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Faculty of Science opens academic year with responsibility call and nanoparticles

On Tuesday 4 September, in a full lecture hall C1, Dean Geert de Snoo opened the Academic Year for the Faculty of Science. A year in which the ethics and responsibility of scientists will be invoked.

A sustainable year

After a warm welcome to all new students and employees, De Snoo takes the attendees to Oslo: earlier in the day, astronomer Ewine van Dishoeck received the famous Kavli Prize from Norwegian king Harald V. De Snoo then looks back at last year's theme, sustainability. In the past year, a sustainability report from the University has been published, the Gorlaeus Lecture Hall was equipped with 1242 solar panels, and the production of clean energy from seawater is one step closer thanks to the group of Marc Koper.

Looking forward

The Dean continues with an appeal to those present to come up with proposals for the new Sector Plans – a financing instrument of NWO. He also points out that the University is rethinking the profiling areas and that the Faculty is going to focus on Artificial Intelligence. Last but not least, he appeals to the ethics of scientists. ‘Because science serves society', says De Snoo. It is therefore important that scientists think about the consequences of new insights and possibilities, he arguments.     

Martina Vijver

Martina Vijver also takes her responsibility as a scientist. In her public lecture she warns against the often unknown dangers of nanoparticles: extremely small particles that are used in products such as toothpaste, solar panels and soon even in medicines. As a professor of Ecotoxicology, her task is to investigate the effects of these nanoparticles on the environment. ‘Nanoparticles behave differently than molecules', says Vijver. They often do not dissolve in liquids and are differently absorbed by organisms than molecules.

Huge impact

Because nanoparticles behave differently from what we are used to, it is necessary to do more research into the safety of these particles, Vijver states. That is why her group investigates how nanoparticles are absorbed in organisms such as the water flea and zebrafish larvae. Ultimately, she hopes that this will enable her to predict the influence of nanoparticles on ecosystems. Finally, Vijver emphasises once more the importance of safety studies. ‘Especially in the research & development stage, a little research can already have a huge impact.’

Wavelength Festival

After the lecture of Vijver, Daniel Broncano with his clarinet gives a preview of the Wavelength Festival, which will take place for the second time at the Leiden Bio Science Park on 5 and 6 October. Broncano is the founder of the classical music and science festival, sponsored by Leiden University. With his festival the clarinetist wants to build a bridge between classical music and science. 

Crowdfunding, Family Day, and Science Run running race

Finally, De Snoo closes the opening by bringing a number of exciting upcoming Science events to the attention of the public. On 6 October, friends, family, and children are welcome at the first Leiden Science Family Day, to take a look behind the scenes. In addition, De Snoo asks for support for the crowdfunding action of the iGEM student team, who want to combat antibiotic resistance. Last but not least he mentions the Leiden Science Run on 29 September, where teams are running for the Foundation for Refugee Students UAF. For the first time this year, these events present themselves during the drinks in the central hall.

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