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.

Upcoming events

[Big Picture Event] Out of the Box: Creativity in Research

Tuesday, 28 May 2024, 16:45, Lecture Hall 2, UZA II, Floor 1, 2A122 & Online

Part of the “Big Picture” event series of the  Vienna International School of Earth and Space Sciences (VISESS)
In cooperation with the Meteorological-Geophysical Colloquium at the University of Vienna

When conducting scientific research, there are many ways to go about it - but are there ways that can combine our academic interests with other passions or hobbies? What benefits can we gain from this as researchers? Can this also influence us on a more personal level? These are the questions that we look to answer in this event, as well as to encourage students (and even senior researchers) to think outside of the box, to explore more unconventional tools or methods to look at (and share) their work, and to bring even more joy into their research.

We will start with a video montage showing examples of how people from different fields and different places in the world achieve this. Then, our invited speakers, Matthew Pelowski and Ulrike Kuchner, will explore different aspects of creativity in research and its advantages, followed by a panel discussion. Finally, participants are welcome to join a workshop conducted by Daniela Brill Estrada, where they will be able to do a hands-on activity to think about and showcase their own research using mixed media (painting, poetry, clay sculpting). The works will be displayed at the Talks & Barbecue 2024 event of the Faculty of Earth Sciences, Geography and Astronomy (FGGA).


  • 16:45-18:15 Talks and discussion
    • 16:45-16:50: Welcome (Ourania Kounadi, Vienna International School of Earth and Space Sciences)
    • 16:50-16:55: General introduction
    • 16:55-17:05: Cases of creativity (video montage)
    • 17:05-17:20: Extraordinary tools: a (brief) discussion of the multifaceted impact and importance of arts (Matthew Pelowski, University of Vienna)
    • 17:20-17:40: ArtScience: Creativity in research through art-science integration (Ulrike Kuchner, University of Nottingham)
    • 17:40-18:00: Q&A and discussion
  • 18:00-18:15: Get-together with snacks and drinks
  • 18:15-20:00: Workshop (Daniela Brill Estrada, Johannes Kepler University Linz) (in person only)


Register here!

Note that registration for the workshop part closed on 17 May 2024 - registration for the talks & discussion part is still open - spread the word and join us!


Kamila Faizieva, Paula Granero Ordoñez, Paulina Mejías Osorio, Qilei Huang, Sarah Haghjoo, Stefanie Reiter

Previous events

[Big Picture Event] Coloniality and the Struggle for Autonomy in Chilean Astronomy

Photo: Sebastián Lehuedé |

Monday, 14 May 2024, 15:00, Department of Astrophysics, Lecture Hall, Türkenschanzstrasse 17, 1180 Vienna & Online

Part of the FGGA lecture series "Academia and In/Equality" / In cooperation with the Vienna Astro Colloquium

  • Sebastián Lehuedé (University of Cambridge, Governance of digital technologies, global social justice, geopolitics of digital rights)

  • Abstract: Sebastián Lehuedé is a Lecturer in Ethics, AI and Society at the Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London. His research focuses on the governance of digital technologies from a global social justice perspective. After conducting research on astronomy data in Chile, his current project looks at the environmental impact of Artificial Intelligence.

    This presentation unpacks the concepts of coloniality and autonomy and discusses how they manifest in the governance of astronomy data in Chile. This case is of particular interest as many actors consider that the vast volumes of data produced by the numerous international observatories constructed in the Atacama Desert can bring about development and progress. The insights provided are supported by an analysis of empirical data (interviews and participant observation) collected in 2019 representing the view of astronomers, astroinformaticians, business managers and policy-makers envisioning initiatives regarding astronomy data, as well as Indigenous communities affected by the construction of an astronomical observatory.

  • Venue: Department of Astrophysics, Lecture Hall, Türkenschanzstrasse 17, 1180 Vienna (how to reach and site map) & Online-Stream

[Picture a Scientist] Mary Anne Holmes - Building a Path To Equity

Photo: Mary Anne Holmes | University of Nebraska |

Monday, 15 April 2024, 15:00,  Lecture Hall 3, UZA II, Floor 2, 2A211 & Online

Part of the FGGA lecture series "Academia and In/Equality" / Within the "Picture a Scientist" series of the Doctoral School VISESS / In cooperation with the EGU and the Culture and Equality Unit of the University of Vienna

12.12.2023: Big Picture Event "Bake your PhD!"

[Big Picture Event] Bake your PhD!

Tuesday, 12 December 2023, 14:30-16:00, UZAII Lecture Hall 2 (2A122), Josef-Holaubek-Platz 2, 1090 Vienna

Get ready to Bake your PhD!

