Big Picture Talks and Events

Aiming to see the Big Picture

With the Bic Picture talk series organized by VISESS PhD students, the doctoral school aims to present current topics of scientific and societal interest to the wider scientific community and the public. There are up to three Big Picture talks per year. Teams of PhD students of all three branches of the doctoral school plan and host the invitation of (international) experts on interdisciplinary topics. Besides, the doctoral students organise Big Picture events on a faculty-level.

Previous events

[Big Picture Talk] The Weakening of the Gulf Stream

[Big Picture Talk] The Weakening of the Gulf Stream: Past, Present, and Future of Europe

Cartoon: David Horsey | Tribune Content Agency

14 June 2022, 17:00-19:00, Online (Zoom)

Will the weakened Gulf Stream impact the European climate? How did society react in the past when faced with similar big scale challenges? What are the potential drivers of change that social movements ask for consideration by politicians? These are a few of the questions that we asked ourselves when we started to think about the topic of the talk. The event will cover the Gulf Stream weakening as a starting point. The Gulf Stream, as part of the global ocean circulation system (AMOC, Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation), is a 100 km wide and 800-1200m deep ocean current. By leading warm, saline water to the North-eastern Europe (Nord Atlantic current) and Western Africa (Canary current), it brings substantial warming to our latitudes. The weakening of the Gulf Stream will bring major disruptions from our current living conditions, and we use it as a climatic event leading to the broader societal issues that we are facing. The talk aims specifically to examine the societal effects of environmental change and how to deal with them from perspectives of three scientific fields including, natural science, history, and social movements.


  • 17:00–17:05 Welcome speech (Leopold Haimberger, FGGA Vice-Dean, University of Vienna)
  • 17:05–18:10 The societal effects of the weakening Gulf Stream and related environmental change
    • The effect of Gulf Stream changes on the climate in North West Europe
      (David Thornalley, University College London)
    • The effects of previous climatic changes on humanity
      (Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Austrian Academy of Sciences)
    • The effect of climate change events on civil society - how can we exchange the roles?
      (Claire Lejeune, Sciences Po Paris)
  • 18:10–18:15 Short break
  • 18:15–18:55 Panel discussion followed by Q&A (Harald Sterly, University of Vienna (Moderator))
  • 18:55–19:00 Summary and concluding thoughts

Language: English

Participation is free and open for everybody who is interested. Register here!

Organisers: Christine Kroisleitner, Coline Garcia, Lemlem Fitwi Weldemariam, Mongkon Thongchaithanawut, and Reena Tadee

[Big Picture Event] Picture a Scientist: Jocelyn Bell Burnell

[Big Picture Event] Picture a Scientist: Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell | © DIPCehu

3 May 2022, 15:30, UZAII Lecture Hall 3 (in person)
4 May 2022, 10:00-14:00, Department of Astrophysics (in person) Many thanks to 100 participants!

With the discovery of pulsars, astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell transformed astronomy, and so does her inspiring career and engagement in the history of women and minorities in science. As a PhD student in radio astronomy, Jocelyn Bell Burnell was the first to observe and analyse radio pulsars, which led to the Nobel Prize in Physics for her supervisor in 1974. Jocelyn Bell Burnell in the following made an outstanding and inspiring high-profile career, becoming one of the leading female astrophysicists – working part-time for many years while raising her son. She was the first female person in several leading scientific positions and received countless awards and honors. Besides, Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been constantly advocating for women and minorities in science. In 2018, she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, a major scientific award, for fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community.

In the frame of this Big Picture event, Jocelyn Bell Burnell will talk about her career path and engagement to improve the position of women and other minorities in science. Furthermore, students and early career researchers of the Faculty will have the chance to join interactive sessions with Jocelyn Bell Burnell on topics like ‘Women and minorities in academia’, ‘Navigating academia and the nomadic lifestyle’ and ‘Career development and fighting the windmills’.


3 May 2022, 15:30, UZAII Lecture Hall 3 (in person)  

  • Talk by Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Careering through astronomy

“In this talk I will describe my "career" path - not a conventional career, but rich nevertheless. I will also describe the work I have done to improve the position of women and other minorities in science departments in UK universities.”  

Welcome and moderation: Anahí Caldu-Primo.

The talk is open to all interested participants. No registration required.

4 May 2022, 10:00-14:00, Department of Astrophysics, Observatory (in person)  

  • Interactive sessions with Jocelyn Bell Burnell for students and early career researchers
    • Women and minorities in academia (Belonging to and building diverse academic community) (Moderation: Sümeyye Suri)
    • Navigating academia and the nomadic lifestyle (Moderation: Núria Miret Roig)
    • Career development and fighting the windmills (Moderation: Fabian Polnitzky)

Each session will be around 45 min with breaks in between for coffee and lunch. The sessions will take place in person at the Department of Astrophysics. The room will be announced prior to the sessions. Registration for the interactive sessions on 4 May 2022 was possible until Friday 29 April 2022.

Language: the event will be held in English.

Covid-19 regulations: FFP2 masks are required indoors.

Organisers: Sudeshna Boro Saikia, Christine Ackerl, Anahí Caldú, Martina Egger, Josefa Grossschedl, Florian List, Ryan Leaman, Tadeja Versic

This event is jointly organised by the Department of Astrophysics and the Vienna International School of Earth and Space Sciences.

