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Girls Day and Zukunftstag 2024: A day in a research lab

Girls Day and Zukunftstag 2024: A day in a research lab

© Kristina Rottig/TU Braunschweig
Experiments with liquid nitrogen at LENA
© QuantumFrontiers
Girls' Day pupils at Leibniz University

The Zukunftstag or "Girls' Day, Boys' Day" is a nationwide day of action for career orientation. In particular, it aims to broaden the traditional, gender-specific spectrum of possible professions for girls and boys. The Cluster of Excellence QuantumFrontiers has been involved in this day from the very beginning as part of its work with young talents in order to get pupils interested in the natural sciences and physics in particular. This year, a total of almost 50 pupils at Leibniz Universität Hannover and TU Braunschweig gained a first-hand insight into the world of research.

Quantum cryptography and zero gravity at Leibniz University

The team of the QuantumFrontiers MasterClasses hosted a total of 28 schoolgirls aged 14 and over. Under the motto "A day as a physicist", they worked in three groups on the topics of quantum cryptography, particle physics and interferometry. Each group learnt about the day-to-day work of a female physicist at a university, visited a real research laboratory and immersed themselves in the world of quantum physics with exciting experiments. At the end, they had the opportunity to talk to female researchers and discuss their career paths.

Two other groups of students visited the Hannover Institute of Technology (HITec). This is where the Einstein Elevator is located, a large-scale research device that allows experiments to be carried out under space conditions. The 13 pupils, aged 10-14, built small Mars rovers and satellites from bricks and placed them in the Einstein Elevator to watch the subsequent drop tower experiment live on large screens in the control room.

The world's most accurate microscopes and liquid nitrogen at LENA

At the LENA research centre at TU Braunschweig, five girls and six boys were given an insight into the nano and quantum world during Zukunftstag. Before they went into the laboratories, however, they were first given a short safety briefing - just like scientists. In the laboratory, the schoolchildren from classes 5 to 7 discovered various types of microscopy - from pocket-sized lensless LED microscopes to the most accurate microscopes in the world. The pupils could even examine their own hair at an unimaginable size using one of these super microscopes, which is otherwise used by researchers from the Cluster of Excellence QuantumFrontiers. To illustrate what is behind technical terms such as "atomic force microscope", the researchers at TU Braunschweig specially built a functional Lego model. Just as the Lego tip scans a surface, a tip in the real atomic force microscope scans a surface sample - only in this case with nanometre precision.

Equipped with lab coats and safety goggles, the pupils also investigated the effects of the cryogenic temperatures of liquid nitrogen. Nitrogen normally cools down sensitive experiments at LENA, but it can also be used to experiment with everyday objects. On Zukunftstag, the pupils were fascinated by what liquid nitrogen does to fruit and balloons, for example. They were amazed when a balloon, which had been cooled in a nitrogen bath until only its shrivelled plastic shell remained, re-inflated to its original shape and size as soon as it was removed from the nitrogen.