A day as a young scientist

Physics isn’t everyone’s favourite subject. At the iLab of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, students experience the material in a different way: with experiments instead of memorising formulas.

Beat Henrich likes to use the Big Bang to explain the benefits of spectrometry to his adolescent guests. We know that everything in our universe is constantly moving apart, he says to the 17 students at the experiment station of the school laboratory iLab, only because we can measure the light of other galaxies. But because not all processes in the universe can be explained by matter that generates or reflects light, Henrich continues, scientists are currently investigating the “dark matter”, the big mystery in the history of the universe’s origins. If you make a discovery there, the head of iLab concludes, you would be candidates for the Nobel Prize.Is there a future Nobel laureate sitting here? Or a future top researcher? Michael Portmann, a physics teacher at the cantonal high school Alpenquai in Lucerne, casts a glance at the students of his two classes with whom he travelled to PSI today. Naturally, it’s too soon to tell, says Portmann, who has taught physics for 15 years and knows of a just handful of his former students who went on to study his subject later. But here it does show who is open to research.

Image: The school laboratory iLab gives young people an insight into the world of research.
Credit: Paul Scherrer Institute/Markus Fischer