"Picture a Scientist" Event Series at FGGA 2022S

"Picture a Scientist" event series at FGGA in summer semester 2022

Image: © Picture a Scientist

Under the heading "Picture a Scientist", several events are planned at the Faculty of Earth Sciences, Geography and Astronomy for summer term 2022 (see FGGA website):

  • 3-4 May 2022: Big Picture event and interactive sessions with Jocelyn Bell Burnell     
  • May 2022: Online screening of the movie “Picture a Scientist”     
  • 24 May 2022: Panel discussion with Dean Petra Heinz, geophysicist Chi Zhang, geographer Elisabeth Aufhauser, VISESS PhD student Christine Ackerl, Sylwia Bukowska (Head of UNIVIE Department of Equality and Diversity)

[Big Picture Talk] The Story of Water: Origins in Space, Travels on Earth and Impacts on People

[Big Picture Talk] The Story of Water: Origins in Space, Travels on Earth and Impacts on People

Photo: Evgeni Tcherkasski | Pixabay

Tuesday, 1 March 2022, 18:30-21:30, UZAII Lecture Hall 3 & Online (Zoom). Many thanks to 150 participants!

How can inter- and transdisciplinary scientific collaboration address the grand challenges that humanity faces? With this public event, we aim to connect different fields of expertise, ranging from Astrophysics to Earth Sciences and Human Geography, through the story of water, its origins in space, travels on Earth and impacts on people and present this topic to the interested public.

The event will take the participants on a journey through the story of water, guided by three leading experts who will share their views on the evolution of water resources. It begins in space, as we plan to uncover where water originates and how it eventually ended up on our planet. It will further take us to icy glaciers that have been shaping the Earth for eons and will finish with an exploration of the interaction between water and society through human innovations. Finally, a panel discussion will combine insights from the speakers, focusing on the future of water on Earth and beyond.

Date: Tuesday, 1 March 2022, 18:30 - 21:30

Venue: University of Vienna, UZAII, Lecture Hall 3 (2A211 2.OG UZAII Geo-Zentrum), Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna & Online (Zoom)


  • 18:30 Welcome & Introduction (VISESS Director Franz Kerschbaum & Organisers)
  • 18:40 Talks
    • The Origin of Water in Space (Ewine van Dishoeck, University of Leiden)
    • Travels on Earth (Bethan Davies, Royal Holloway, University of London)
    • Impacts on People (Christian Binz, Eawag, Switzerland)
  • 20:10 Break
  • 20:30 Panel Discussion
    • The Future of Water: Where and How to Find Solutions? (Moderation: Sabine Kraushaar, University of Vienna)

Language: The event will be in English.

Covid-19 regulations: valid 3G proof, FFP2 masks indoor + outdoor in case minimum distance cannot be guaranteed.

Scientific Organising Committee of the VISESS Doctoral School:

Tadeja Veršič, Bianca Ciocan, Horst Foidl, Leonard Lemke and Stefano Peres


[Big Picture Talk] Science Communication: Challenges and Opportunities

The 2-day panel discussion was held on 16-17 June 2021, 19:00-20:30 (online). Many thanks to more than 80 participants!

The current worldwide situation has once more shown that the (mis-)representation of science in the media has the potential to impact and shape public opinions. This illustrates even more the necessity and value of proper science outreach work. However, especially for young researchers, there are many open questions about science communication and public outreach, such as:

  • Which impact do we and should we as (young) researchers have on public opinions?
  • What are the current and future social challenges for science communication and how can we overcome them?
  • How can we communicate science in a fair and inclusive way, regarding social inequalities?
  • How should we deal with mis-representation of science in the media?
  • How can we communicate understandably while being scientifically correct? 
  • Which opportunities does science communication offer for (young) researchers?

This meeting shall provide an interdisciplinary discussion platform for both young and experienced researchers and science communicators to address these and other important questions. Participation is free and open for all levels of experience.


Day 1: Influence of science communication on society: Modern challenges and responsibilities

Welcoming words by Vice-Rector Jean-Robert Tyran and VISESS director Franz Kerschbaum

  • Joao Alves, Faculty vice dean (FGGA), professor of stellar astrophysics (University of Vienna)
  • Florian Freistetter, Science Busters, blogger, book author
  • Karoline Iber, Director of the Children’s Office (Kinderbüro, University of Vienna)
  • Christian Köberl, Former director of NHM Wien, professor of planetary geology (University of Vienna)
  • Elisabeth Oberzaucher, Science Busters, behavioural biologist (University of Vienna)

Moderation: Christine Ackerl


Day 2: Opportunities and obstacles for young researchers: Why and how to participate in public outreach?

  • Ruth Grützbauch, Founder and head of Public Space
  • Caroline Haidacher, Responsible for ORF broadcast Universum History 
  • Gabor Herbst-Kiss, Head of digital planetarium, NHM Wien
  • Hanna Möller,  Public Relations, University of Vienna
  • Stefan Wallner, Astronomy To Go, Outreach for Department of Astrophysics (University of Vienna)
  • Heidi Weinhäupl,  Faculty communication (FGGA, University of Vienna)

Moderation: Daniel Raithofer



Christine Ackerl, David Andreas Heuser, Marianne Sophie Hollinetz, Daniel Raithofer

[Big Picture Talk] The exoplanet revolution

Professor Didier Queloz (Nobel laureate 2019)

University of Cambridge, University of Geneva

Over the past 25 years, spectacular discoveries of exoplanet systems have modified our perspective on planet formation as a whole and, more specifically, our place in the Universe.  Nobel Laureate Didier Queloz, who discovered the first exoplanet in 1995, will introduce the audience to the diversity of exoplanets and describe what we have learnt about their structure and formation mechanisms.  Based on recent work about the origin of life on Earth, he is going to present new perspectives about the minimum conditions required to form the chemical building blocks of life. In this talk he will also explore a possible pathway to detect Earth-like systems amenable for future work on the origins of life.

Curriculum Vitae of Prof. Queloz

The event was planned for Friday, September 25, 2020, but had to be postponed due to the Covid-19-situation. We will inform you about the new date!

Didier Queloz, 2019 (privat)