Editorial: Physics for Development and talented Young Minds in the Mediterranean

By . Published on 18 December 2017 in:
December 2017, Editorial, News, , ,

When you think of your own future, you tend to focus on one word in particular: investment (I accept that you may have another word in mind, but for the sake of the story let’s stick with this one). For many scientific organizations and professional societies, such as the EPS, investment in people is clearly of paramount importance and investment in talented young people is a shared vision for many of its members and groups.

EPS of course has a program specifically dedicated to developing leadership skills in young people, namely Young Minds. I became acquainted with them during the Year of Light when I got in touch with the Naples YM section to personally order 10 of the “Pink Floyd with equations” T-shirts, enthusiastically described as such by an airport security screener in Trieste. Actually, they show Maxwell’s equations together with a prism illustrating dispersion, but I am also happy with the screener’s description, and anyway they remain my all-time favorite T-shirt design. What I didn’t know was that there were YM sections all over Europe and indeed the world—or at least the nearby parts of it—and they were filled with naturally selected young people who were not only focused on their science but also on taking responsibility for spreading that science within their communities. It is perhaps not surprising that we in the Physics for Development Group would run into some of them outside Europe and we’re excited about that: These young people are already demonstrating the skills and sense of social responsibility that will enable them to make a positive difference.

So, with the idea that pooling investments is a useful strategy, a number of groups came together on a common idea: start a pilot network of Fab Labs in the Mediterranean region and connect with YM sections. The discussion started with Barbara Capone, Roma 3 and Sunshine4Palestine, and Ahmed Ouarab, EPS and the NGO MCDA, each representing a YM section, respectively, at the University of Bethlehem in Palestine, and Beni Mellal University in Morocco. Together with the EPS Physics for Development group and YM, two other essential groups joined the team: the SciFabLab training facility at the Abdus Salam ICTP in Trieste and ICTP’s External Activities office (OEA). The project will be initiated by bringing a pair of students from each YM group to Trieste for 2 weeks training in assembling, using, and repairing a 3D printer. The four students will then become a team of trainers that will teach the others back home after re-assembling the 3D printers, ending with the creation of 2 twinned Fab Labs that will exchange information and experience. Besides being used for local science popularisation, students will be able to take advantage of the Fab Labs to develop independent projects. Finally, the Fab Labs will be open to others in each university under the supervision of the YM teams, adding a valuable resource to their home institutions. The training at ICTP is now scheduled for late March 2018, to coincide with the trainees’ university schedules. And this is just the start—it’s scalable and we can certainly cover more territory, perhaps eventually extending all the way to the latest YM section in Yerevan—but that’s another story for later.

Joseph Niemela
Chair of the EPS Physics For Development Group

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