(by Marilia de Oliveira Guimaraes)
Academic life often entails solitude, particularly during long hours spent alone in the lab or when grappling with the challenges of writing research papers. Therefore, it holds significant value when young scientists, already burdened with their own responsibilities, take the initiative to organize an event for gathering, sharing, and, most importantly, learning. This is exactly what took place between the 04th and 06th of October in Hamburg, right on the DESY campus! Among experienced researchers and representatives of renowned equipment companies, we got a glimpse of how fulfilling it can be to form a bond (pun intended) with those at more or less advanced stages of their careers.
On the first day, finding the seminar room was no easy feature for many of the participants, considering that most of us had never been to the site before. The weather in Hamburg was also not merciful, as grey, dense clouds covered the sky entirely. However, upon arrival for registration, the atmosphere inside the venue could not be more different from the gloomy Hamburger weather outside. Chair and co-chair Jakob Möbs and Florian Meurer greeted us with all the information we needed, along with genuine smiles and enthusiasm. We were provided with DESY bags, which contained mementos, pens, and writing blocks (big thanks to the sponsors Stoe and DESY!). After an opening session, we embarked on a tour of HERA, the old synchrotron ring, which meant descending a staggering 23 meters into a tunnel via a staircase—a feat that made even us scientists appreciate the importance of staying fit! Our guide, a master’s student (whose name escapes me), seemingly knew each part of the ring inside out. Which is not an exaggeration, as he has ACTUALLY already been inside of the ring among bending magnets, quadrupoles and all. Also, during the second part of the tour, at PETRA III, he patiently answered all our endless questions with enthusiasm while guiding us around the hutches. I had already been at DESY both for tours and for performing experiments, but it was special now, accompanied by other equally curious crystallographers. But of course, as we do not live from science alone, we went for dinner at ÜberQuell—where for a small fee we feasted on as much pizza as we could possibly fit in our stomachs. We drank beers, discussed about scientific life and also delved into our personal stories with our peers. There is no better way to end such an enlightening first day, if anyone asks me.
The second day started exciting, with us being groups divided into groups to have a close look at different beamlines that we had chosen upon registration. Personally, I was fascinated to go to P05, an imaging beamline I have never been before, and learn from the beamline manager himself (cheers to Fabian Wilde). He explained in detail what kinds of samples they work with, the functioning of the beamline and the underlying theory. Most interestingly, he gave us a hands-on tutorial on conducting an experiment using a (dead) firefly larva sample. Ew. Anyways, in the end, the experience allowed us to reconstruct imaging scans and see the larva’s head and feet. Side note: does anybody else out there also did not know how a larva looks like?! I have images now! Jokes aside, I guess it’s safe to say we were all impressed by the expertise and meticulous work of a beamline scientist. The rest of the day went smoothly, with the first round of lightning talks from our peers who had posters to present, industry talks from representatives of STOE, X-Spectrum and Rigaku, an enlightening academic talk from Donatella Loru, and the first poster session. Last but not least, the conference barbecue! Vegetarians and vegans alike were pleased to also find different options for us We had the opportunity to mingle and connect with our peers and debate what was still not clear from the talks or poster session.
As all good things come to an end, so did the 10th Young Crystallographers Meeting. But first, we had a last (and quite fun! Images below) industry talk by an Anton Paar representative, Marius Kremer, followed by the second round of lightning talks. The highlight of the day, for me, was the academic talk delivered by Prof. Dr. Tobias Beck from Hamburg University. He not only discussed science but also shed light on the thought processes and creativity that guided his choice of research topics throughout his career. It is truly inspiring to know that sometimes the path one follows, although it might seem scattered and non-cohesive at times, can create a beautiful story in the end; much like pieces in a puzzle. In his case, he started out by working with nanoparticles, transitioned to crystallography, ventured into protein research, and eventually created the field of highly ordered biohybrid materials. Afterwards, we had the second poster session and, to conclude, closing remarks and poster prizes. Congratulations to Yvonne Wagenhäuser, Manuel Schulze and Joohee Bang for the well-deserved prize! I could unfortunately not join the XFEL tour, but can imagine it must have been just as enriching as the rest of the meeting.
Overall, these three days were packed with activities, yet reinvigorating and inspiring. I return home with a mind brimming with fresh ideas and the assurance that whatever challenges I encounter, I am not alone in this journey. The struggles I go through, the accomplishments and “a-ha!” moments that come, they are not mine alone; they are shared by so many other young scientist fellows that are as passionate as me. This thought is particularly satisfying in a field with so many ups, downs and restarts. While the meeting has concluded, its impact and the knowledge gained will undoubtedly continue to influence me. My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone involved in the organization, especially Jakob Möbs, Florian Meurer, and Melanie Nentwich, who were virtually omnipresent throughout the event. And, of course, the event wouldn’t have been possible without the generous sponsorship of X, Y, and Z! Well, I guess this is goodbye for now, and hopefully until next year (or earlier!).