Reaching out to students in Lithuania
There are two pieces of news. First, I recently gave an interview about myself to Jonas Jurgaitis, the founder of the informal biology training school ERUDITAS. The interview can be found here (in Lithuanian).
Second, this September I took up some new responsibilities. I volunteered to be the leader of the physics section in the additional training school Nacionalinė Moksleivių Akademija (National Student Academy) in Lithuania. NMA is an extracurriculum school for gifted high-school children in Lithuania. It is composed of eight sections: biochemistry, chemistry, economics, physics, informatics, Lithuanian philology, mathematics and music. Students with particular interest in one of the subjects attend 5 and 10 day in-person winter and summer sessions. During the sessions school children take subject lessons with expert teachers, university professors or students. In addition, children have the chance to participate in a wide variety of personal development activities and evening events. During the periods between the sessions, pupils do distant-learning homework sets. One of the NMA goals is to reduce the education disparity in Lithuania and give gifted children of all backgrounds the access to the expert subject training.
I have strong personal connection with the NMA, because during 2005-2007 I was myself a student there. One of the pillars of NMA is a strong sense of community. For someone like me (coming from a non-academic background and not a major city in Lithuania) it was very important to meet other young people dedicated to their subject of interest. Many of them became my close friends and now I have a network of young professionals and academics rising in their careers. No less important was the chance to engage with university professors, superb teachers and a large number of well-known public figures. I was very inspired by these famous and important people paying attention to us, school children.
Now, more than ten years after graduating from school, I find myself in the lucky position to be able to contribute back to the education at my home country. Currently I am organising the preparation of teaching material and homework problems for the students. Participation in physics competitions was a significant part of my physics training at school, but neat physics problems have little to do with my day-to-day research as a scientist. Therefore I hope to use my experience to inform school children about what recent physics problems scientists have solved (e.g. Higgs boson, black holes, Bose-Einstein condensate) and what puzzles are still waiting for their contribution (e.g. dark matter). I want to show them that the simple physics principles they study at school are the same tools used by scientists to solve the mysteries of the Universe.