in the subject from their experience of the workshop and also with a resource package I put together and sent to them. This package has resources for the students to both further their enjoyment of physics and also see what it’s like to be a physics student. The students are also welcome back to the University of Parma for other science outreach activities or if they have any questions to ask the physics department.
Alongside the main outreach work in Parma, I also had input into TCD Walton Club’s Summer camps using the work I did in Parma. I constructed an experiment focusing on magnetising materials and recorded a video outlining some of the research work I did along with an insight into what it’s like to have a career in physics. Combining the video and the experiment, I constructed a bridge between the type of knowledge the students can grasp currently and higher level research using the same physical principles giving the students an idea of how they can progress from their understanding to this higher level. It also highlighted the role international collaboration has when working in physics which is something not clearly shown to many students. The experiment and video are also something which can be used for any suitable situation in the future to keep progressing these goals.
On the research side I have also been asked to continue collaborating with the research team here to get to the stage of publishing the work I have done. This is another positive benefit from my LiA since any progress in quantum simulation can eventually lead to progress in materials development and simulation of medical processes.
Overall, I’m confident there will continue to be a positive impact in several ways from the work I have done for my LiA and the goals I set for this experience have clearly been achieved.