Ursula Keller wins “Swiss Nobel” Marcel Benoist Prize- for pioneering work in ultrafast lasers
MUST2022 Conference- a great success!
New scientific highlights- by MUST PIs Wörner, Chergui, and Richardson
FELs of Europe prize for Jeremy Rouxel- “Development or innovative use of advanced instrumentation in the field of FELs”
Ruth Signorell wins Doron prizefor pioneering contributions to the field of fundamental aerosol science
New FAST-Fellow Uwe Thumm at ETH- lectures on Topics in Femto- and Attosecond Science
International Day of Women and Girls in Science- SSPh asked female scientists about their experiences
New scientific highlight- by MUST PIs Milne, Standfuss and Schertler
EU XFEL Young Scientist Award for Camila Bacellar,beamline scientist and group leader of the Alvra endstation at SwissFEL
Prizes for Giulia Mancini and Rebeca Gomez CastilloICO/IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Optics & Ernst Haber 2021
Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to RESOLV Member Benjamin List- for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis
NCCR MUST at Scientifica 2021- Lightning, organic solar cells, and virtual molecules

Education and Communication - Strategy and highlights

While the output of our basic research – answering fundamental questions in physics, chemistry, biology, and material sciences – itself can be difficult to explain, concepts such as “ultrafast”, “laser”, “technology”, “light” are well suited for general communication efforts. They are intriguing and visually entertaining with laser swords, bending laser beams, colours, or communication with lasers. We benefited, in comparison to other NCCRs, from our wide geographic distribution and our strong interdisciplinary character.

In our communication we focused on:
  • The cutting edge research we perform to understand and control how matter functions at the electronic, nuclear, and molecular level by:
    • watching molecules and electrons at work
    • observing the fastest processes in nature
    • controlling atomic and electronic motion
  • The fact that our technologies provide the basis for many of tomorrows’ technologies
  • The excellent working conditions we offered for interdisciplinary research
Our main communication tools to grow a scientific community within Switzerland and to provide an active network for people working in the field of ultrafast science were:
  • the NCCR MUST website
  • the NCCR MUST meetings
  • the “dynalist” to announce international events and job offers
The new institute level ultrafast laser technology platforms (FastLab at University of Bern, LACUS at EPFL) connect the Swiss ultrafast research community. Similarly, the quickly evolving field of X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) has stimulated the development of new ultrafast laser techniques and yielded exciting new insights into the dynamics of solid-state matter and biological processes. Existing research groups, other disciplines unfamiliar with ultrafast techniques but also the general public benefits. We partly based our external communication on them and profited from cross-fertilization with education and gender projects as well as exhibitions and science festivals at different universities all over Switzerland. Our communication was never an ended in itself but built on our education and trainings and on our efforts to promote scientific careers.

At the start of the NCCR MUST three main challenges for attracting and educating future scientists were recognized:
  • First, for high school students the erroneous perception that science, i.e., physics, chemistry etc., is very complicated and has no relation to a practical job or task in society.
  • Second, for undergraduates the insufficient enrolment at the bachelor's level.
  • Third, for graduates and postdocs to provide them with the best chances to pursue an academic career or successful transfer to industry.
For all three stakeholder groups we developed strategies to tackle these challenges:
  • For high school students: Promoting a positive perception of science through lasers, light, and a variety of fascinating laser applications, conveying the concept of time and timescales.
  • For undergraduates: Developing courses, implement them in the curriculum, and developing laboratory experiments demonstrating basic concepts of ultrafast science.
  • For PhD students and postdocs: Providing advanced and top-quality knowledge in ultrafast science, widen their field of expertise and technological know-how by inter-MUST exchanges, facilitate international networking, transfer relevant soft skills, and promote contacts with the private sector through collaborative work.
In the 12 years of the NCCR MUST, we have exceeded our expectations and created educational highlights for all three groups:  
  • For the youngest generation and the general public an outstanding achievement is the book A Journey into Time in Powers of Ten by Anna Garry and Thomas Feurer. This book presents in an intuitive format the breadth of timescales relevant in nature and allows glimpses into our research. Towards the end of the NCCR MUST we approached a high school in Bern to create a second version of the book, but this time filled with contributions conceived and realized by over 300 high school students of the Lerbermatt Gymnasium in Bern. By designing their own version of the book, they had a unique opportunity to share with us their view of time and timescales.
  • Our 17 contributions to the Scientifica, Nacht der Forschung (Bern), La Nuit de la Science (Geneva) or the like were enthusiastically received by the public which the Scientifica 2015 dedicated, on a proposal of the NCCR MUST, to the “Year of Light” an outstanding highlight.
  • In our education competition NCCR MUST members developed several educational tools, accessible for the general public but also to train undergraduate students. The development of these tools engaged our students in outreach activities and at the same time gave them an opportunity to share their fascination for ultrafast science.
  • For PhD students and postdocs, we considered the Annual Meeting as a main educational vessel with opportunities for more than 1'000 presentations, scientific discussions, networking and tutorials given by national and international experts. With our Student Exchange Program we encouraged and strengthened students to visit other labs and conduct joint experiments, special seminar series (FAST, LACUS, MUST laser seminars) were organized at partner institutions and we invited international experts to visit participating laboratories, presenting their work, and discussing with students. The two COFUND Fellowship Programs, IFP-MUST and FP-RESOMUS, supported postdoc fellows in their interdisciplinary research.

Training status of the PhD students (data from: 31.03.2022).
Over the 12 years, 171 PhD students were trained in the network and the vast majority graduated or will graduate soon (Figure 3). Our dropout rate of under 5% is in the expected range and no clustering, e.g., with respect to PI, university, or topic was detected.

Next destination of PhD students and postdocs after leaving the NCCR MUST (data from: 31.03.2022).
196 graduates (63% of all PhD students and postdocs), continued pursuing a career in academia; with the first station often being a postdoc position. We also encouraged and supported switches to the private sector and industry (31%, 95 persons), to provide highly trained specialists; 3% (10) choose positions in the public sector.

We strongly believe that most of these measures will remain intact, because many universities have hired new and young professors in ultrafast science. In addition, the Swiss network established by the NCCR MUST will survive in the form of the Swiss Society for Photon Science which also encourages further networking and exchange with its newsletters, its up-to-date website, and its annual assembly meetings.
MUST Education Outreach has involved:
  • Competitions for PhD students and Postdocs for the best ideas for experiments to demonstrate ultrafast science to the public or schoolchildren: 2013 and 2014
  • The creation of a collection of 7 portable educational tools in ultrafast science, which can be used by our PIs
  • The publication in January 2016 of a  Power of Ten book to demonstrate ultrafast science through relative timescales.
  • Work with schools and teachers using our educational experiments eg. ETH Zurich Teacher Days and University of Bern Open Days, Nacht der Forschung

Scientifica 2015

MUST Education goals emerged from NCCR MUST Education Day 2011 8th December, Uni Geneva

NCCR MUST Office : ETHZ IQE/ULP-HPT H3 | Auguste-Piccard-Hof 1 | 8093 Zurich | E-Mail
The National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCR) are a research instrument of the Swiss National Science Foundation