Written by Hagen Poddig, PhD student in the field of inorganic chemistry at the TU Dresden.
With 2020 being dominated by the corona pandemic, events had to be postponed, just like the 25th IUCr Congress in Prague. Now, in the mid of August 2021, the conference has finally been realized with a hybrid concept, which allowed to participate from home and in person. As this international conference attracts people from all over the world, everybody interested could join the conference and the presentations online, leaving no one behind. Fortunately, travelling from Germany into the Czech Republic was possible and so I enjoyed the conference on-site in Prague. About 300 persons attended the conference in-person and 1600 participants in total registered for the event, which resulted in a rich program for the week.
Arriving at the conference in person was still somehow strange, as similar kinds of meetings had been quite a while ago for me. This feeling vanished quickly when I realized that a couple of colleagues of the DGK attended the conference as well, which I haven’t met in quite a while. When I met the first Young Crystallographers on-site, I was encouraged to promote Berlin as the venue for the IUCr congress in 2029. In addition, I took this opportunity to join the Young Crystallographers and they warmly welcomed me.
The 25th IUCr congress has been my first international conference on crystallography. As a PhD student in the field of inorganic chemistry at the TU Dresden, I looked forward to discuss my recent results on disordered rare earth metal telluride structures. Luckily, the field of inorganic chemistry spans quite a large range of topics and as I am interested in structure-property relations, the conference offered numerous talks on related topics for me.
Microsymposia and Plenaries
The conference program itself was packed with lots of interesting topics. Unlike from my previous experience with conferences, the schedule was incredible dense with three parallel plenary talks and eight parallel micro symposia in the morning and afternoon over seven days. The presented topics covered many different aspects of crystallography and how diffraction techniques can be used. Based on my previous experiences of the DGK, a larger variety of topics has been presented, with diffraction as the connective technique between physics, chemistry, biology, materials science and many more disciplines. Due to the hybrid concept, only a couple of speakers attended the conference and gave their talk in person and most presentations were held online. This, however, resulted in some awkward situations, especially when answering question after each talk. As in a similar fashion a lot of symposia have been chaired online as well, coordinating questions from the audience online and on-site was a lot of work for the technical staff and the chairs and therefore a little less smooth compared to a full online or offline event. Still, most sessions were unaffected from such situations and provided a nice platform for scientific exchange.
In contrast to the well-elaborated concept for the presentations, the poster session was a little different, as only a few posters were presented on-site, which lead for me in the unfortunate situation of missing a majority of the exclusively online presented posters. Nevertheless, with some exceptions, the conference overall was a pleasure from a scientific perspective.
With this rich scientific program, skipping one or two sessions to recover and experience the wonderful city of Prague didn’t feel bad at all. Numerous attractions, like the castle, Charles Bridge and the astronomical clock can be visited, which complemented the general experience of the conference. The conference also offered different activities, like a boat tour on the Vltava river or a concert of classical music, obviously playing Dvořák. The conference dinner was organized in an old and beautiful house with live music and a buffet. The food was very good, though slightly limited, which resulted in some extra popcorn served as dessert, when the planned dessert was out of stock. Live music and the location made up for this shortcoming and it was an exciting evening.
In summary, the conference provided a well-rounded hybrid concept with only minor obstacles and many interesting talks. Although taking care of the current situation is mandatory, meeting old and new colleagues at the conference was my personal highlight and I will keep the conference in good memory.