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  • Writer's pictureMichael Magee

Cheers to Science!

When I hear a well-constructed chord progression, a wave of goosebumps and a chill run through me. Music alters my biochemistry, triggering the release of the hormone dopamine into my bloodstream. This effects the way my mind and body behave. Which is amazing, as music is basically symmetrical vibrations of air molecules hitting my ear drum. When I know a band that I like are coming to town, I get the same effect. I'm not alone in this feeling. People fill stadiums, concert halls and festivals all over the world in search of this dopamine fix. I admire musicians for their ability to bring people together. Their talent can change how we feel and therefor how we see the world. Think to the times a song has helped you navigate the loss of a loved one, helped you celebrate a success or transported you through time. For me, the dopamine hit is strongest when I hear something for the first time.

I get the same release of dopamine when I hear of people pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery. I got the chills about 15 minutes ago, just before the idea came to write this blog post. I stumbled across a Velux foundation webpage about the work of a scientist I hadn't heard of before. The article described Professor Sergey I. Bozhevolnyi as the “founding father of nanooptics,” and one of “world’s most cited researchers.” When thinking of a founder in a branch of research my mind pictures black and white images of suited scientists from 100 years ago, but Sergey works just down the road, where I studied, at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU).

I stumbled upon the article when Googling members of the Danish Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). The very idea of this institute gets my neurotransmitters firing! To understand the talent at this institute, we need to look at some numbers. In science, there is a tool to measure the impact of a scientists published articles. It’s called the h-index. A h-index of 60 is considered extraordinary. At DIAS, half of all Chairs have h-index higher than 60, and four Chairs have a h-index over 100. This means the researchers at DIAS are exceptional in their craft. If DIAS was a concert, we’re talking Live Aid, with Freddy Mercury, David Bowie, Madonna and maybe even an Elton John too! While three of the Chairs are in the top 1% of the most cited scientists in the world, DIAS is also home to early career scientists, inviting PhD’s and post-docs to join the elite group.

A Science and Beers talk 2019.
A Science and Beers talk 2019.

Their expertise ranges from the origins of life to quantum mathematics, medieval literature, metabolism and much more. The idea is that these researchers can meet each other, know each other’s work and help each other with their different point of view. Biologists meeting business researchers and engineers meeting anthropologists. Diversity breeds innovation and I cannot wait to see what ideas this melting pot of Denmark’s top scientists will come up with. The thought that this concert of clever people is being played down the road, and that we might tap into it is a delight.

Getting people to talk science to each other is one of the ideas behind Science and Beers. I’d like to see more science talk at the pub. Science isn’t only for nerds like me. The more we engage in scientific debate the more connected we are to evidence-based theory, and the better equipped we are to navigate a world where misinformation is rampant.

Just like in music, I feel science should be celebrated and be a vehicle for connecting people. The fact that we have some of the country’s most high-impacting researchers based in Odense is call for celebration. We’ve already enjoyed talks from DIAS members; Ronnie Glud, Susanne Mandrup, Carolin Loscher and Don Canfield, and I will invite more members to take part in a talk or podcast episode in the coming weeks.

Professor Susanne Mandrup at Science and Beers
Professor Susanne Mandrup at Science and Beers

Musicians and scientists push the boundaries of what we know, to consider this and see them master their craft gives me goosebumps. And I can’t wait for concerts and live lectures again!

Cheers to Science!

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