ONE-MA3: Our last day in Italia

July 16th, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Meriah Gannon '22 Almost three and a half weeks after we first landed in Italy, our last full day in this country has arrived. Although I was sad to see this day come, I was also excited for our last activity, building gypsum structures! We began the morning with a lecture by Dario Parigi learning about vaulted dome structures which built off of the lecture John Ochsendorf had given us at the American Academy in Rome. Professor Ochsendorf’s lecture had sparked my interest, and I enjoyed learning more. We learned about Hooke’s statement “as hangs the flexible line, so but inverted will stand the rigid arch.” Next, we got to put these teachings into practice. We headed outside where large wooden frames and pieces of canvas were waiting for us. We were told to drape these pieces of canvas over the wooden frames to see their natural curve. Then we were to paint them with gypsum to solidify. Once they set, we inverted them into arches with the wooden frames to support the force. We were given an hour to repeat this process a few times in order to make small prototypes. The goal was in the afternoon, we would divide into two teams and scale up the most successful designs from our prototypes to be one and a half by two meters. If we were successful, we would compete to hold the weight of our professor Admir Masic. My group frantically mixed gypsum, stapled canvas and nailed pieces [...]

By Meriah Gannon ’22

Almost three and a half weeks after we first landed in Italy, our last full day in this country has arrived. Although I was sad to see this day come, I was also excited for our last activity, building gypsum structures! We began the morning with a lecture by Dario Parigi learning about vaulted dome structures which built off of the lecture John Ochsendorf had given us at the American Academy in Rome.

Professor Ochsendorf’s lecture had sparked my interest, and I enjoyed learning more. We learned about Hooke’s statement “as hangs the flexible line, so but inverted will stand the rigid arch.”

Next, we got to put these teachings into practice. We headed outside where large wooden frames and pieces of canvas were waiting for us. We were told to drape these pieces of canvas over the wooden frames to see their natural curve. Then we were to paint them with gypsum to solidify. Once they set, we inverted them into arches with the wooden frames to support the force. We were given an hour to repeat this process a few times in order to make small prototypes. The goal was in the afternoon, we would divide into two teams and scale up the most successful designs from our prototypes to be one and a half by two meters. If we were successful, we would compete to hold the weight of our professor Admir Masic. My group frantically mixed gypsum, stapled canvas and nailed pieces of wood together to finish up three small models. In the end, none of our models were very successful, but we learned important skills such as the proper mixing of gypsum we would use in the coming competition.

Professor Masic helping us measure our canvas [Photo by Carene Umubyeyi ’22]

After lunch,we returned to build our full-scale models. Each team was given three hours to build a full-scale arch. At first, we debated over the design. We had learned through our prototypes that folds in the canvas would increase the strength of our arch, but we were unsure how many folds to construct without making it impossible to stand on the arch. Eventually, with the time ticking away in the back of our minds, we settled on just one-fold. We also decided to add lengths of bamboo across our structure to give it more support.

Students preparing their structures [Photo by Carene Umubyeyi ’22]

Almost immediately, I began mixing gypsum with water. The tricky thing about gypsum is it sets extremely fast, this meant that in order to cover our canvas with enough layers of gypsum we had to be constantly mixing small batches; let it sit out too long and it will harden to a rock in your bucket. The next two hours were a frenzy of mixing gypsum, layering it on the canvas, and cementing down bamboo. One of my jobs was to help cover the bottom of the canvas with gypsum which involved laying underneath the structure and becoming quite covered with gypsum drippings. Finally, we had covered the structure with enough layers of gypsum, about 4 cm thick at the top and at least 6 cm thick in the corners. Then, it was time to clean up before dinner with the promise of testing the structures after the meal.

Layering the gypsum and bamboo [Photo by Carene Umubyeyi ’22]

It was about 11 pm when dinner finished up and we headed back to test our arches by the light our phones. The tricky part about testing the structures was we had to lift them up and flip them over to turn them into arches. The opposing group went first. We all watched with suspense as people surrounded the structure to slowly and carefully flip it over. To our horror, as the structure was being lowered to the ground, it collapsed under its own weight and fell out of its frame. Now it was my groups turn. We looked at our structure nervously and hoped it would survive being flipped. To our delight, it made it to the ground safely, but now it was time for the real test: if it would hold Professor Masic. We decided to start off slowly, and our TA Linda Seymour climbed on the structure first, and it held! She climbed off and another instructor climbed on, and it was able to hold him too.

