‘NIGeL’ isotope geochemistry laboratory awarded 4.85M Euros

‘NIGeL’ isotope geochemistry laboratory awarded 4.85M Euros

The Vrije University’s Department of Geology and Geochemistry, which leads the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) Programme, has been awarded €4.85 million from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to set up and equip a new laboratory for isotope geochemistry analysis. The facility, which will be called the Netherlands state-of-the-art Isotope GEochemistry Laboratory (NIGeL), is led by Prof Gareth Davies of VU, and involves partners from University of Groningen, Utrecht University, Leiden University, the Rijksmuseum, and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI).

Prof Gareth Davies, TA Coordinator for Europlanet 2024 RI, introduces the NIGeL facility.

The new infrastructure will be used by national and international research groups from Earth and planetary sciences, archaeology, forensic research, and cultural heritage. The facility will open in 2023.

New mass spectrometry methods in NIGeL will enable analysis of extremely small samples (<10 ng) and in-situ measurements, essential capabilities for research where sample size is a limiting factor but high precision is required e.g. in the analysis of meteorites and samples returned from planetary missions.

Other planetary research that will be enabled through NIGeL includes studies of the origins of habitability on Earth and other planetary bodies in the Solar System, as well as research into terrestrial element cycles resulting from plate tectonics and volcanism, and their influence on climate.

Multidisciplinary research supported by the facility includes archaeological studies of the diet and mobility of animals and humans, cultural heritage research into the development of artistic methods and preservation strategies for artworks, and forensic applications in the identification of unknown human remains.

NIGeL was ranked first of seven projects that are being funded through the ‘NWO Large Investments’ programme, which is providing 19.5 million euros to support innovative scientific infrastructure in the Netherlands.

Prof Nigel Mason, Coordinator of Europlanet 2024 RI said: “The success of NIGeL is clearly very good news. Many congratulations to Gareth and the team behind this project. The Geology and Geochemistry Isotope Facility at VU Amsterdam is an important part of Europe’s planetary science infrastructure. This investment to upgrade the instrumentation to state-of-the-art and provide more capacity will secure its world-leading status for many years to come. We look forward to being able to offer access to NIGeL, once it is complete, through the Europlanet TA programme.”

Soapbox Science Brussels, a first experience in Belgium

Soapbox Science Brussels, a first experience in Belgium

This guest post has been contributed by Lê Binh San Pham, Karolien Lefever, Arianna Piccialli, Christine Bingen, Marie Yseboodt and Lucie Lamort of the Europlanet Society Benelux Hub.

Soapbox Science logo

On October 10 2020, Soapbox Science took place in Belgium for the first time with the generous logistical and financial support of the Europlanet Benelux hub, the Royal Observatory of Belgium, and the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy. Soapbox Science is an international initiative to promote women in science and their work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. This very first Soapbox Science event in Belgium highlighted seven researchers who shared their passion for science. Due to the pandemic, the format of the event was transformed to a live online streaming.

Soapbox Science, an international initiative for promoting women scientists and the science they do

Created in 2011 in London on the initiative of two researchers, S. Sumner and N. Pettorelli, Soapbox Science was an immediate success, quickly spreading in the United Kingdom then around the whole world and allowing more than 1500 women to present their research. In 2020, Soapbox Science organised 55 events around the world.

The novel format of Soapbox Science, inspired by the famous London Speaker’s Corner, is probably at the base of this success: in a very busy place (which had to be the Place de la Bourse in this Brussels first edition), researchers present their work from a small podium (hence the name Soapbox Science, evoking “science from a soapbox”) and chat with the public. To promote direct contact and informal discussions with this improvised audience, no audiovisual support is used.

Chloma Vivian Ngonadi presents her research at the Soapbox Science 2018 event in London. Credits: Soapbox Science London.
Chloma Vivian Ngonadi presents her research at the Soapbox Science 2018 event in London. Credits: Soapbox Science London.

A first Belgian experience, that had to deal with COVID-19

The first Soapbox Science event in Belgium was organized by six scientists, members of two federal scientific institutes (the Royal Observatory of Belgium and the Royal Institute of Space Aeronomy of Belgium), involved in research and communication, and wishing to promote both the place of women in science and the general public’s access to science.

The Soapbox Science Brussels team. Credits: Soapbox Science Brussels.
The Soapbox Science Brussels team. Credits: Soapbox Science Brussels.

