"Research is curiosity" - inauguration of a new centre

On Tuesday, Maj 5, the Gothenburg Centre for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology was inaugurated. Mattias Marklund and Gunnar Nyman, the directors of the centre, opened with hopes of a centre with a fertile research environment and good conditions to foster the best fundamental researchers. Basic sciences should not be seen as opposed to applied sciences, but as a natural part in all scientific discussions.

Helena Lindholm Schulz, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Gothenburg, declared that she was happy to see that the centre was actually happening and that there is now a new platform for the role of the basic sciences as well as the independent researchers. A buzz word of today is “usable” research, and Helena cited a Noble laureate that pointed out to her that all research is useful, at some point, but you don’t know when. The policies for global problems must be founded in solid research, the urge for short-term solutions might be contraproductive in the long run. Helena wants to see the centre as an oasis for advancing fundamental research and also highlights it as an example of increased cooperation between Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg, concluding that research is curiosity.

Mats Viberg, First Vice President of Chalmers, sees the centre as an arena for interdisciplinary meetings and a window for showcasing basic sciences. He wants the centre to promote what is interesting and possible, even if cannot be put into practice today. The interaction with applied sciences and areas of advance is important. He declared that many problems that we see today need completely new ways of thinking to be able to solve, as well as powerful new tools, and who knows what is needed to solve problems in 20 years time? With an appeal that the human curiosity may rule, he handed over to the first lecturer of the evening, Richard Zare.

Richard Zare is Professor at Stanford University and chairman of COSEPUP (the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine). His talk had the title “Opportunities and threats to society”, as an answer to the question of why doingit is important to do interdisciplinary studies. Among the opportunities and threats that he described was biosensors, that get ever more clever and are placed everywhere, the connector revolution that move large quantities of information at small costs, software that is getting ever smarter as well, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and urbanization. The need for energy is large in the world, as well as the need for clean water. The possibility of solving this is through research breakthroughs and in Richard’s view basic and applied sciences feed on each other. He also told us about the successful centre at Stanford that has gathered sciences within the bio area, such as bioengineering, bioscience, biomedicine and bioethics.

Stefan W. Hell is a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, and he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014 for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy. Light microscopes have for a long time been limited to a resolution of half a wavelength of the light. For a bigger magnification, electron microscopes have had to be used instead. Still, light microscopes are the most used microscopes for a number of reasons, as for example that you can look at living cells without destroying them. The need for better resolution of light microscopes has thus been evident, but the main reason for Stefan to solve the problem was simply curiosity and we got a description of how he step by step reached the destination of that research journey.

Published: Tue 19 May 2015.