  • Be creative in the kitchen and make something (sweet or savory) that portrays your current research
  • It is possible to participate individually or in groups
  • Bring your cake/baked good to the event on 12 December 2023 and showcase your delicious research to fellow PhD students and supervisors
  • Awards will be given out to those who excel in originality, taste, and in communicating/presenting the topic
  • All VISESS colleagues are invited to come along to hear about and taste exciting research
  • So start planning your creation and join us on 12 December 2023 for an afternoon of sharing your science, food and drinks!

Make sure to register before 6 December via the registration form.

Organisers: Paulina Mejías Osorio, Simon Schleich, Lukas Winkler (VISESS PhD Board)

18.04.2023: Big Picture Event "The PLEES Index & Effectively Communicating on Climate Change"

[Big Picture Event] The PLEES Index & Effectively Communicating on Climate Change

Illustration: Stephanie Singleton

18 April 2023, 17:00-19:00, UZAII Lecture Hall 3 (2A211) and Online. Many thanks to 115 registered participants!

In cooperation with the Meteorological-Geophysical Colloquium at the University of Vienna

Climate change is one of the biggest threats modern generations have to face. To ensure a liveable future, urgent measures should be taken. One of the best ways to obtain such quick change in our society is by informing citizens, to engage them, and try to reach the social tipping point as fast as possible. We constructed the PLEES index. This index is based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs and is projected under different climate change scenarios, to quantify the psychological, social, and economical impact of climate change in the world. This index is a visual tool, easily distributable in social medias, aiming to inform people about climate change, targeting wealthier European countries, with financial and political means to generate a positive change, showing that their life comfort is at risk. We believe that popularising the idea of social tipping point is a good way to show that big changes can happen very fast if citizens act together. During this event, we will introduce the PLEES index. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion on how to effectively communicate on climate change.


  • 17:00 – 17:05 Welcome (VISESS Director Glenn van de Ven)
  • 17:05 – 17:50 The PLEES Index (Gwenaël Van Looveren, Laurane Fréour, Paula Granero, Tadeja Veršič)
  • 17:50 – 18:00 Break
  • 18:00 – 18:45 Panel Discussion: Effectively Communicating on Climate Change (Nina Vaupotič, Aiko Voigt, Benjamin Bertaux, Laurane Fréour | Moderation: Alice Zocchi)
  • 18:45 Get-together

Language: English

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

In the run-up to the event, the organisers have written a blog post that gives a few insights into their project and the planned event – read here!

Organisers: Gwenaël Van Looveren, Laurane Fréour, Paula Granero, Tadeja Veršič

23.02.2023: Big Picture Talk "Graveyard of Space Technology – The Problem of Space Junk"

[Big Picture Talk] Graveyard of Space Technology - The Problem of Space Junk

Photo: © European Space Agency - ESA

23 February 2023, 17:00-19:30, UZAII Lecture Hall 3 (2A211) and Online

The Space Age, a new chapter in human history opened with the launch of Sputnik 1 satellite in 1957. Fast forward to 2023 and the number of operating satellites is steadily rising towards 10,000. Given the vastness of space, it is hard to imagine that man-made objects could reach numbers high enough to disturb Earth’s orbits to such a degree as to jeopardize our daily lives and the future of space exploration. With the modern space race under way Earth’s orbits will only become more “congested, contested and competitive.” The consequence of such actions gives rise to space debris – any object of human origin, beyond anyone’s control – with the potential to damage or destroy upon impact. In 1978, a NASA expert, Donald J. Kessler, predicted that past a certain critical point, the amount of space debris will keep on increasing exponentially. What are the dangers posed by space debris? Is it an issue that should concern us? Can we simply clean up space?


  • 17:00–17:05 Welcome  (Alvaro Hacar Gonzalez, VISESS Representative)
  • 17:05–17:35 What is Space Debris? (Michael Steindorfer, Austrian Academy of Sciences) 
  • 17:35–18:05 Cleaning up Space (Antonio Caiazzo, ESA Clean Space Office) 
  • 18:05–18:35 Legal Aspects of Space Debris (Annie Kazarjan, University of Vienna)
  • 18:35–18:50 Break
  • 18:50–19:30 Panel Discussion: The Future of Space Debris (Moderation: Agata Wisłocka, University of Vienna)

Language: English

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

Organisers: Agata Wisłocka, Gwenaël Van Looveren, Vlad Răstău, Richard Kramer, Simon Schleich, Lukas Winkler

14.02.2022: 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.

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

03.-04.05.2022: Picture a Scientist "Jocelyn Bell Burnell"

[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

01.03.2022: 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


16.-17.06.2021: 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)