The final product 

Now it was Professor Masic’s turn, we let out a cheer as he climbed on and the structure held! He got off and excited members of my group climbed on the structure. One person, then two, then three; all the way up to seven people! The structure was supporting them all. Only Stephanie, the last member of our group remained on the ground. We ushered her onto the packed arch and it managed to hold all eight of our group members! But only for a split second- just after Stephanie climbed on, our arch collapsed. We were disappointed, but as we looked at our structure, we noticed that the frame holding our arch had broken. We realized that although our gypsum arch had been able to hold the force of eight people, the wooden frame was unable to hold the force. Our arch had done its job well, but the frame just couldn’t keep up. We cheered as we stood on the crumbled remains of our arch. It was a successful end to ONE-MA3!

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ONE-MA3: Gypsum Adventures in Aramengo

July 16th, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Carene Umubyeyi '22 Our last day of ONE-MA3 was spent applying what we learned in Professor Ochsendorf’s lecture at the American Academy in Rome by constructing our own gypsum shell structures using minimal reinforcement. We spent the first part of the morning with a lesson from Dario Parigi on load-bearing structures, with emphasis on the principle of Hooke’s hanging chain—the idea that the shape a hanging chain forms under a set of loads, when made rigid and flipped right side up shows the necessary arched structure needed to support the same set of loads—followed by a lesson from Marco Nicola on gypsum and its chemical properties. Dario Parigi started off the day with a lesson about load-bearing structures  After the morning lessons we proceeded with small-scale experiments of different structural geometries we could create using mesh canvas and gypsum plaster, while still maximizing compressive strength by applying Hooke’s principle. Groups got extra creative with their structures, adding bamboo leaves and saw dust to gypsum mixtures for strengthening. One group even derived inspiration from the Pantheon by adding a miniature oculus in their structure! All this of course had to be done under 5 minutes before the gypsum started hardening and was no longer viscous enough to work with (as we sadly learned during our first attempt). Some groups added bamboo sticks and leaves for additional reinforcement              After a short discussion about lessons learned from the morning experiments, the afternoon was spent building larger gypsum structures (using the same principles) [...]

By Carene Umubyeyi ’22

Our last day of ONE-MA3 was spent applying what we learned in Professor Ochsendorf’s lecture at the American Academy in Rome by constructing our own gypsum shell structures using minimal reinforcement. We spent the first part of the morning with a lesson from Dario Parigi on load-bearing structures, with emphasis on the principle of Hooke’s hanging chain—the idea that the shape a hanging chain forms under a set of loads, when made rigid and flipped right side up shows the necessary arched structure needed to support the same set of loads—followed by a lesson from Marco Nicola on gypsum and its chemical properties.

Dario Parigi started off the day with a lesson about load-bearing structures 

After the morning lessons we proceeded with small-scale experiments of different structural geometries we could create using mesh canvas and gypsum plaster, while still maximizing compressive strength by applying Hooke’s principle. Groups got extra creative with their structures, adding bamboo leaves and saw dust to gypsum mixtures for strengthening. One group even derived inspiration from the Pantheon by adding a miniature oculus in their structure! All this of course had to be done under 5 minutes before the gypsum started hardening and was no longer viscous enough to work with (as we sadly learned during our first attempt).

Some groups added bamboo sticks and leaves for additional reinforcement 

            After a short discussion about lessons learned from the morning experiments, the afternoon was spent building larger gypsum structures (using the same principles) capable of supporting the load of at least 1 Admir*. After more gypsum mixing, adding bamboo leaves/sticks, and a multitude of hands quickly smearing layer upon layer of gypsum on the mesh canvas, two magnificent structures were completed and given a few hours to harden before final testing would begin after dinner.

At around 10 PM, we returned and began preparing for testing. I placed my hand on our structure and was surprised to find it still wet. That’s odd, I thought. Is the other one dry? I walked over and gingerly placed my hand on it. The hardness of the shell confirmed it was.

