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FoodTraNet at the European Researchers’ Night

By Cathrine Terro and Harshit Sahai

29 September: Jožef Stefan Institute

The European Researcher Night, a widely recognized and cherished annual event, holds a significant place in the calendar of knowledge seekers and the general public alike. This occasion serves as a powerful testament to the indispensable role that researchers play in advancing our understanding of the world and addressing critical challenges, all while fostering a deeper connection between academia and society.

The European Researcher Night is an endeavor aimed at achieving several key objectives. Its primary purpose is to promote public engagement with the world of research, sparking curiosity and inspiring a new generation of thinkers. By opening the doors of laboratories, institutions, and academic spaces, it offers an invaluable opportunity for researchers to interact directly with the public, demystifying complex subjects and showcasing the societal relevance of reseacrher’s work.

This year ESR 6 (Cathrine Terro) , ESR 4 (Abdur Rehman Anwar) and ESR 7(Harshit Sahai) partipicated in this year’s researcher night in Slovenia and Spain.

Event at Ljubljana, Slovenia:
The ESRs from the FoodTraNet project actively engaged in the Researcher's Night event held on September 29, 2023, at the Jožef Stefan Institute. This event, under the project name "Noč ima svojo moč," which translates to ˝the night has its power or might ˝ saw the collaborative participation of 40 research institutes spanning across Slovenia.

Impressively, this "night" event drew tens of thousands of visitors from diverse backgrounds and interests, who enthusiastically partook in interactive experiments, workshops, lectures, and the opportunity to explore research institutions and science centers through open-door sessions.

Cathrine Terro (ESR 6) and Abdur Rehman Anwar (ESR 4) gave a workshop at the Jožef Stefan Institute titled: Ensuring Food Authenticity, Safety & Sustainability with the FoodTraNet team. The ESRs introduced the aims and goals of the FoodTraNet project and its future impact on food integrity, safety and its role in sustainability as a whole along with other projects.

During the workshop, a series of captivating experiments were presented, including an engaging activity led by ESR 6, Cathrine, known as the "Volatile Aroma Compounds Experiment/Game." This unique experience challenged participants to discern which artificial aromas in the vials corresponded to various food categories, including fruits, vegetables, and spices. The game proved to be a crowd-pleaser, particularly among young attendees, who eagerly queued up to take part.

Furthermore, ESR 4 Abdur shed light on the significance of natural fluorescence in the context of food and its applications in the realm of fraud detection. This discussion highlighted the critical role that this natural flourescence plays in safeguarding the authenticity and quality of food products, offering valuable insights into the vital field of fraud prevention.

Event at Almeria, Spain
In addition, the FoodTraNet team from Spain gave a presentation of their work to an enthusiastic audience during the European Researchers' Night event. Numerous research organizations from both academic and industrial fields actively participated in the event, which was organized under the name " La Noche Europea de l@s Investigadoras" in Almeria, a city in the southern province of Andalucia.

Under the banner of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the works of our researchers Harshit Sahai (ESR 7) and Maria Antonietta Carrera (ESR 3) were on display. During this event, one of our principal investigators, Prof. Dr. Maria Dolores Hernando, also participated in the dissemination of our study and passionately explained to the audience the significance of our work and research. Activities and entertaining mini-demonstrations were held throughout the exercise to raise public awareness of the problems with microplastics and their existence in our surroundings, as well as the problems with toxins in dietary bee pollen. The goal was to raise public awareness of the problems pertaining to human health and the environment by means of dietary exposure to these contaminants

Viewers were observed engaging with displays of various microplastic samples in various media including water and beach sand, with curiosity and delight, and taking pleasure in examining these little particles under a microscope. They had the opportunity to view the several dietary pollen varieties on exhibit and learned about the value of research in ensuring the safety of our food.

Attendees at the event included members of the public, industrial representatives, government delegations, and sizable groups of youthful brains who eagerly engaged in the seminars that the researchers organized. Public support for the cause was strong, particularly from young children who actively inquired about the works, our lives as researchers, and what they may do to pursue research in the future.

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