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Letter from the President

[Henk Schenk] Henk Schenk
A Dutch proverb says: ‘Who has the youth, has the future’. Therefore, young scientists are the key to the future of crystallography. As you may know, organisers of meetings can apply to the IUCr for a grant in order to sponsor young scientists (YS) to enable them to participate. The Sub-committee on the Union Calendar, with Professor Hartmut Fuess as Chair, reviews the applications and proposes the level of support to the Executive Committee. Organisers themselves often provide additional funds to support YS or find sponsors who sympathise with this scheme.

This summer I was able to see how well our YS grant scheme works. At both the ACA meeting in Los Angeles and the ECM in Krakow I spoke with many of the YS. Those who received a grant through our scheme expressed gratitude to the organisers and to the IUCr. Most YS are sponsored in part only. When they apply for additional funds at their home institutions or elsewhere, the potential sponsors are always impressed by the support provided by the IUCr and additional funds are more readily given.

We all know the history of our subject. For sure, the older among us remember the challenges and dreams of their young years and the excitement they felt when desired results were achieved or, unexpectedly, completely new ones were found. I, for instance, will never forget the exciting days when I found the 7-magnitude quartet relation in direct methods. I started with the thought that quartets H, K, L, -H-K-L are truly 3D relationships where triplets are 2D only. As such, for solving 3D structures, I had high expectations of them. However, when I checked the quality of these quartet relations based on four magnitudes, I was very disappointed by the results. Still, the 3D character of the quartet relation kept my mind busy. Then, on the next Sunday, my wife Coringe and I took a long walk in the dunes at the coast northwest of Amsterdam. In the last hour of the walk, I had the brainwave that three more reflections are involved in a quartet, H+K, H+L, and K+L. I still know exactly the place where that happened! A week of hectic programming and testing followed. The next weekend I could analyse the results and found that the three additional E-values, the crossterms as I called them, changed the picture completely. Strong crossterms appreciably enhanced the reliability of the quartet phase sum being zero, the positive quartets. Quartets with phase sums of 180 degrees were characterised by weak crossterms and predominantly found on the bottom of the list. These negative quartets proved to be very useful as well.

We all work on the present state of crystallography, but what the future will look like we do not know. Of course, there are plans for exciting new facilities and new possibilities will arise. And we all have dreams and challenges. However, youth has the future and for the future of crystallography it is important that the IUCr continues to focus its attention on the young women and men of our community.

Henk Schenk