Sophia Fang ’22 examining her group’s structures

One of the final products

            “It’s not dry”, I heard Dario conclude as he examined our structure, “the gypsum mixture must have contained too much water, interfering with the setting process”. I looked around and saw slow nods of realization. We decided to still test it and see. Placing ourselves all around the wooden frame, we began lifting the structure upwards to flip it over. Halfway up, we felt a sudden shift and the entire structure came loose from the frame and went crashing down. After a sad moment of silence, we regrouped and discussed what could have been done differently in our use of water in the gypsum mixtures.

The next group’s structure was carefully lifted and flipped over successfully. So far, so good. Excitement built as one person was able to stand on the structure, then two, then three, then four, then five, and so on until a full eight people stood on the structure, before it too, finally buckled and collapsed. Everyone cheered for the winning team as they hoisted their trophy and celebrated their gypsum structure. It had successfully held a load of eight people, far surpassing the minimum load of 1 Admir.

Another group’s final product

            This activity was a great conclusion to ONE-MA3, combining different important aspects we had learned about into a fun-filled gypsum structure building competition that taught us the importance of teamwork and learning from our mistakes.

* 1 Admir – a unit of mass invented by ONE-MA3 students for this activity, equivalent to the weight of Professor Masic.

Pantheon-inspired gypsum structure

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ONE-MA3: Finding the Ever-Elusive “Work-Life Balance”

July 15th, 20192016 News in Brief

By Anna Landler '22 I think that I just received arguably the best lecture of my life. There is some serious competition – I had Professor Eric Lander for 7.012 – but this lecture is certainly up there. The lecture came from John Ochsendorf, MIT professor and Director of the American Academy in Rome. Before I get to the content of that lecture, let me set the scene. We left Sermoneta at 6:50 am to arrive in Rome 3-4 hours later. First stop: the American Academy. It’s a truly incredible institution. Once inside the gate, you pass a picturesque fountain, with modern white edifices on 4 sides, each a studio for one lucky artist. In an effort to not get lost in the details of the amazing interior I will make simple highlights: a staircase opening to a gorgeous courtyard, fountain in the center, stones with ancient Roman inscriptions scattered across the orange walls. Professor John Ochsendorf explaining the meaning of his favorite Roman inscriptions The groin vault ceiling above the table where the fellows at the Academy eat lunch all together. We were lucky to join them! After a quick tour, full of John’s joyful personality and short stories of the historic site (Galileo named the telescope there, which is pretty awesome), it was time for going into the aqueduct (which runs under the Academy), and finally, the lecture. If you had told me that we’d be received an hour and a half long lecture on structural integrity, geometries, design, and materials, I [...]

By Anna Landler ’22

I think that I just received arguably the best lecture of my life. There is some serious competition – I had Professor Eric Lander for 7.012 – but this lecture is certainly up there. The lecture came from John Ochsendorf, MIT professor and Director of the American Academy in Rome. Before I get to the content of that lecture, let me set the scene. We left Sermoneta at 6:50 am to arrive in Rome 3-4 hours later. First stop: the American Academy. It’s a truly incredible institution. Once inside the gate, you pass a picturesque fountain, with modern white edifices on 4 sides, each a studio for one lucky artist. In an effort to not get lost in the details of the amazing interior I will make simple highlights: a staircase opening to a gorgeous courtyard, fountain in the center, stones with ancient Roman inscriptions scattered across the orange walls.

Professor John Ochsendorf explaining the meaning of his favorite Roman inscriptions

The groin vault ceiling above the table where the fellows at the Academy eat lunch all together. We were lucky to join them!

After a quick tour, full of John’s joyful personality and short stories of the historic site (Galileo named the telescope there, which is pretty awesome), it was time for going into the aqueduct (which runs under the Academy), and finally, the lecture. If you had told me that we’d be received an hour and a half long lecture on structural integrity, geometries, design, and materials, I certainly would be intrigued, but hardly jumping up and down in eager anticipation. And yet, as I mentioned, I think it might have been the best lecture I’ve ever received.

So what makes a lecture good? Is it the content? Presentation style? Engagement of the audience?

