If you wish to have the best scientific team to be in the front line of global science, you need to start looking for its members at an early stage. Ideally at a secondary school level. This has become clear to ELI Beamlines and HiLASE Laser Centers of the Czech Academy of Sciences which have searched for their future colleagues among secondary school students for the third year now. The Programme of the Talent Academy is unique in that it offers twelve students a three-day simulation of real scientific research. The activity involves all from formulating the initial concept, interdisciplinary collaboration, conducting the experiment and data processing to the presentation of results to the public. The process is overseen by a group of more than ten scientists. Their job is to make sure that the team of their younger colleagues have all the information and material they need to conduct their short research.
"We have invested a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the preparation of the Talent Academy. It is important that we provide the students with a real scientific research experience. The best participants of the Talent Academy are then directly engaged in our research projects at the laser centers," adds Hana Strnadová from the PR department of ELI Beamlines.
However, science is not just about the euphoria you feel when correct data pop up on the monitor and you see the experiment came out well. It's also the frustration, work late into the night, and improvised solutions to complex problems. Jakub Janoušek, a participant of the previous Talent Academy, knows full well: "When they introduced us to the scientific task at the beginning, I thought it could not be done. Definitely not within 50 hours. But then we started preparing the experiment and worked through the night. Our team's mentor, one of the scientists, helped us evaluate the data and reformulate our often quite unrealistic ideas. At the same time, he would bring us coffee and chocolate to enhance our concentration. The other scientists were also very helpful – they spent an hour or so searching all the laboratories for a single lens that we needed for our project. Even if our plan for the perfect experiment changed beyond all recognition and a lot of corrective measures were needed to close the gaps during the 50 hours, we did it. Primarily, because we were on one team with the scientists."
And that's what the Talent Academy is about. It shows students real science which is full of euphoria but also of hard work and disappointment. A scientist who falls asleep on the floor unexpectedly in the middle of the day during the Talent Academy because he is tired, is just a natural part of it. And this year again, we are looking for further 12 secondary school students who will have enough courage to experience real science with us!
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