Only once every three years, crystallographers from all over the world come together at 24th IUCr General Assembly. This time, it was held in Hyderabad, India, and it was a pleasure and honour for me to participate. The conference was in late August of 2017 which means in the ending phase of India’s monsoon season. Since the conference was inside a closed building, the occasional rain that did not turn out to be a problem because the rainy hours were surprisingly predictable and not at times where we were not outside anyways.
At the opening event, the traditional Indian candle-lighting ceremony was introduced and carried out during which the organizers lighted several candles on a beautiful candelabra. This was followed by the virtual unveiling of the world’s largest NaCl crystal structure model, which was transported from Austria to the conference to India. It was put on display for real in the entrance area of the conference and a lot of the attendees took pictures and selfies of them and the model during the whole conference time. The opening event finished with some traditional Indian music. All in all, it was an exotic start at an exotic location, at least for my European habits.
There was always a big buzz at the conference location, after all, this is what happens when over 1800 scientists come together and talk about crystallography. During almost every one of the eight days, there were nine parallel sessions in the morning and afternoon. That made it sometimes difficult to choose from but that also meant that there was always something interesting for everyone. The approximately 800 talks were accompanied by probably the same amount of posters. This was topped of with all the interesting and nice personal conversations one could have with collaborators, former and current colleagues from all over the world. Regarding the sheer amount of participants, there were surprisingly many people from the German Crystallographic Society and therefore also several of our Young Crystallographers around. Our fifteen attending Young Crystallographers were quite successful, they garnered in total nine talks, five posters, four travelling grants and two poster prizes. Congratulations!
Lunch was always provided by the conference. It was typical Indian food, among it were different kinds of bread, vegetable rice and several curries. Even though the food was spicy, it was not too spicy for westerners to eat. And it was delicious! There was also always some kind of sweet dessert and while quite tasty, it was sometimes hard to be sure of what it was composed.
The conference provided several opportunities for activities in addition to the scientific program. There were organized trips to some of the local temples and similar locations of cultural interest. There was also a tour through the the largest film studio in the world which also happened to be in Hyderabad. At one evening, the DECTRIS company arranged a dinner with an Indian dance show and a small disco afterwards (that night turned out to be a very rainy one, going back to the hotel by boat would have been easier than by car). The final part of the social program was the official conference dinner. They provided excellent food and the buffet was one of the largest and widest I’ve ever seen in my life. Next to the buffet were smaller stalls were local people sold some of their handcrafted pots or jewellery or drew some henna tattoos on various limbs. The program during the dinner included a short theater piece about an old Indian legend performed by some local school children, a light and a hula-hop dance show. For the final hour, there was a DJ around to play some disco music for dancing.
It was, all-in-all, an exciting conference with lots and lots of interesting talks and several opportunities to meet and discuss ideas with experts from all over the world at a quite unusual location.