The Adventure starts
An impressive deep space expedition comic. Elegantly dressed men whispering. A film crew in the middle of ‘action’. Where did I land? Am I right here?
Jens comes to greet me kindly. Okay, I am right here. The film shooting about the Solvation Science exhibition ‘Völlig losgelöst’ and about its opening ceremony just started.
We write the year 2016, 8th of January, and I make my first round very quickly, just taking a glance at every part. Too many words to read. Where should I start? There is still enough time until the opening, so I just wander around in the hall and stop at some places, read randomly some of the writings. After a while, I finally grasp the coherent structure of the entire exhibition.
Okay, I start again from the very first word in the comic at the entrance, now reading everything in detail.
The main aim of the creators of the ‘Völlig losgelöst’ exhibition in the Blue Square in the city centre is to make the community of Bochum familiar with science’s underlying concepts and scientists’ personal approach of working “under the roof of science”: Science is done by human beings including all types of peculiarity. “RESOLV will encourage the presentation of the human face of science to the public.” – Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith, the RESOLV Speaker, will say later.
The exhibition introduces science as a space-mission with scientists being the astrounauts. Martina Havenith: “As a child, I always wanted to be an extra-terrestrical astronaut – and now I am one!” Seperate booths invite me to explore the work of six research groups of RESOLV in a structured fashion. There is a cartoon of each person in full height, dressed in an astronaut coat, on which they have their own identity logo – the mission patches; the attribute of their research area. A different colour is assigned to each folding-screen (These are actually real flight cases!) and a light under them gives me the impression, as if they were floating in space. The mysterious pictures on them anticipate the mysticism of scientific research. The entire design of the exhibition is compellingly imaginative and arresting! The designers and constructors did an outstanding performance!
The presentation of the six professors’ research in RESOLV starts with a fact sheet, that gives hidden insights into their academic work, such as how close they are to a breakthrough or how big the workload is on weekends or how much the annual consumption of coffee is in their working group. The central question of their research is also summed up in one sentence. “How does life function in molecular detail?”, asks Prof. Dr. Lars Schäfer, for instance. Afterwards, I can read the scientists` own quotes about their approaches and interests. Generally, what drives scientists, is curiousity to understand the physical world (“I’m a scientist because I really want to understand why things are the way they are.”, Prof. Dr. Martin Muhler), and also to achieve exceptional goals (“I enjoy running experiments others have deemed impossible.”, Prof. Dr. Frank Schulz).
Now, time has come. I leave the exhibition hall and climb up two floors to a big conference room in the Blue Square. A very refreshing glass of champagne is given to me by the door. Many illustrious guests already arrived, such as professors, directors of museums, and members of the management of the Ruhr-University, as the Rector Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich, the Chancellor Dr. Christina Reinhardt, the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Professional Development Prof. Dr. Kornelia Freitag. Even the Mayor of the city of Bochum, Thomas Eiskirch, is here! The light is dimmed a bit and Jens tinkles with a glass as a signal that the opening is about to start – the glass didn’t brake, fortunately. So, everyone takes a seat; in the first few rows of chairs the professors of RESOLV, the organizers of the exhibition and the speakers occupy their pre-assigned seats. The room gets quiet.
The Rector of RUB, Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich, welcomes everybody in a short greeting in which he emphasizes the meaning of the Cluster of Excellence for the University: “The RUB is immensely proud of the success of RESOLV”. Thomas Eiskirch, Mayor of Bochum, enlightens the importance of RESOLV and the exhibition for the city: “Today we can say that it arrives more and more in the city, and the city is very pleased about that.” Prof. Martina Havenith gives an exciting presentation, where she mainly outlines the near-past and near-future activities in RESOLV, and also talks about the concept and aim of the ‘Völlig losgelöst’ exhibition. For a moment I get lost: Did I hear well? RESOLV is organizing a mission trip to space for its scientists?!
The opening ceremony ends with Prof. Dr. Katrin Sommer’s speech including thankful words to all the creators of the exhibition, and then we finally go down to the exhibition. Three children, who in the meanwhile did some of the hands-on experiments offered, cut a ribbon and thereby constitute the actual opening act – then we are free to join the ‘expedition’.
I continue my journey, enjoying the delicious flying buffet and reading the posts to find out more about the research topics introduced. Each case gives a clear description of the general research question, the methods of investigation and the results achieved so far. Great pictures, videos and exhibits illustrate the writings. I discover, for example, the U-Tube Reactor provided by Prof. Dr. Muhler, and the lead salt diode laser provided by Prof. Havenith.
Creating new antibiotics, research on corrosion, anti-freeze proteins, simulation of biomolecules, catalysis, antifouling coating for ships etc. How does water come into the picture in these investigations? My conclusion: Water is indeed the engine of physical life. With its unique properties and capabilities it is the most fascinating substance on earth.
Visit the exhibition together with your colleagues and friends and get a deeper impression – it`s worth!
Photographs by: © RUB, Marquard, Nina Winter
About the Authors
Debora Beeri is one of the new iMOS-students in this Wintersemester 2015/16 at Ruhr-Universität Bochum. She obtained her Chemistry BSc degree in Hungary, after which she went to London for a six-months internship in a Theoretical Chemistry lab, where she gained research experience.
Jens Ränsch holds a Diploma in Physics and a Ph.D. in Plasma Physics. He worked for a funding agency for five years, where he gained experience in the development of research fields, evaluation of research proposals, managing of industrial research projects as well as in different public outreach projects. In 2014 he joined the Cluster of Excellence RESOLV as a kind of “all-round” Science Manager.
His motto of life is: “I know that I know nothing.” (Plato’s Apology, attributed to Sokrates.) He takes this motto as a starting point for his everyday trial to be a really open-minded person – in private as well as in work life.