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PhD stars showed off their brain work

PhD students from all over Denmark vied to attract attention to their research at the University of Copenhagen-hosted Research Day celebration. At the Stars with Brains contest they showed off to government ministers and royal celebrities

»Communicating science is very important. If nobody understands what we discover, what is the point of researching?« asks Kim Blauemfeldt Gosmer, a PhD student from Aarhus University.

Kim has just won the first prize in the annual science communication challenge ‘Stars with Brains’ [‘Stjerner med hjerner’]. PhD students get three minutes on stage in front of a jury and audience to present their project. They were judged solely on their presentation skills: Kim had two bags of cocaine with him on stage to tell about his project in forensic chemistry.

The drugs charmed both the audience and the jury which consisted of Danish comedian Carsten Bang and science journalist from the ‘Experimentarium’ science event centre Lasse Foghsgaard. After each presentation, the jury members commented, and at the end the audience decided the winner of the challenge by sending text messages. This competition was held at the official opening ceremony of the ‘Day of Research’.

See pictures from the ‘Day of Research’ 2012 here.

Surprise violin performance

Ten PhD students took part in the challenge finals in the Ceremonial Hall of the University of Copenhagen. Their projects were about everything from architecture to strategic communication, from fashion to quantum light distribution.

Johan Raunkjær Ott from the Technical University of Denmark DTU got second place for his illustration of quantum light spreading using beer. As he demonstrated, light spreads differently through the liquid and the foam of the beer – just like with human tissue.

Another memorable presentation was from third place winner, Thomas Elmelund Rasmussen, who explained about his cancer cell research by making a fluid fluorescent in a chemical reaction done on stage. On the less scientific side, yet just as memorable, was Astrid Vang-Pedersen from Roskilde University Center, who had hidden a violin player in the audience to present her project.

C.S.I. a PR plus

In the audience: Crown Princess Mary, Minister of Education Morten Østergaard and scientists from the University of Copenhagen and university top managers. Participants were invited to a closed reception with the jury and audience after the winner was announced.

The University Post caught up with first prize winner Kim Blauemfeldt Gosmer outside the Ceremonial Hall smoking a cigarette.

Congratulations! What does this prize mean to you?
»Well, I am constantly looking for sponsors. And most importantly I am here for the challenge and good PR«, Kim smiles and admits, »but actually I am behind on my project. So after a short beer here in Copenhagen I am heading back to Aarhus to work«.

Kim reveals a PR aspect to his project: »Even though the forensic chemistry that I work on is far from [crime TV series, ed.] C.S.I. the reference to it makes my research more recognizable, catchy and thus easier to promote«.

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