Today more than 300 researchers are meeting at CosmoCaixa to debate the latest scientific advances in cutting-edge fields at the yearly conference of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST).
The gathering, promoted by the “la Caixa” Banking Foundation – which currently holds the vice-presidency of the BIST Board of Trustees – kicked off with a keynote speech by US scientist Barry C. Barish, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, entitled ‘Gravitational Waves: From Einstein to a New Science’.
Prof. Barish is one of the promoters of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), which sets out to confirm the existence of the gravitational waves in Einstein’s theory of relativity from 1915. One hundred years later, in September 2015, LIGO made the first direct observation of gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are ripples in the space-time continuum from catastrophic events in the distant universe (such as the formation of black holes or exploding stars), so detecting them opens up an unprecedented field for studying the cosmos.
The BIST Conference is a meeting place that promotes interaction among and with researchers at the BIST centres – including IBEC – and as a platform for the projection of the most cutting-edge developments in multidisciplinary research. For the 2018 conference, among the fields chosen for debate are the latest technology in biosensors using biological receptors or nanomaterials, which features IBEC’s Javier Ramón as a panellist, and tissue modelling and engineering, which is chaired by Nuria Montserrat (pictured).
In another session, the projects that are part of the Ignite programme, through which BIST promotes the most disruptive interdisciplinary research, are the focus. Pau Gorostiza’s Q-SPET project, which applies quantum physics to study sunlight harvesting and energy transport in specialised proteins, and Elena Martinez’s ENGUT, which aims to come up with a new cell culture method to produce intestine epithelial tissue in vitro, are both being presented.
A BIST focal point is promoting female leadership in research, and to this end, the closing speech is entrusted to a leader in biomolecular physics and one of the most brilliant researchers of the day: Prof. Marileen Dogterom, chair of the Department of Nanoscience (Kavli Institute) at Delft University of Technology and a pioneer in studying cytoskeletons, the microtubes that give each cell its specific shape. Dogterom is also a professor of Molecular Physics at Leiden University and, among other recognitions, received the 2017 Suffrage Science Award from the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom “for her excellent scientific results and ability to inspire others.”