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The official Scottish launch of the International Year of Light took place on the 23rd February at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This global initiative, introduced by the UN, aims to highlight the importance of light and optical technologies. Heriot-Watt are ideally placed to showcase how crucial light is to the existence of life on earth, and the ways in which it plays an important role in shaping our society through medicine, communications, technology and culture.

During the day, schools from across Scotland were enlightened by the array of exhibits; from coral fluorescence and glowing proteins, to the importance of light for sign language and sleep. Future physicists, chemists, biologists and more got the chance to see and interact with research that many had never even imagined.

The evening event marked the official launch, with the big bang symbolised by a trumpeter, and talks by Professor Malcolm Longair CBE FRS FRSE, University of Cambridge and Professor Robert Crawford FRSE, University of St Andrews. Over 300 people attended the evening event, and were impressed by the diversity of light-based research taking place across Scotland.

Six exhibits from across five of the University schools took part in the event, including Dr. Jonathan Leach, Assistant Professor, Sc hool of Engineering and Physical Sciences, who said ‘It’s fantastic to bring our research out of the lab and engage with the public. It was great to talk to so many young people and encourage the next generation of scientists’. 

The event was sponsored by the Scottish Funding Council as part of the programme for IYOL 2015. 

Heriot-Watt Exhibits

EnLightenment: living lights to astronomical biology

Showing how animals catch light, seeing their secret colours, and how they can be used to light the way in medical and astronomical research. Prof. Rory Duncan, Dr Paul Dalgarno and Dr Seb Hennige

Imaging at the Speed of Light

How do you take images so fast that you can see light travelling through air? And how do you use the latest technology to look around corners and see objects hidden from view? Our research is focused on developing new strategies for imaging which allow us to see the world in a new perspective. Dr Jonathan Leach and the IPaQS team

Light, Health, Body

Our research focuses on the associations between light exposure and sleep/wake patterns. The exhibition will demonstrate the novel technologies we use to explore how changing light can affect our lifestyles. Amanda Nioi

Getting the Light Right

An interactive exhibit, which raises awareness of the way in which varying lighting levels and qualities of light affect the ability to see details of human faces and figures; especially the ability to see the details of signed language. Dr Dorothy Hardy & Prof. Graham Turner

Making the intangible, tangible

Will todays light uncover the colour that is hiding? Dr Stephanie Ward

IYOL Launch

Amanda Nioi explaining how blue light affects sleep
Stephanie Ward from the School of Textiles shows her light-changing fibres
Prof. Graham Turner and Dorothy Hardy explain why light is so important to the deaf community