Revealing the nature of science through art and design-based research

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


October 22, 2022


Revealing the nature of science through art and design-based research

(ref. BAP-2022-654)

Last modification : Monday, September 12, 2022

The successful candidate (s)he will be taken up in the APER research group at KU Leuven, and will have close ties with the Intermedia research group at LUCA School of Arts and the Brussels Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium. KU Leuven is a research oriented institution and is among the top universities in Europe. Leuven is one of the oldest university towns in Europe (KU Leuven was established in 1425), is located at 30 km from Brussels. Both the university and the town have a rich history and a unique, friendly atmosphere. The Astronomy and Physics Education Research (APER) group is part of the department of Physics and Astronomy of the KU Leuven. Current and previous projects of the APER group investigated conceptual understanding in physics and astronomy, the role of mathematics in physics education and the potential of the planetarium in teaching and learning astronomical topics. This project will add to its expertise in teaching and learning astronomy at the planetarium. For more information visit https: // education-research-topics LUCA School of Arts leads on inspiring and facilitating research across artistic and design disciplines. Mediated Environments (Intermedia, Brussels) is the research group from which the PhD candidate will operate from. LUCA collaborates with KU Leuven on its PhD program in the arts. The Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Laken is one of the oldest and largest (23m dome, 350 seats) planetariums of Europe. It is open 363 days of the year, welcoming 25 000 general public visitors to experience 360° full dome films, events and spectacles focused on astronomy. The planetarium also hosts dedicated lectures to explain the night's sky and astronomy to 25 000 students of all ages (kindergarten, primary, secondary and higher education). The planetarium serves as an outreach facility for the Space Pole in Uccle, informing visitors about seismology, climate change, atmospheric science and much more in addition to astronomy and astrophysics. For more information visit https: //

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This project is part of the VAMOS-project (V enus A tmosphere exploration through M achine learning and O pen S cience in preparation to EnVision), coordinated by the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB). VAMOS will assimilate the available, but scattered, international data on the atmosphere of Venus using machine learning. VAMOS has a significant science communication part, which will be the focus of this PhD project.

An aspect of science communication and science education is learning what science is, how it works, what it can say,... (but also, what it is not, how it does not work, what it cannot say), the so-called Nature of Science (NoS). While it is an important aspect, NoS is often not explicitly present in science communication or science education. Yet, there is a need to educate the general public about NoS to help tackle science skepticism and scientism. In this project we will communicate and educate about NoS in the context of the VAMOS project, using artistic methods to reach audiences that would typically not be interested.

Specifically, we will design at least three artistic pieces that communicate about the atmosphere of Venus and the VAMOS project with the ambition to stimulate peoples thinking about NoS. By using a design-based research methodology we can use the design process to investigate the interactions between (planetary) scientists, artists and the public.



  • have, at the start of the project, a Master degree in one of three areas:

  • 1) Astronomy, physics or equivalent (e.g., mathematics, engineering),

  • 2) Educational sciences, science education, science communication or equivalent (e.g., a teacher degree), or

  • 3) Arts (e.g., audiovisual arts, visual design);

  • are able to demonstrate interest in the other two areas;

  • are interested in conducting theoretical and empirical research;

  • are able to work systematically;
  • can work independently and in a team;
  • have the communication skills to interact with children, adolescents, teachers and educators;

  • have the skills to communicate about the research (on a more technical or theoretical level);

  • are fluent in English, additional fluency in Dutch and/or French is considered a plus.
  • Offer

    The selected candidate is offered the opportunity to conduct research that may lead to a PhD. The offer is initially a 1-year contract that can be extended on a yearly basis, given positive evaluation, up to a maximum of 4 year.

    The candidate will take up a PhD program at KU Leuven.


    For more information please contact Prof. dr. Jan Sermeus (mail: or Prof. dr. Sandy Claes (mail:

    KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

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