Meeting report

[ECM24 logo]

[Camels]The 24th European crystallographic meeting

Marrakech, Morocco, August 22-27, 2007

European Crystallographic Meeting (ECM) held in Marrakech in 2007 was one of the largest ECMs of the last ten years. The scientific program and the charming city of Marrakech attracted 850 scientists (33% female), exhibitors and accompanying guests from 55 countries. The organizers put together a program of the highest quality and made efforts to facilitate the attendance of 150 young researchers and 100 scientists from emerging countries. The 650 submitted abstracts covered almost all the fields of crystallography: chemistry (40%), biology (22%), material sciences (20%), physics (10%), methods and high pressure (8%). Talks were presented in 17 plenary lectures and 45 microsymposia and there were over 400 poster presentations. A satellite meeting and two workshops were held before the opening of the ECM24.

An exciting satellite meeting devoted to 'Enchanting Crystallography of Moroccan Ornaments' was organized by the IUCr MaThCryst Commission. Attendees included artists and Moroccan craftsmen as well as 5 lecturers from Morocco, France, Japan, the USA and Denmark. Moroccan handicrafts related to symmetry were exhibited and studied during the meeting. There was an excursion to the Kasbah de Telouet, a site renowned for the richness of its ornamentation. The meeting ended with discussion of plans to organize an IUCr Commission on Art and Crystallography.

[ECM24 attendees]An 'Advanced Training Workshop' supported by NATO was devoted to crystallographic instrumentation, remote access to synchrotron and neutron facilities, and software for data collection and structure solution. The incredible power of modern laptops was demonstrated via the use of software packages EXPO2007 (powder diffraction), Coot (protein structure and electron density 'molecular graphics' real-time manipulations), CCP4 (Patterson and phasing calculations) and Critical Point Electron Density Analysis. There were 5 lecturers and 35 participants including 20 from North Africa. John Warren (SRS Daresbury) delivered his lecture via satellite, and internet arrangements allowed SRS9.8 instrument control from Marrakech. It has become increasingly common to use an SR facility via robotic sample mounting but using two-way audio contact over the internet as well is relatively new.

The workshop 'Science Meets Industry', organized by PANalytical, targeted participants from the building materials, pharmaceuticals, mining and phosphate industries. The workshop addressed the question of how modern science can improve the efficiency and reliability of industrial processes and products. The workshop reviewed applications of X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, and synchrotron radiation, geo-science, mineralogy and organic /inorganic chemistry fields of building materials, pharmaceuticals and mining. 70 scientists attended the workshop.

ECM24 attracted both young and senior scientists from academic organizations as well as from industry with significant attendance by scientists from emerging countries. ECM24 drew international attention to crystallography in Morocco and allowed crystallographers from emerging countries to present their work and demonstrate their ability to overcome obstacles. Crystallographers from emerging countries presented more than 70 communications (orals and posters) and chaired both plenary and microsymposia lectures. Two microsymposia were devoted to the study of phosphates, an abundant natural resource of Morocco.

The ECM24 conference provided an opportunity for Moroccan crystallographers to mix with crystallographers from throughout the world. It was also an opportunity to develop and expand international scientific cooperation and reinforce existing ties of solidarity between academic and industrial crystallographers. The 'Advanced Training Workshop' showed that remote internet access to state-of-the-art centralized synchrotron radiation facilities can allow distant countries to benefit from state-of-the-art data collection. Thus crystals too small for analysis by conventional X-ray sources can be sent by courier to the centralized facility and data collection can be controlled remotely from the laboratory that produced the crystals. The data collected can be analysed at the host facility or sent back to the laboratory for further study. This kind of remote access to the 'SESAME' synchrotron facility being built in Jordan was extensively discussed during ECM24.

The meeting exhibit featured the instruments and technologies of 24 companies. The IUCr and the European Crystallographic Assn (ECA) provided financial assistance to 57 students and young researchers. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also supported 6 established researchers, 5 of them from emerging countries. The U. Cadi Ayyad of Marrakech provided support for 8 researchers.

[People at Marrakech]

A number of poster prizes were awarded - see page12. The Moroccan Crystallographic Assn (MCA) has been granted a subscription for the IUCr journals at a reduced rate and a one year subscription to the German journal Crystal Research and Technology.

Abdelmalek Thalal, Chair ECM24

Acknowledgments: As chairman of ECM24 I would like to express, on behalf of the organizing committee, my sincere gratitude to the IUCr for its continuous support and for the wonderful work they do to promote crystallography in the world. The donated funds made the participation of many young international researchers possible. The continuous support and encouragement of the ECA is kindly acknowledged as is that of the MCA, which strongly supported the idea of holding the congress in Marrakech. I would also like to thank the OPCW and the U. Cadi Ayyad of Marrakech for their grants to established researchers from emerging countries. We are very grateful to NATO for sponsoring the 'Advanced Training Workshop' and to our other sponsors and the exhibitors.