ECM 30 Basel 2016

This years European Crystallographic Meeting was held in Basel, Switzerland. It was an exciting opportunity for crystallographers from Europe and a little bit beyond the border, to get together and present their latest research topics. In the following, I want to highlight a few talks and sessions I found interesting as well as a few anecdotes. If someone else from the community wants to share a few of their personal highlights, I gladly include them here.

The conference started out with a warm welcome from the head of the organizing committee, who, at one point, turned water into beer to show off the great achievements of chemistry. At least, it looked like beer, I have never seen anyone taking a sip from the glass to confirm this. During the welcome reception, Vaclav Petricek was honored with the Max Perutz Price for his work on modulated crystal structures and his refinement program Jana. The welcome reception was followed by an icebreaker Àpero. Those swiss chocolate desserts… hmmmmm…

The first program day was opened by Ada Yonath, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for her work on antibiotics. I had three personal highlights that day. The first was the software fayre, where I was introduced to Disorder Structure Refinement (DSR), a nifty tool to set up disordered structures very fast, and to Floppy, a handy, node-based crystallographic support tool which is still in its early development stages. The second was a highly interesting talk about crystal growth by Bernhard Spingler from the University of Zurich. His talk gave several people a lot of input who were struggling with their crystal synthesis. The last highlight of the day was the Young Crystallographer Mixer, which took place in a bar in the highest building in Basel. The people and the view were really nice!

On the second program day, I learned a lot about multipolar crystal structure refinement but the most interesting part of the day for me was the first ECM Science Slam in the evening, but this is a story for another day. On the same evening, the Bertaut Prize was awarded to Linda Reinhard for her work in protein crystallography. After the ceremony, Linda gave a highly interesting talk about her work with proteins and their local arrangement and symmetry of different receptors.

For me, the third program day was stuffed with even more multipole crystal structure refinement and it also included my favourite topic: Pair distribution function analysis and disorder. I was astonished about how much the community has grown in the recent years and that several people undertook a far journey, Australia for example, to attend this sub meeting. The evening was reserved for the conference dinner. I took place in the beautiful ambient of the Basel Zoo. It was a very nice evening. I was on a table with former lab mates and friends as well as people from Denmark. They told me a little bit about protein crystallography, festivals in Denmark and Japan.

The Last day went past very fast. It was filled with very varying topics, ranging from art and history to quasicrystals. Due to this variety, I had to run back and forth between the session rooms to catch all of the for me interesting topics. This was also the day when I tried out the “Photon Counting” at the Dectris stall. They had some funny little chamber, much like a telephone box, into which I had to step. Then, they turned up the airstream and small little balls, the photons, were flying all around me and I had to catch as many as I could in thirty seconds.

It was in my opinion a very enjoyable conference. I have learned a lot and met a lot of interesting people and their work. I hope, to see them and even more next year in India!

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