A call for applications was launched at the end of 2019 to select the speakers for this first event, scheduled at the end of June 2020 in the heart of Brussels. The pandemic unfortunately disrupted the organisation of Soapbox Science, in Brussels as elsewhere in the world, causing cancellations and postponements. The Brussels organisation decided to postpone the event until October 10, and finally had to opt for an online solution.

An online live event 

While reconciling sanitary requirements with the objective of providing a showcase for participants, the online format challenged the original format of informal presentations to passing people. To maintain the user-friendly aspect of Soapbox Science, we chose the format of a conversation in a living room, with a live broadcast to allow the audience to ask questions. The communication strategy was adapted to the online format, and specific support (promotional films, video sequences of presentations, etc.) was offered to the speakers to enable them to make the most of this digital showcase.

Relayed by Twitter and social media, Soapbox Science Brussels 2020 was broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook with a peak of about 40 views, and extensively reviewed thereafter. An encouraging result, given the change in format depriving the event of its target audience and favouring instead a niche audience interested in science.

The COVID-19 health measures did not dampen the enthusiasm of the organisers or of the speakers, who took advantage of this first edition to create a new network of women scientists in Belgium. The organisation of Soapbox Science Brussels is counting on this showcase to be useful for future editions in Belgium, and hopes, if COVID-19 allows it, to organise a 2021 edition in the streets of Brussels.

Petra Vanlommel (Royal Observatory of Belgium/STCE) explains the influence of the Sun on aviation and telecommunications during the Soapbox Science Brussels 2020 event. Credit: Soapbox Science Brussels.
Petra Vanlommel (Royal Observatory of Belgium/STCE) explains the influence of the Sun on aviation and telecommunications during the Soapbox Science Brussels 2020 event. Credit: Soapbox Science Brussels.


The Soapbox Science Brussels 2020 event: http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2020-brussels/

The YouTube channel of Soapbox Science Brussels: https://tinyurl.com/y5jqk6dv

Soapbox Science web site: http://soapboxscience.org (follow the links « Soapbox science events » and « meet the Teams »)

Follow the news of Soapbox Science Brussels on Twitter (@SoapboxscienceB) and Facebook (@SoapboxScienceBrussels).

Contact: soapboxsciencebrussels@oma.be

Soapbox Science: women scientists in Belgium speak about their research live on social media

Soapbox Science: women scientists in Belgium speak about their research live on social media

On Saturday October 10, from 2 p.m. to 5:10 p.m., seven women scientists in Belgium will tell you about their research during the first Soapbox Science event in Brussels, which will be exceptionally held online due to COVID-19. 

Soapbox Science is a science outreach initiative that aims to promote the visibility of women scientists and their research by bringing them on the streets to reach the public. Soapbox Science events transform public areas in discussion forums based on Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner where women scientists, on their soapboxes, talk about their research to the people passing by.

Why women scientists? Even today, women scientists constitute a minority in the research field, and their relative number dwindles as the seniority in the field increases. Recent research shows that women face a lot of obstacles from a very young age, notably due to strongly held stereotypes and biases related to the image of the scientist.

For those reasons, Soapbox Science aims at tackling stereotypes, and shows to the public that science is not an “old white man’s” business and that anyone has the opportunity to enjoy science in an interactive way.

Soapbox Science was founded in 2011 in London, by Dr Seirian Sumner, from the University of Bristol, and Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, from the Zoological Society of London. The concept went on with great international success, with 42 events in 13 countries in 2019.

Soapbox Science Brussels 2020 will be the first ever Soapbox Science event in Belgium, adding our country to the growing list. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the event will be held online via livestream on the Soapbox Science Brussels YouTube channel and Facebook page instead of taking place in the streets of Brussels. Each speaker will talk about their research and answer questions coming in live from the audience for 20 minutes, with talks in French, Dutch and English. Follow all updates and programme on Twitter @SoapboxscienceB Come hear them talk to discover their fascinating cutting-edge research!

Watch Soapbox Science Brussels 2020 live on October 10, from 2 p.m. on the Soapbox Science Brussels YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/33wJRtP and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SoapboxScienceBrussels/.

Details of the event: http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2020-brussels/

Soapbox Science Brussels is sponsored by the Royal Observatory of Belgium, the Royal Belgian Institute of Space Aeronomy and Europlanet Benelux.

Soapbox Science Brussels
Email: soapboxsciencebrussels AT oma.be
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoapboxScienceBrussels
Twitter: @SoapboxscienceB

Soapbox Science flyer
Soapbox Science flyer