Students get to grips with gravity at ESA/ELGRA Gravity-Related Research Summer School 2017
After the success of the first ESA/ELGRA Gravity-Related Research Summer School in June 2016, the ESA Education Office and ELGRA (European Low Gravity Research Association) decided to repeat the experience. So, in late June 2017, the second edition of this Summer School was held at ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Centre, in Belgium.
The Summer School had a clear objective: to promote gravity-related research amongst future scientists and engineers. These young minds were introduced to the benefits of performing research at different g levels, and offered an overview of current research under microgravity and hypergravity conditions in both life and physical sciences.
Participating this year were 22 Bachelor’s and Master’s students in science and engineering disciplines from 11 ESA Member States and 21 different European universities not yet involved in the space sector. Supporting them were no fewer than 18 experts from ELGRA and ESA, sharing stories of their background, day-to-day work, and gravity-related research experience in biology, human physiology and physics.
The Summer School had a strong start thanks to a welcome reception from SELGRA, the student association of ELGRA. This was an excellent opportunity for the students, coming from all across Europe and with different backgrounds, to meet each other and break the ice.
Then the work could begin in earnest! Over five packed days the students were tasked in teams of four or five to generate an idea for a future gravity-related experiment. Underpinning this was a series of stimulating lectures:
- Life Sciences: plant and cell biology in space; gravity machines; and animal models.
- Physical Sciences: solidification; blood flow; heat and mass transfer under microgravity conditions.
- Human Physiology: space adaptation; brain in microgravity and artificial gravity for astronauts.
- Technical: developing a scientific experiment for a microgravity or hypergravity platform; project management.
Amongst the hard work, students found time for three visits:
- The European space Security and Education Centre (formerly ESA Redu Centre), to learn about ESA operations activities, as well as about the Proba and Galileo programmes.
- The Euro Space Centre, a science museum and educational tourist attraction devoted to space science and astronautics.
- The Centre Spatial de Liège, an applied Research Centre owned by the University of Liège, focused on design, integration and calibration of space observation instruments.
To conclude the Summer School, students were asked to present and discuss their team projects with experts from both ESA and ELGRA, and the projects were then evaluated by the experts.
Upon completion of this process the students were presented with certificates of participation to allow the students to document to their universities.
The ESA Education team were impressed with the students, as explained by Natacha Callens: “For the second edition of the ESA/ELGRA Gravity-Related Research Summer School, students were again highly motivated and willing to learn while experts were happy to answer all their questions and share their passion for space-related research with them.”
ELGRA experts were also very happy with the result of the Summer School, as explained by Ricard González-Cinca: “The success of this second edition confirms once again that ELGRA and ESA can do great things together for the benefit of space research. The atmosphere during the summer school has been very pleasant, with interesting scientific and technical discussions and nice relaxing moments.”
The students themselves were keen to add their own words to summarise the Summer School, and here we have just few of the many positive feed-backs
“It's been easily the most inspiring week of my life. I have learned so many different things about performing experiments in altered gravity platforms and I believe this has been an important milestone in my education in Physics. I also loved the multicultural environment as I think I have made some friends for life and I have now made contacts that I am sure will be crucial in the future!”
A Portuguese student from the University of Porto, Portugal
“I could not be happier that I took part in ESA/ELGRA Summer School. The opportunity to listen and talk to people that are working in space sector and spending time with other students with different backgrounds from all over the Europe was an amazing experience. During this week I learned a lot and expanded my horizons. With a clear conscience I can recommend it to every student.’’
A Polish student from the Warsaw University of Technology, Poland
“The ESA/ELGRA Gravity-Related Research Summer School has been a fantastic experience that I couldn’t recommend more highly to anyone with an interest in research and the space sector. Hearing about cutting edge microgravity research from the experts in each field has been a wonderful opportunity that has not only increased my interest in the subject but in a career within the space sector in general. It was also great to be able to meet highly motivated students with such a range of backgrounds and interests. I am very grateful to have been given such an amazing opportunity and would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation and running of the summer school!’’
A British student from University of Surrey, United Kingdom
“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover the fascinating science behind space experiments, meet with top experts in the space sector and connect with passionate individuals from all over Europe.”
A Greek student from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece