"If my health doesn't fail me and I don't run out of coffee, I promise many more beautiful events," smiles Dr. Mažena Mackoit-Sinkevičienė, physicist and researcher at Department of Optoelectronics of the Center for Physical Sciences and Technology (FTMC).
On 28 March, the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences awarded the authors of the best science popularisation projects implemented in 2022. Mackoit-Sinkevičienė and her husband Jurgis Sinkevičius were among the winners in the category "Audiovisual Projects" and were awarded 3rd place. Together with like-minded people, they organised a rich series of events from March to the end of August for the World Quantum Day in Lithuania.
"I would like to express my extreme gratitude to the Academicians for this recognition of this initiative. It is extremely important for Jurgis and me, as most of our evenings and weekends are dedicated to physics, which is a very important part of our lives," says the winner.
(Dr. Mažena Mackoit-Sinkevičienė and Jurgis Sinkevičius. Photo from personal archive)
A huge science festival instead of just one day
The scientist explains how the couple came up with the idea:
"Jurgis and I already have a lot of experience. Back in 2020, we organised the first European Quantum Week educational session in Lithuania, which was attended by more than 1,000 schoolchildren. This week was initiated in cooperation with the Quantum Flagship, the European Commission and Berlin Science Week. 26 EU countries took part, and thanks to us, Lithuania was the only Baltic representative.
A year later, I was invited to join the larger World Quantum Day initiative and become an ambassador for the event in Lithuania. Then Dr. Audrius Alkauskas, Head of Electronic Structure Theory Laboratory at FTMC, introduced me to the pioneers of this initiative, i.e. quantum physicists and quantum technologists from around the world.
In 2021, the date for World Quantum Day was chosen as 14 April (h=4.14*10-15 eV/Hz), based on the value of Planck's constant. Prof. Alain Aspect gave an open lecture on this occasion (he is also the patron of this day!). We did not know then that he would be the Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 2022. So, in 2022, 65 countries around the world, including Lithuania, celebrated the Day with various events.
We planned a series of special events in Lithuania to mark the celebration: we organised educational lectures, quizzes, a lecture in the theatre with experiments, visits to different cities in Lithuania, and even a science and art exhibition "Quantum Physics in Art", which was held in our scientific fortress - Center for Physical Sciences and Technology - and Prof. Gintaras Valušis hosted the opening ceremony. In other countries, World Quantum Day was celebrated for just one day, but in Lithuania, due to the great public interest, the event turned into a full quantum science festival, which took place over several months in different forms of expression."
(Painting by Dr. Irina Černiukė, awarded 1st prize in the competition "Quantum Physics in Art". Photo: Dr. M. Mackoit-Sinkevičienė)
Quantum physics in unexpected places
According to Mažena, during the project she and her husband were able to visit schoolchildren from all over the country, and the "Quantum Physics in Art" competition attracted more than 200 works of art from young people and adults from all over Lithuania, as well as Lithuanian pupils from Spain and children from a school for special needs. Science popularisers Mažena and Jurgis hosted quizzes and lectures via Twitch and Youtube.
Another big event took place in the Theatre Hall of Vilnius University, where the audience heard an interactive lecture ranging from the Big Bang Theory to the beginnings of quantum physics. The second part of the event featured a theatrical science lesson-performance by the Vilnius University Drama Theatre, where literature and art were connected with science - physics, chemistry, mathematics and philosophy. During the performance "Alice in Wonderland of Science", the audience not only tried to solve the mysteries of science, but also discussed the scenes and their message, and participated in experiments.
"We have broadened the perception of learning physics beyond the boundaries of individual disciplines - i.e. physics and art, physics and theatre. These forms of expression allowed us to increase the girls' participation in the event," says the researcher. - I remember getting up at 5 a.m. and driving to Jonava city just for a one-hour meeting with students. But their gratitude was worth it. The students met us with special painted posters and flowers and prepared their own little lectures. Just imagine, fourth-graders doing a presentation on quantum physics!"
(Event dedicated to Quantum Physics Day at the VU Theatre Hall. Photo: Dr. M. Mackoit-Sinkevičienė)
Lithuania is already known
The World Quantum Day events in Lithuania have attracted wider international interest. They were presented at one of the largest gatherings of physicists in Europe, The European Physical Society Forum. The event took place in Paris, at the University of Paris, and Dr. Domas Jokubauskis, a colleague of Mažena's from the FTMC Department of Optoelectronics, was delegated to attend.
The Lithuanian initiative attracted a lot of interest from the President of the European Physical Society, Luc Bergé: it was described in the Society's Newsletter, which was then forwarded to all European Physical Societies and Universities.
"We have integrated Lithuania into this international World Quantum Day initiative involving scientists from organisations such as CERN, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Oxford, etc., and strengthened our position in this community. I was promoted and elected to the WQD Action Committee. We aim to make this event a world-famous and annual celebration," says dr. Mackoit-Sinkevičienė.
Written by Simonas Bendžius