A very critical point in the life of a student is the last year of High School. The year of significant choices and preparation for University. With that in mind and as part of the outreach activities of the AdMoRe project, a talk was organised in my High School to help students understand what it means to be a researcher, academic or industrial, and what are the steps and means to getting there.
The goal was to transfer my experiences after High School graduation to help students make decisions. So even though it was originally planned to be only for students preparing for the University Entrance Exams (3rd Grade), it was considered best to include students of the 2nd Grade that have chosen the Physical Sciences specialisation. Without having a strict structure, to keep students engaged and start a conversation, the talk focused on the following three parts.
After a short introduction of the AdMoRe network and our project, as well as my educational background the first part of the talk was a short analysis of the definition and meaning of research. Looking at research from the point of view of an academic institution and an industrial/technical institution and the collaboration of the two (giving examples from the AdMoRe ITN) the general goals of research were established. The thrill of innovation and actual contribution to the world were expressed as well as the commitment and dedication research requires.
At that point, the second and more practical part of the talk started. The steps towards becoming a researcher. The biggest part of it was spent on proposing a healthy attitude to gathering experiences, realising ones interests and self, as well as organising ones time and achieving dreams through intermediate goals and milestones. At that stage the meaning of academic studies was introduced. In a similar tone as before, the trap of becoming complacent after entering University or not searching and chasing projects opportunities, both national and international was explained. I focused on the meaning of participation in teams and experiencing various fields of study to better understand the nature of both research and development.
The third and last part of the talk was a basic explanation of the work of an aerodynamicist, giving an overview of the design stages of a car and the tools used in the process. Without going into great detail, I made the connection between various 3rd Grade Mathematics and Physics subjects and the tools shown to reassure them of the importance of a strong knowledge base in the Physical Sciences.
With an audience consisting of approximately 80 students, keeping the presentation interactive proved more difficult. However, the students showed great interest and after a 45 minute talk, a longer than expected 65-minute Q&A session followed. The bottom line message conveyed to the audience was that many opportunities arise, such as Marie Sklodowska-Curie grants, that give young people the option to get into research. As long as they honestly want it, they try hard and follow the advice given to them, they have all the tools they need to succeed.