I think it’s the ability of the lecturer to connect to the audience, not just through direct participation or inherent interest level of the material. What made John so compelling was his ability to connect the content to larger ideas – ideas that we could relate to. That’s not “big picture” in the general sense; it was not just a summary. It’s big picture in that he related his work to wider ideas within the field (such as the abundance of analysis tools and lack of design tools), but also talked about how work itself ought to be. He infused the joy of his work, but also his life into the presentation. As he demonstrated diagrams of thrust lines and models that are “all wrong [over simplified], but some are useful”, he would also mention how academia enables a free lifestyle. He would mention the sense of accomplishment that we all feel after finishing a project. He commented on the amazing opportunities afforded through education – MIT in particular.

John’s uncanny ability to inspire us not just about the material, but the entire culture of learning and research, is something every lecturer should strive for. We all left that room, looking at each other in something reminiscent of awe saying the same thing – “I didn’t even realize time was passing.”

The aqueduct that runs underneath the Academy 

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Cajón del Maipo

July 11th, 2019Study Abroad

By Shannon Wing '22 When making the decision on what to do with my summer, I had two requirements. Number 1: Work within the field of sustainability. Number 2: Be somewhere where I could hike and climb. These two requirements brought me to Santiago, Chile. Chile has some of the highest potential for renewable energy in the world and also houses some of the most beautiful trekking in the world, as I got to experience this past weekend. When arriving to Santiago, I connected with a few other MISTI students as well as an MIT alumna in the area that were interested in hiking and climbing. After formally meeting up for a beer after work and bonding over our experiences with the MIT Outing club, we planned a weekend in Cajón del Maipo. Setting an early morning wakeup, we took off into the mountains and after a quick stop in town to pick up some more friends, eat some cheap empanadas, and ask for some local advice we had our route. “See that mountain over there? Hike to the backside of it, there should be a slope that isn’t too steep or snowy, climb that.” The mountain has no name that we can find, but it sure was beautiful, with 360 degree views of the Andes and no one else in sight. After a few hours or scrambling up scree and postholing through the snow, I celebrated taking the ridge with one of the best meals I have had here [...]

By Shannon Wing ’22

When making the decision on what to do with my summer, I had two requirements.

Number 1: Work within the field of sustainability.

Number 2: Be somewhere where I could hike and climb.

These two requirements brought me to Santiago, Chile. Chile has some of the highest potential for renewable energy in the world and also houses some of the most beautiful trekking in the world, as I got to experience this past weekend. When arriving to Santiago, I connected with a few other MISTI students as well as an MIT alumna in the area that were interested in hiking and climbing. After formally meeting up for a beer after work and bonding over our experiences with the MIT Outing club, we planned a weekend in Cajón del Maipo.

Setting an early morning wakeup, we took off into the mountains and after a quick stop in town to pick up some more friends, eat some cheap empanadas, and ask for some local advice we had our route. “See that mountain over there? Hike to the backside of it, there should be a slope that isn’t too steep or snowy, climb that.”

The mountain has no name that we can find, but it sure was beautiful, with 360 degree views of the Andes and no one else in sight. After a few hours or scrambling up scree and postholing through the snow, I celebrated taking the ridge with one of the best meals I have had here yet: a peanut butter sandwich. Now before you call me out for being a liar, hear me out. This statement is fully justified for three reasons. One, my cooking abilities are questionable. Two, to quote my coworker, “Where did you find Skippy peanut butter? That’s a delicacy around here.” The one jar of crunchy Skippy brand peanut butter that I brought down here has made me many friends, that and my maple syrup. Three, even Chilean’s admit, “go to a peruvian restaurant, their food is better.”


Now, I am back in the office, learning about how new renewable energy plants impact the Chilean power market as well as analyzing the world’s fuel prices. This week I also had the privilege of attending a renewable energy conference with Inodú titled “Hacia un futuro de energía 100% renovable,” where experts in the field debated in english and spanish what the best approach is for Chile to get to 100% renewable energy.

