December may be the darkest month of the year in Sweden, yet light was the topic of the recent symposium taking place at Chalmers University of Technology, or rather, its interaction with matter, and the wonderful things that can be accomplished with knowledge in quantum physics. The event “Light at the Nanoscale: from Molecules to Quantum Computers”, which nearly filled Chalmers’ largest lecture hall RunAn, was co-organized by the Chalmers Excellence Initiative Nano, the Chalmers Area of Advance Materials Science, and the international network Molecular Frontiers.
In addition to researchers and PhD students, more than 200 high school students were present in the auditorium. Travelling from all over Sweden to participate in the symposium, they were joined by several students from Denmark. Getting the opportunity to listen to top researchers talk about their latest discoveries was very much appreciated by the highly talented students. Given the topic of this year’s symposium, students with a special interest in physics dominated the crowd, which was welcomed by Chalmers President Stefan Bengtsson and Bengt Nordén, founder of Molecular Frontiers.
Molecular Frontiers Symposia are known for their exquisite line-up of speakers, and this event was no exception. Kicking off with an inspired lecture by Immanuel Bloch, the first day of the symposium also featured Päivi Törmä from Aalto University, Thomas Ebbesen from University of Strasbourg, and Stanford’s Jennifer Dionne. And, of course, Nobel laureate Stefan Hell, showing how he has developed methods to further improve super resolution microscopy since his Nobel Prize in 2014. Alexia Auffèves was unable to travel to the symposium due to a major strike in France, but could still give her presentation and answer questions from the audience thanks to video conference software.
Speaking of questions: they were very much in focus during the two-day conference. The high school students had plenty of time to ask questions, as special “Q&A sessions” were scattered in the program, after each two lectures. The importance of curiosity and asking questions is one of the key concepts of Molecular Frontiers, an organization whose prominent Scientific Advisory Board members award a yearly prize to ten young people (under 18) for asking the best science questions. The announcement of the winners of the 2019 Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize was made by COO Per Thorén on the second day of the symposium. Winners turned out to originate from a range of countries, including Japan, India, Bangladesh, USA – and Sweden.
The second day of the symposium also saw Chalmers Professor Per Delsing introduce quantum computing in his talk which was strongly connected to that of his collaborator Andreas Wallraff from ETH Zürich. They were followed by Naomi Halas of Rice University and Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop from University of Queensland. The symposium closed with a panel discussion led by Jennifer Dionne, on the topic “How did I end up in science?”.
Did you miss out on the symposium, or want to relive the talks? Via the YouTube channel of Molecular Frontiers, MoleCluesTV, all the lectures of the symposium have been made available – you can find a playlist at the top of this page, or go directly to the Light at the Nanoscale playlist on YouTube!