Letter from the President
[Gautam Desiraju] Gautam R. Desiraju

My first official task as President of the IUCr was to inaugurate an International School on Charge Density, a post-congress satellite being held as I write this, in Jaca in the Spanish Pyrenees. After the inauguration, I metamorphosed into a student as charge density is becoming increasingly important in crystal engineering, which is what I do in my research. Teaching is a vital part of Union activities. The IUCr does this in many ways: it organizes schools through the teaching commission; it supports other schools through the calendar sub-committee, and of course teaching activities before and after meetings of the regional associates and the triennial congress. To receive support, these schools need to have an international character. Teaching is very essential because crystallography is inadequately handled in course curricula in universities today. The subject is also evolving rapidly. Ten years ago, the relevance of charge density studies to crystal engineering would have been questioned. Such synergy is now common all over crystallography. We should be able to communicate to young students the excitement of our subject, guiding them towards their research careers. To underscore the forthcoming International Year of Crystallography, the executive will support national schools and workshops during 2013. We will encourage schools in local languages, whether it be French in North Africa, Spanish and Portugese in South and Central America, or even in say, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Japanese in the respective countries. Each of us emotes best in our own language and the spirit of research is perhaps best captured for and in a youngster in their native tongue.

The activities of IUCr take place all over the world; these smaller events come together in the meetings of the regional associates, ACA, AsCA and ECA and there is a full confluence in the congresses, the next of which will be held in Montreal in 2014. Speaking of congresses, I wish to congratulate our Spanish colleagues for the wonderful meeting in Madrid. The live demonstration of crystal cleaving in ancient times, the three Nobel lectures and the three short but poignant talks from our own Ewald laureates, are some of its memorable moments. Many students have asked me over the years why we have huge scientific meetings. My answer is that if they attend one of these jumbo meetings, they will sense the X factor that smaller meetings lack. In a big meeting there is the possibility of cross-fertilization of ideas. A macromolecular crystallographer will participate in a small molecule microsymposium and vice versa. It is hard to anticipate or contrive such events or even speculate as to what their outcome will be, but with the very large number of attendees (we had around 2800 in Madrid), there is the finite possibility that something interesting and cross-disciplinary will have been sparked off, the consequences of which will be apparent only much later.

I now come back to IYCr2013. This will be a major event for all of us and the executive has appointed a special committee, which will scrutinize and recommend good projects that the executive will consider for financial support. The deadline for receiving project proposals in Chester is 16 January, 2012. This will give the successful awardees enough time to plan. It is not the size of these projects that is important. They need to be of a nature that makes us feel good about being crystallographers. They should demonstrate a good outreach in communities in which we live and work. Communicating the excitement of science to lay persons is a vital aspect of sustaining long term interest and government and industry support to science. Crystallography is no exception. The world of science is full of people who use crystallography but do not call themselves crystallographers. I do hope that by the end of 2013, many of us would have contributed something towards an increased feeling of self-identity for this magnificent subject, the modern variation of which will soon have completed 100 successful years.

Gautam R. Desiraju (gautam_desiraju@yahoo.com)