Meeting report

46th Erice Course
The Future of Dynamic Structural Science

Erice, Italy, May 2013

[Erice 2013 logo]
[Participants] Participants at the 46th Erice Course – The Future of Dynamic Structural Science.

The 46th Course of the International School of Crystallography, 'The Future of Dynamic Structural Science', was held in Erice (TP), Italy, from 30 May to 8 June, 2013, at the Ettore Majorana Centre and Foundation for Scientific Culture. 77 participants attended the course from universities and corporations in 23 countries. The aim of the course was to increase the knowledge of younger scientists in the crystallographic and spectroscopic techniques that are essential for them to work successfully in the field of dynamical structural science, thus bridging the traditional scientific disciplines of chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and engineering. The course program consisted of a mixture of lectures, software demonstrations and hands-on workshops. In total 43 lectures were given by the teaching staff, which included overviews of various crystallographic and spectroscopic techniques, and cutting edge research results. The lectures clearly showed the strength and breadth of the subjects under discussion. Ten participants were selected, based on their submitted abstracts, to give a 25 minute oral presentation; the selection aimed to include a variety of topics within all the areas discussed during the course. The participants who presented the 42 contributed posters also gave a two minute overview of their poster. The majority of the lecturers emphasized the need for very accurate time-resolved spectroscopic data to understand the changes in molecular properties driven by variation in the sample environment. These data, together with careful kinetic measurements, can inform the specific experimental conditions required prior to undertaking high-resolution crystallography studies. As well as dynamical diffraction methods, a range of spectroscopic techniques were the subjects of several of our speakers, including time-resolved absorption and Raman spectroscopy, XAFS and fluorescence spectroscopy.

Student presentations, selected from the submitted abstracts, were given by 10 of the participants. Jose Trincao discussed the work of the dynamic structural science consortium in the UK; Anton Targonsky described a method for ultrasonic modification to explore crystal defects; Matthew Robinson discussed the table-top time-resolved electron diffraction equipment that had just been built in his home laboratory. Davide Altamura showed how it is possible to use grazing incidence SAXS to explore nanostructured materials; Surajit Kayal presented some of his Raman studies including the results of Raman loss spectroscopy. Jonathan Hanson explored the simultaneous use of diffraction and IR spectroscopy to study catalytic reactions in situ and Matteo Levantino presented the results of time-resolved X-ray scattering into protein structural dynamics. Hideyuki Miyatake talked about the development of a dynamic light-scattering based protein crystallisation equipment and presented some early results. Elenora Conterosito discussed her work using fast in-situ powder X-ray diffraction examining layered double hydroxides and Gyula Faigel took us into the world of XFEL, showing models of how eventually it could be possible to study the dynamics of single molecules using intense, short X-ray pulses. Care was taken to include young scientists from eastern European and South American countries, to expand their horizons and provide them with new capabilities. The international composition of the school, and the informal atmosphere of Erice, played an important role in facilitating communication between students and world renowned professors, and may foster future scientific collaborations.

[Awards] Participants receiving awards during the closing ceremony (from left to right): Hazel Sparkes, Alexander Theodossis, Matthew Robinson, Maike Joester, Joshua Hill, Franziska Pinker, Ahmed Farghaly, Judith Howard, Nikita Marchenkov, Annalisa Guerri, Paola Spadon and Eleonora Conterosito.

During the concluding ceremony several awards were presented. The best poster prizes were given to Maike Joester (Berlin, Germany) and Ahmed Farghaly (Cairo, Egypt). Special mentions for the posters were awarded to Franziska Pinker (Strasbourg, France), Joshua Hill (Oxford, UK) and Nikita Marchenkov (Moscow, Russian Federation). The Lodovico Prize (acknowledging the most active student inside and outside the lecture hall) was shared by Eleonora Conterosito (Alessandria, Italy), Alexander Theodossis (Melbourne, Australia) and Matthew Scott Robinson (Edinburgh, UK).

A questionnaire was sent to all participants. Their feedback indicates that a similar meeting should be held in 3-4 years and that the course has been successful in most of its objectives. Participants also gave suggestions that will help the organizers to improve future courses.

Annalisa Guerri