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Innovating Instrumentation at EIROforum

From 13 to 17 May 2024, the European science organisations ESO and EUROfusion welcomed 37 young researchers and 25 lecturers to the 8th EIROforum School on Instrumentation at their facilities in Garching, Germany. The event, organised biannually by EIROforum members, aims to foster the next generation of scientific innovators.

Accurate and precise instrumentation is key in modern science. The EIROforum School on Instrumentation aims to teach young engineers and researchers the basic principles of scientific instrumentation. “The school consists of short lectures from top EIROforum scientists covering both theory and practical examples”, explains co-host João Figueiredo (EUROfusion). The eighth edition of the school took place from 13 to 17 May 2024, at the headquarters of ESO neighbouring EUROfusion in Garching, Germany.

Rapid prototyping workshop. Credit: ESO
Rapid prototyping workshop. Credit: ESO

New concepts

Second-year PhD student Evgeniia Ponomareva at Aalto University in Finland learned about the instrumentation school through the EUROfusion newsletter: “I decided to join because I wanted a good introduction to instrumentation, since it’s such a crucial topic in Big Science”, she shares. As a student of radiation damage in materials, Ponomareva “learned almost entirely new concepts. I look forward to using those to tackle potential challenges in my research!”

The week-long programme included talks on diverse topics, from environmental conditions, optics, and system integration to managing high data volumes. Participants also visited the ASDEX Upgrade fusion machine at the Institute for Plasma Physics and took part in hands-on sessions. One of the highlights of the event: a full project day dedicated to the use of Rapid Prototyping, as a tool to quickly evaluate and communicate designs between experts.

Workshop on creativity in science. Credit: ESO
Workshop on creativity in science. Credit: ESO

Networking opportunity

In addition to being instructive, Ponomareva also found the School on Instrumentation to be an excellent networking opportunity. “From the very first day, I met people with diverse career and personal backgrounds.”

The participants included mechanical engineers, astrophysicists, representatives from industry and researchers working directly with accelerators and fusion experiments. Ponomareva noted: “Generally, the event was much more conducive to easy communication than big conferences, which can be a little intimidating. One area for improvement, though, is enhancing gender diversity among both the lecturers and participants!”

Group photo of the 8th EIROforum School on Instrumentation at ESO / EUROfusion in Garching. Credit: ESO
Group photo of the 8th EIROforum School on Instrumentation at ESO / EUROfusion in Garching. Credit: ESO


Rounding out the 8th School on Instrumentation was a discussion with Leiden University’s Lian Wang, on the topic of creativity and novelty in driving scientific breakthroughs and societal progress. Wang also discussed how to embed opportunities for such creativity in scientific collaborations, including ways to structure the student-mentor relationship, teams, and larger research networks.

Evgeniia Ponomareva is very satisfied looking back on the school: “I hoped to find new ideas for my own work, future career perspectives, and potential collaborations and that all panned out. Visiting ASDEX Upgrade was particularly exciting—it was my first time at a fusion reactor facility, and I am very grateful for the experience!”

EUROfusion co-organised the 8th EIROforum School on Instrumentation together with ESO, the European Southern Observatory, as members of EIROforum – the European Intergovernmental Research Organisation forum. This collaboration of Europe’s eight largest intergovernmental scientific research organisations is dedicated to sharing infrastructures and laboratories to support European science. EIROforum consists of CERN, EMBL, EUROfusion, ESA, ESO, ESRF, European XFEL and ILL.

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