Dear colleagues and interested parties,

The second year of COVID-19’s reign over our world is nearing its end. During that time, we have become accustomed to many things and even learned to embrace the silver linings. Working from home can be more relaxed and productive, and some meetings are more efficient when held over Zoom. Thanks to the vaccine, we had also been able to reopen a great many doors. We could gather again for meetings, greet one another face-to-face in the halls and hold in-person seminars for students in lecture halls.

We were even able to hold SNI network events in the past few months. What a pleasure it was to see so many new and familiar faces at the Annual Event in Lenzerheide and the Nano Tech Apéro in Egerkingen, among others. Our Outreach and Study Coordination teams were finally able to visit schools and trade fairs to share information on the nanosciences and generate interest in the nanosciences program among prospective students. I was particularly delighted that we were able to hold a party for our master’s graduates. It is always lovely to see our young graduates again in this festive setting, where we have the opportunity to discuss and reflect on the diverse and extraordinary theses they have submitted. Most have now begun their professional careers, are mid-way through a doctorate or have put their knowledge to the test at a diverse array of companies.

Of course, even amid joyful events, there are sometimes moments of sorrow. This past month, Peter Reimann, a long-time employee of the Department of Physics and member of the SNI, passed away unexpectedly. He not only inspired us with his research, but he was also possessed of an enthusiastic commitment to public relations and helped make science and research accessible to a great many people.

When it comes to public relations, video is becoming an ever more effective medium to engage audiences with the subjects we study in the academic community. When he is not busy with his research, Simone Pengue, a doctoral researcher in the team supervised by Argovia Professor Roderick Lim, explores the potential of this medium. These efforts have paid dividends, and his film about forgotten data received the Prix Média Newcomer award. We explore his motivation for making the film in this issue of SNI INSight.

The first part of this issue of SNI INSight is devoted entirely to enzymes – not the ones we find in the natural world, but the artificial enzymes promising to unlock new avenues for molecular synthesis studied by the research group under Thomas Ward.

The new scanning transmission electron microscope, which is now being used to carry out different kinds of analyses in the Nano Imaging Lab, also promises to deliver exciting new insights. The SNI not only played a pivotal role in the purchase of this microscope; it was also one of the main sponsors of a scanning electron microscope purchased for the Swiss Science Center Technorama in Winterthur. We are currently working together with the Technorama to develop a program to spotlight the new device.

For this issue, we also interviewed Heidi and Patrick Potts, two alumni of the nanosciences program, who, after studying and working in different institutions around the world, have now found themselves back in Basel. The pair began their training together and then embarked upon different career paths. These two scientists are the perfect example of how a bachelor’s in the nanosciences can make anything possible.

We hope you enjoy this and our other stories from the SNI. I wish you a peaceful and relaxed holiday season and a great start to a healthy and successful 2022!

Warmest regards,

Christian Schönenberger

Professor Christian Schönenberger, SNI Director