International Year of Light

Light show at Heriot watt

2015 was the International Year of Light (IYOL), a global initiative that highlighted the importance of light and optical technologies. Heriot-Watt University researchers are pioneers in many aspects of light-based research, including photonics and microscopics, and we showcased their research in a series of events throughout 2015.

Scottish launch event

The official Scottish launch of IYOL took place  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 is 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.

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.

Dr. Jonathan Leach, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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, School 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.  

EnLightenment

The EnLightenment project distributed smartphone microscope kits to schools across Scotland. Children built the microscopes and took their own images of life in miniature as part of a 'Spot-On' micro images competition that saw more than 500 images uploaded, and prizes awarded by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili at the illumiNations event (see below) at Heriot-Watt.

'EnLightenment: Build it, See it, Show it' was sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, Olympus, Leica, and the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account.

Exhibitions

Throughout IYOL, there were opportunities to take park in free workshops and attend lectures from our scientists and researchers.

Highlights included ‘EnLightenment: Molecules, Brains, Light & Art’ at the Edinburgh Science Festival, the Incredible Power of Light exhibition at the Scottish Parliament and photography workshops at a range of venues.

As part of IYOL, Professor Rory Duncan and Dr Paul Dalgarno from the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering explored the new and amazing techniques they are using at the Edinburgh Super Resolution Imaging Consortium (ESRIC).

They enlightened the audience on the untold revolution in microscopy, where the unusual alliance between marine biologists, some fluorescent undersea creatures, physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics has allowed biologists to see the breathtaking beauty inside working nerve cells.

illumiNations

We were delighted to host illumiNations – the Closing Ceremony of the UN International Year of Light in Scotland, at the Heriot-Watt University Conference Centre on 2nd December 2015.

The events brought together hundreds of schoolchildren and members of the public to learn about the amazing research conducted across Scotland in optics and light. 

The highlight of this event was a lecture by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, the BBC science communicator and broadcaster called 'A Brief History of Light: what the medieval world knew about optics'.

Prof. Al-Khalili also presented the awards for the Spot-on Micro Image competition.

Prior to the event, we showcased an illuminating outdoor light show and indoor photo and science exhibitions. The event was live-streamed across Scotland and the world, with Spanish, German and French interpreters from the School of Social Sciences. 

Key information

HW Engage