Last Saturday, the labs and classrooms at Irchel Campus were filled with eager students of all ages – from 9 to 80 year olds. 135 children brought their parents, grandparents, godparents or family friends back to the oldies’ alma mater for the UZH Alumni & Family Day 2018.
There were ten courses to choose from, ranging from brain structure or genetics to biodiversity or magnetism. Each 90-minute workshop was led by experienced researchers who explained the concepts and guided the experiments. My daughter Evie and her friend Alice had chosen a workshop about acids and alkalis, and their eyes lit up at the sight of the flasks, test tubes, pipettes and containers of various liquids and powders laid out on the workbenches.
Overflowing test tubes
The aim of the workshop was to research the effects of acidic and alkaline substances, and to test common household substances such as sugar, salt, baking powder and vinegar to find out about their properties. There were oohs and aahs in the room as the kids found their mixtures turning pink, green or blue. Despite some over-enthusiastic adding of ingredients leading to overflowing test tubes and minor spillages, the experiments were a success. “It’s as fun as making slime!” laughed Evie and Alice.
Their bench neighbors, secondary school students Alisha and Teodora, were more seasoned scientists – it was their third time attending the UZH Alumni & Family Day. “We like it because it’s different from what we normally do at school,” they explained. They were also eager to ask the course leader about her experiences of university and why she had chosen chemistry.
Our instructor Franziska, a doctoral candidate in chemistry, said the event made an interesting change from her research and lab work, and she enjoyed spending time with the kids and having the opportunity to pass on her passion for chemistry.
Reward for hard work
Doing research is hard work, and thankfully UZH Alumni had provided a barbecue and salad buffet afterwards to feed all those hungry young scientists. The barbecue was rounded off with delicious ice cream made in-situ using liquid nitrogen – a hit with all the generations. It was a real family occasion in every sense of the word, with even UZH President Michael Hengartner’s dog Snoopy in attendance, as well as his four children. The President praised the event saying: “It’s a great event bringing together different subjects and generations. People who are now at a new phase in their lives get to revisit the university, and the kids get to see their parent’s alma mater, often for the first time. UZH really is one big family.”
The event was staged by UZH Alumni with sponsorship from their partner Bonuskarte, and the courses were put together by Science Lab, the Life Science Learning Center and the Children’s University. This year was the third edition: The next UZH Alumni & Family day will take place in two years, in alternation with Scientifica.
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