Report on the Siena 2006 Basic School on Crystallography

Organised by the Teaching Commission of the IUCr
Pontignano (Siena, Italy)
Sun 27 Aug.- Sat 2 Sep. 2006
with the support of the International Union of Crystallography, the British Crystallographic Association, the Italian Crystallographic Association and the University of Siena

Programme Committee: G. Chapuis (coordinator, EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland,, A.J. Blake (Nottingham,UK), A. Gavezzotti (Milan, Italy), R. Neder (Wuerzburg, Germany).

Local Organizers: Marcello Mellini (University of Siena, mellini@unisi,it), Paola Spadon (University of Padova,

Aim of the school

Recognising that basic crystallographic curricula is regressing in the academic bachelors and masters formation, the Executive Committee of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) proposed its teaching Commission (TC) to organise an International School on Basic Crystallography. The aim of the course was to fill this formation gap by organising an intensive one week course possibly on a periodic basis.

The organisation of the first school was closely matched to the successful model adopted by the British Crystallography Association (BCA), which has acquired an excellent popularity since its existence.

Topics covered by the lectures

After a general introduction to crystallography, the student did acquire elementary notions on matrices and group theories in order to get familiar with the concept of crystal space group symmetries. The student were then introduced to the description of crystalline structures on the basis of their space group, lattice constants and atomic coordinates.

The concept of diffraction, which is fundamental for the study of matter at the atomic level, was introduced. The various X-ray and neutron diffraction techniques, based on single crystal and powder methods, the techniques of data acquisitions, structure solutions and refinements followed by the derivation and the interpretation of the results were presented to the students. Finally, the student were introduced to the retrieval of information from the numerous crystallographic databases, which are of prime importance for any research in the field of crystallography.

Organisation of the Course

The topics were presented to the students in two roughly equally distributed forms, namely ex cathedra teaching and tutoring. The lecturers were experienced crystallographers with excellent international reputation and a long experience in teaching. Following the presentation of each topic, tutors were coaching the students by working in small groups with the aim to solve practical exercises.

[Siena 2006 tutorial class]

Fig 1: Photo of hands-on tutorial session at the IUCr Siena 2006 teaching school

Documents and teaching material

The students could download all the teaching material from a password-protected website before arriving at the school. The material included lecture notes and a set of exercises for each topic.

After the school, the students could download the presentations and the solution of the exercises from the protected website.

Lecturers and topics

The following specialists did present lectures in the school: Peter Main (York, UK), David Watkin (Oxford, UK), Bob Gould (Edinburgh, UK), Jacqueline Cole (Cambridge, UK), Sandy Blake (Nottingham. UK), Gervais Chapuis (EPFL, Switzerland), Giovanni Ferraris ( Milano, Italy), Giuseppe Cruciani (Ferrara, Italy), Tony Linden (Zurich, Switzerland), Bernd Schweizer (ETHZ, Switzerland).

Topic Hours Lecturers
Maths refresher 2 Peter Main
Introduction to diffraction 2 Giuseppe Cruciani
Symmetry 4 Bob Gould
Data Acquisition 6 Jacqueline Cole and Sandy Blake
Neutrons/Synchrotron 2 Jacqueline Cole
Fourier/Patterson 4 Bob Gould
Direct Methods 4 Peter Main
Refinement 7 Peter Main and David Watkin
Powder 2 Giuseppe Cruciani
Twinning 2 G. Ferraris (Torino)
Derivation of structural results,
analysis and interpretation 4 Tony Linden
Databases 1 Bernd Schweizer and Gervais Chapuis

Total 40


The School was hosted in "La Certosa di Pontignano" an old convent now belonging to the University of Siena ( Pontignano is a small community close to Siena, a famous Italian town well known for the historical and artistic traditions.


Some fifty participants mainly from Europe but also from North Americam Middle East, Africa and India attended the school.

[Siena 2006 school group photo]

Fig 2: Group photo of IUCr Siena 2006 teaching school participants

Gervais Chapuis, Lausanne, Switzerland