Engaging the Next Generation of Scientists

ICTP collaboration with United World College gives students hands-on research experience
Engaging the Next Generation of Scientists
From left to right: ICTP postdoc Anas Rahman, with UWC students Leonardo Mangiola, Andreas Benjamin Emanuel Henriksson, and Nikolina Gvozdenović.
Sara Anzuinelli

Last May, a group of students from United World College (UWC) Adriatic, a diverse and internationally-focused pre-university boarding school in Duino, Italy, embarked on a two-week internship at ICTP, gaining insights and hands-on experience in scientific research and outreach. This initiative, a part of the curricular internship agreement between UWC Adriatic and ICTP, aimed to immerse students in the vibrant world of scientific inquiry, foster their academic growth, and inspire their future careers.

Exploring scientific frontiers

Under the guidance of ICTP postdoc Anas Rahman from the Centre’s Quantitative Life Sciences section, students Nikolina Gvozdenović (Montenegro), Leonardo Mangiola (Italy), and Andreas Benjamin Emanuel Henriksson (Sweden) delved into the world of orthogonal polynomials and their applications in physics. This project exposed them to advanced mathematical concepts and the intricacies of academic research.

Reflecting on her experience, Nikolina described the internship as “challenging yet incredibly rewarding,” observing, “The biggest challenge was just getting used to the amount of work a person can do in a single day. The strongest point is definitely the satisfaction you get after figuring something out or managing to do a proof by yourself.” Andreas highlighted the essence of being a researcher, noting “One of the biggest challenges in research is finding unanswered questions which can be answered given our current knowledge.”

On the other hand, the student Lhana Cruz from the Philippines worked with Marco Zennaro from ICTP’s Science, Technology and Innovation section on a project focused on environmental monitoring using mobile apps. This project introduced Lhana to citizen science and education technology. She worked on designing an app that empowers citizens to collect data for scientific research, thereby contributing to environmental conservation efforts.

Lhana found the internship transformative, emphasizing the value of mentorship and the collaborative environment at ICTP. She shared, “The most valuable thing I have learned with ICTP is that, with the right resources and guidance, I have the ability to participate in solving pressing world problems through science and technology.”

Beyond their research, the students collaborated on an educational outreach initiative under the supervision of ICTP consultant Sara Anzuinelli. They crafted an activity focused on statistical significance, as they wanted to emphasize the practical relevance of statistical methods in daily life. 

The internship at ICTP was more than just an academic exercise; it was an eye-opening experience that broadened the students’ perspectives on science and research. Andreas captured its impact, stating, “This experience has completely changed my view on the ability of work in academia to create a social impact.” Leonardo’s reflection further underscored this transformative journey: “This internship taught me the value of hard work and the stimulating academic environment. It showed me the practical applications of mathematics beyond school, fostering a deeper appreciation for its potential to solve real-world problems. This experience taught me to think outside of the box and to never stop at what the school requires me to know, but always strive to go beyond, deepening my knowledge through personal research.”

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