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A Summer in Chile

July 11th, 2019Study Abroad

By Shannon Wing '22 Hello! Two weeks ago at around this time, I was waking up to my new neighbor friend tapping me on the shoulder saying, ‘we are here.” I had somehow managed to sleep through both meals on my overnight flight and now I was in Chile! My journal lay across my lap with my mid-sentence thoughts of excitement. I closed it and figured I’d come back later. When I walked out of the plane I was hit with a wave of cold, I began to shiver. I realized that I am back at it again traveling on my own in a new country. As I sat trying to obtain the airport wifi to message my host mom, I realized that my spanish 4 abilities were not prepared for what was going to come (I shamefully had to pull up Google Translate). Oh well, I am here! With a backpack full of my hiking equipment and a suitcase full of my business casual clothes, I headed off to my new home for 3 months, Santiago, Chile. Welcomed by my host mom and brother for breakfast, it didn’t take long to be reminded that even though we aren’t from the same place and don’t speak the same language, we are very similar. In broken conversation throughout the week, I learned that my host mom’s daughter is currently traveling alone like me in Denmark and she misses her very much. My host brother is in his final year of highschool [...]

By Shannon Wing ’22

Hello! Two weeks ago at around this time, I was waking up to my new neighbor friend tapping me on the shoulder saying, ‘we are here.” I had somehow managed to sleep through both meals on my overnight flight and now I was in Chile! My journal lay across my lap with my mid-sentence thoughts of excitement. I closed it and figured I’d come back later. When I walked out of the plane I was hit with a wave of cold, I began to shiver.

I realized that I am back at it again traveling on my own in a new country. As I sat trying to obtain the airport wifi to message my host mom, I realized that my spanish 4 abilities were not prepared for what was going to come (I shamefully had to pull up Google Translate). Oh well, I am here!

With a backpack full of my hiking equipment and a suitcase full of my business casual clothes, I headed off to my new home for 3 months, Santiago, Chile. Welcomed by my host mom and brother for breakfast, it didn’t take long to be reminded that even though we aren’t from the same place and don’t speak the same language, we are very similar. In broken conversation throughout the week, I learned that my host mom’s daughter is currently traveling alone like me in Denmark and she misses her very much. My host brother is in his final year of highschool and studies late into the night and on weekends in preparation for the PSU, similar to our SATs. He wants to get into a top university and is confused on what to study, but knows he wants to make a big impact on the world. All you MIT people out there, sound similar?

Here in Santiago I am working at a small, fast-growing startup called Inodu as an energy and sustainability intern. The company specializes in analysis of the Chilean power market, which is rapidly changing due to the fast implementation of renewables in the country. The office is half in english and half in spanish, which produces funny spanglish lunch conversations.

On weekends I am exploring. My first stop, a free walking tour starting in La Plaza de Armas. I always look for these when I first arrive in a new city alone. It’s a great way to make new friends, learn about a new city from a local, and of course it’s on a student budget. The day I picked also just happened to fall on the weekend celebration of Navy Day, a Chilean National Holiday that celebrates the Battle of Iquique which took place between Chile and Peru in 1879.  Lucky me, the square was lively with men in uniform, horses, fire trucks, dancing, and all the museums had free entry. Also lucky me, I got to experience some elbow throwing crowds.

(Image of Palacio de La Moneda, Coin Palace, during Navy Day Celebration)

My tour guide, an economics student at Universidad de Chile, welcomed me to Santiago, updated me on the political and social climate, and connected me with local trekking groups. My next stop, a quick coworker outing to the Andes. Next weekend: trekking in Cajon del Maipo.

Stay tuned.

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ONE-MA3 – Day XVIII: Night at the Egyptian Museum…During the Day

July 8th, 20192019 News in Brief, ONE-MA3 2019

By Sophia Mittman '22 We all know the story of Night at the Museum, and many of us can admit to fantasizing when we were younger about what might happen if artifacts of figurines and mummies came alive in museums when no one was watching. Well, at the Museo Egizio in Turin, history actually does come to life, thanks to the inclusion of technology, sciences, and engineering within its exhibits. We started with a general tour of the museum inside of a gorgeous set of buildings that used to be a boarding school. From the moment we entered into the Museo Egizio, we seemed to step back in time thousands of years ago to the sandy lands of Egypt where countless stone statues, and pieces of papyrus lined the walkways. This museum contains the second largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world, second only to the museum in Cairo. Consequently, we were blown away by the sheer scale of the collection, but most importantly, by how well every object had been preserved for us to admire and learn from today. Egyptian papyrus scroll Some of my favorite groups of artifacts were the Egyptian pottery and wooden sarcophagi. I was amazed by the fact that the Egyptians knew about and took advantage of the structural durability of ceramics in their bowls, pots, and amphorae. As for the wooden sarcophagi, I actually never knew that wood was a material used by the Egyptians, I had only ever seen coffins made from [...]

