Berg-en-Dal, Kruger National Park, South Africa, August 21-25, 2006
Over 70 delegates from all corners of the globe converged on the Berg-en-Dal rest camp in the Kruger National Park to attend the fifth Indaba of the South African Crystallographic Society, a meeting that is sponsored by the IUCr Commission on Structural Chemistry. The theme of the workshop, “Models, Mysteries and Magic of Molecules”, provided opportunities for a rich diversity of topics to be discussed, from the fundamental nature of a molecule to the engineering and properties of molecular crystals and proteins. This was in keeping with the “Indaba “ spirit, i.e. to study a subject in depth from a number of different angles. The scientific program consisted of 42 lectures and 26 posters. Upon arrival delegates were delighted to find a complimentary copy of the book, “New Theories for Chemistry” by Jan Boeyens, (sponsored by Bruker SA and Elsevier) included in their conference pack. Few realized that they were expected to read it before the first talk on Monday morning.
John Ogilvie (San Jose) surprised some delegates when he stated that a molecule in a quantum state has no size, no shape, and no extension in space or time: The structure of a molecule is the result of the environment. “Unravelling the mysteries behind theoretical and experimental models of molecules.”
Mihail Atanasov (Sofia) continued the theoretical perspective of the conference by questioning the ligand field paradigm with his talk: “The ligand field paradigm and new insight into the electronic properties of transition metal complexes based on modern electronic structure calculations.”
The proceedings then swung toward scientists addressing polymorphism and co-crystallization. Joel Bernstein (Beer Sheva) gave an elegant account of attempts to generate co-crystals containing the R4,2(8) hydrogen bonding motif that yielded instead unpredictable polymorphs in his talk simply entitled “Co-crystals and Serendipity” .
Elena Boldyreva (Novosibirsk) explored the magic of amino acids in a fascinating talk on “Polymorphism of crystalline amino acids - a link between chemistry, materials science and biology.” During her talk she also reminded delegates that “Indaba is the only meeting where dreaming is allowed and even encouraged”.
The final talk was given by Gautam Desiraju (Hyderabad) who philosophised on the parallel between the mysteries of nature and the mysteries of molecules and crystals, while listing his view of five major future challenges in crystal engineering.
The poster session on the Tuesday evening was well attended, with lively discussion facilitated by the free South African wines. Two poster prizes were awarded during the closing ceremony. One, sponsored by the RSC was awarded to Simon Iremonger (Sydney) for his poster “Porous Homochiral Metal-Organic Frameworks” and the second, sponsored by CrystEngComm was awarded to Melanie Rademeyer (Pietermaritzburg) for a poster “Non-covalent interactions in 2-phenylethylammonium perhalometallates”.
At the closing ceremony Alessia Bacchi (Parma) chair of the Commission on Structural Chemistry, thanked the organizing committee. Jan Boeyens, founder of the Indaba conferences, made some comments and put the Indaba series into historical perspective, pointing out that the five Indabas to date have had a strong support from the IUCr: four IUCr presidents have attended (Philip Coppens, Henk Schenk, Bill Duax, and Yuji Ohashi) and three chairs of the CSC (Lee Brammer, Judy Flippen-Anders0n; Alessia Bacchi). Jan also acknowledged the contributions of two other founding members who could not be present, Ivan Bernal and Anton Amann.
Peter Comba gave an amusing and insightful view of the proceedings in his closing talk, with a quip on the biological rhythms cited by Martin Egli, stating that “Your answer to the question whether all biological clocks have a 24 hour cycle was wrong. My clock is different, it has a 3 year cycle: Now is INDABA time, from tomorrow onwards it is either after or before the next INDABA time. (the Indaba is held every three years).
Finally Dave Billing introduced the new “Big Five Awards” for attendance of the Indabas, and presented gifts to Jan Boeyens, Peter Comba and Demi Levendis who have attended all five Indabas; Gert Kruger, John Ogilvie and Manuel Fernandes who have attended four of the Indabas.
The organizers would like to thank the sponsors: IUCr, Bruker, South African National Research Foundation, RSC, CrystEngComm, CCDC, Elsevier, Microsep, Universities of Pretoria, and the University of Witwaterstrand.
In retrospect, Indaba V managed to fulfill its goal of being a highly stimulating and successful “meeting of minds”, and judging by the selection of pictures posted on the website (mating lions: www.sacrs.org.za/indaba5/) the game viewing was as satisfying as the meeting.