ECM24; through the ECA President's eyes
It can truly be said that ECM24 in Marrakech changed my life. As my first ECM as President many tasks had to be interwoven; ceremonial speeches, prize presentations, face-the-media and chairing the ECA Council Meetings, not to mention presenting the latest scientific work from our Lab. At ECM24 there were well over 700 participants and the excitement that emanated from the marble congress Halls was palpable. The science at ECM24 was outstanding and the results altered many of one's perspectives. ECA Vice-President (Sine Larsen) described the ESRF upgrade and how nano-focused X-ray beams can be produced. She noted that the ESRF upgrade will allow up to 14 new beamlines accommodating many applications including nano-probe imaging, nano-spectroscopy and nano-crystallography, fostering the merger of electron crystallography with X-ray crystallography.
Another highlight for me was the presentation of the research news from our new UK SR X-ray source Diamond, the virile new kid on the block. This is pushing the envelope of technical capability represented by ESRF and making the early-years-ESRF capability available locally (ie a short train or car ride away when travelling within the UK). I found out just how hard the local committees worked, how unexpected problems must be dealt with and that often problems are outside one's control. In Marrakech, Moroccan customs held up delivery of some of the Exhibitors' equipment. This led to considerable post-ECM24 discussion. I now understand why IUCr has a rule limiting financial support for other crystallographic meetings held within 2 months before or after an IUCr Congress. The rule promotes greater congress attendance and is a courtesy to our loyal exhibitors who have limited capacity to attend overlapping conferences.
I would also like to mention the pre-ECM Advanced Training Workshop (ATW) I organized with ECM24 Chair Abdelmalek Thalal. This was sponsored by NATO whose attention had been grabbed by our proposal for synchrotron and neutron facility telepresence based usage. NATO is keenly aware of and supports the new SESAME synchrotron in Jordan. Also linked to ECM24 was the excellent satellite meeting on 'The enchanting crystallography of Moroccan ornaments', organized by our energetic ECA Webmaster and highly committed ECA colleague Massimo Nespolo. I am happy to say that ECM24 provided an opportunity for my wife and I to be joined by our daughter for a tour of North Africa that included cycling on the Atlantic coast, seeing a 400 year old Portugese castle and even stopping at 'Hendrix Café' where Jimi Hendrix wrote 'Castle Made of Sand'.
Finally I must pay tribute to Abdelmalek Thalal and his team who worked outstandingly hard, with tact and efficiency, and who also rose to the challenge of presenting their science and research. My speech to the Congress dinner participants emphasized that crystallographic science in Morocco and the whole Maghreb region would be changed by ECM24. Once again it showed the power of an ECM to encourage and educate new students, as well as to refresh us all in our own scientific endeavours.John R. Helliwell