For my outreach activity I decided to go back to my origins, the “Dal Piaz” scientific lyceum in my hometown Feltre (Italy), framed by the Dolomitic landscape of the Eastern Alps. This high school specifically prepares the students for a science-oriented future in the university. Their studies include a substantial program of math and physics as well as subjects like classic Latin.
This has been my formation some years ago and therefore I knew what kind of outreach I wanted to give: not a strictly scientific seminar, but also an informative overview of a research-oriented path in the academics. Indeed last year students have to face the important issue of deciding what’s next. Generally, when it comes to science, they have a very vague idea – if not incorrect – of what they are going to study and what job possibilities will be offered after.
One of the slides showing an example of normal fault
My presentation has been a two hours seminar, an introduction to “the brittle behaviour of the Earth: faults and earthquakes”. The first part consisted of a simple overview of what and where faults are, giving a geodynamic picture of the Earth’s crust. It was followed by a basic introduction to friction and the mechanics of earthquakes. In this chapter I also analysed the recent earthquakes that shook the Apennines of Central Italy in the past years, a topic that raises much interest but is poorly treated by the media. In the last part I showed bits of my research. This path led the audience from the large- to the micro-scale processes that are studied in my field of research.
The slides were not devoid of math and equations. The aim was not to scare the students but rather to show that even Geology is a quantitative scientific subject and, as a consequence, it uses math and physics as powerful tool to characterise the Earth. I remember the confusion of a considerable part of my classmates when we started the first year of Geology: one expects a lens, colourful rocks and dinosaur fossils. This is an idea that I wanted to remove in order to make their final-year decision simpler.
On the other hand, I showed through sharing my experience with CREEP how a possible research line is structured: from my Geology studies to my thesis on structural geology to the research in rock mechanics. I wanted to explain that the university has the role to give a solid background for the future worker but it is up to him or her to strengthen the grasp on the subject, and this is mostly fuelled by passion rather than need.
The presentation has been well received by the audience and I have answered many questions. Most came from the students that wanted information about their future studies, especially curious on the subjects that research has to offer. Their interest in this non-conventional view of geology has been a pleasant surprise and a reward. I think that sharing the science is one of the best delights of our job.
Giacomo Pozzi, 27 Jan 2017