Exploring professional futures with lab coats and safety glasses

“Future Day” at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Today, a total of 48 school pupils in Years 6 to 11 visited the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) to find out more about working at a cutting-edge research institute. They got an insight into the world of research through visiting six scientific and two administrative departments.

The HZI has been supporting the career orientation day, called “Future Day”, since 2002. Once a year, the HZI opens its doors to show inquisitive young people that science can be fun. By providing hands-on experiences, the aim is to reduce possible inhibitions against natural science professions and studies and eliminate any cliched ideas.

The Administrative Director, Silke Tannapfel, opened this year's careers day at the HZI with a short introduction to the centre. Then the pupils started their visits to various departments. “We were very pleased that so many students wanted to take part in today's careers day at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research. Thanks to our dedicated staff, we were able to give them many insights into the different areas of our centre,” says Silke Tannapfel.

A total of eight departments welcomed the visitors. The students were allowed to use pipettes or look through microscopes as they visited the different research groups. “We examined cells under the microscope and took photos of them,” says Lucas (12). “Everything was new to us.” Maarten (11) was also enthusiastic about his day in the laboratory of the Viral Immune Modulation research group: “I thought using the pipettes was really cool. We diluted paint with water.” New insights were also gained by Sophia (15) during her visit to the Central Facility for Microscopy: “It was something completely different.” Anneke and Frieda (11) praised the atmosphere and dedication of the staff: “Everyone was nice and explained everything really well.”

The pupils also visited the HZI computer centre and the scientific library, discovering that not everyone at a research centre works in a laboratory. Eva and Leoni (12) were fascinated by the HZI servers: “We learned about SAP and networks.” Anton (12) and Ruben (13), on the other hand, learned about how a scientific library is structured. The pupils all agreed: It was a fun day and they leave the research centre with new insights and experiences. “We do not need to worry too much about attracting the next generation of scientists,” says Silke Tannapfel.