By Sophia Mittman ’22

We all know the story of Night at the Museum, and many of us can admit to fantasizing when we were younger about what might happen if artifacts of figurines and mummies came alive in museums when no one was watching. Well, at the Museo Egizio in Turin, history actually does come to life, thanks to the inclusion of technology, sciences, and engineering within its exhibits. We started with a general tour of the museum inside of a gorgeous set of buildings that used to be a boarding school. From the moment we entered into the Museo Egizio, we seemed to step back in time thousands of years ago to the sandy lands of Egypt where countless stone statues, and pieces of papyrus lined the walkways. This museum contains the second largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world, second only to the museum in Cairo. Consequently, we were blown away by the sheer scale of the collection, but most importantly, by how well every object had been preserved for us to admire and learn from today.

Egyptian papyrus scroll

Some of my favorite groups of artifacts were the Egyptian pottery and wooden sarcophagi. I was amazed by the fact that the Egyptians knew about and took advantage of the structural durability of ceramics in their bowls, pots, and amphorae. As for the wooden sarcophagi, I actually never knew that wood was a material used by the Egyptians, I had only ever seen coffins made from stone. Not only was I surprised to see wood, but I couldn’t believe that it had been preserved so well for thousands of years. So, we had a scientific conversation about this topic, and now it all makes sense. Egypt is a dry desert where artifacts are buried underground in tombs and protected from sunlight, wind, and rain. Because of this dry and secure environment, many wooden artifacts, along with tempera paintings on the artifacts, have remained in great condition for centuries. This can be compared to the aqueducts and frescoes which we’ve examined, that have been exposed to these harsh elements for hundreds of years and are quickly degrading. Today, now that many of the Egyptian artifacts are out of the tombs, we run into the same challenge of finding ways to keep those pieces of cultural heritage from degrading so that humanity can continue to learn from them.

Wooden sarcophagi

The grande finale of the tour was “Archeologia Invisible,” an augmented reality exhibition whose collaborators and creators, to our delight, include those who have been teaching us: Gianfranco Quaranta, Roberto Scalesse, and Marco Nicola from Area 3 and Professor Masic from CEE MIT! The exhibit was full of what we’ve been learning in ONE-MA3, especially when it comes to photogrammetry and Egyptian blue. It was simply incredible to see how much technology can enhance the entire museum experience. For example, a completely wrapped mummy was on display. Of course, a skeleton was inside of the shell of wrappings, but the museum had never opened the wrappings. Instead, they showed exactly what the human remains look like inside of the mummy with the use of X-rays. On the side of the display case was a rotating digital 3D model of the skeleton inside and proved that the mummy was wearing ornate jewelry, which was 3D printed and displayed nearby. That same day, we had been told all about how archeology, even though we can learn from it, is only destructive to the artifacts it relates to. But, in this exhibit and in the entire museum in general, it was incredible to realize that it is indeed possible to preserve that cultural heritage with the use of technology.

3D model of the mummy in the “Archeologia Invisible” exhibition 

After the museum tour, we then sat down in a conference hall where we listened to various lectures that ranged in topic from mortars and pigments, to archeological museums in general. With such interesting information coming from many incredible people, it was impossible not to be inspired by the lectures. Professor Masic reaffirmed the history and significance of ancient materials while emphasizing Roman concrete and its potential benefits in today’s world. Marco Nicola gave us our first official run-down of Egyptian blue, a blue pigment that retains fluorescent properties and is the oldest synthetic pigment ever made. Max Kessler and Linda Seymour from the Masic Lab at MIT described more types of research that is currently being done on the wondrous Egyptian blue, such as its potential applications in forensics, medicine, and solar panels. We also learned a great deal about a field that I had never heard about, but basically summarizes what we have been doing in ONE-MA3: archaeometry, which uses physics, chemistry, math, and technology to study archeological materials and artifacts. All of the lectures ended up feeding our imagination and thoughts of what we can do with archaeometry when it comes to learning, preserving, and sharing ancient artifacts with the world.

Egyptian blue pigment on display (Made by Chemist from the University of Turin Marco Nicola!)

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