Erice International Crystallography School 2016

The CCDC is very pleased to have been able to once again support the International School of Crystallography based in Erice, Sicily. This annual school draws together crystallographic experts from around the world, as well as a large collection of international graduate and post-graduate students, to learn about specific areas of crystallography. The 2016 edition of the school was entitled “High-pressure crystallography: status artis and emerging opportunities”. It was co-directed by Francesca Fabbiani (University of Göttingen), John Parise (Stony Brook University) and Malcolm Guthrie (European Spallation Source, Lund). It brought together an excellent selection of the leading scientists in the field alongside exciting emerging researchers to provide the attendees with a superb overview of the field. Focal areas were pharmaceuticals, geology, methodology, and first principles of high pressure crystallography.

This year we are delighted to have supported the travel for two Indian research scientists to attend this meeting – Abishek Chitnis from Mumbai University and Madan Kumar from Mangalore University. One of the CCDC’s primary focuses is on crystallographic education across the world, and each year we work to help support students attend a range of events. We caught up with both scientists at the meeting to hear about their research interests and why the Erice school was important to their work.

Figure 1 - Scientists supported in attending the Erice school through CCDC travel bursaries – Abishek Chitnis from Mumbai University (left) and Madan Kumar from Mangalore University (right)

Abishek is working in the field of high pressure physics, in particular looking at the stability of perovskite metal-organic frameworks. He commented that during the Erice School he “got to know about different research areas, ideas & opportunities in high pressure crystallography as well as enjoying healthy conversations and discussion with lecturers and experts.” Abishek also commented that “I learnt many things as well as enjoyed this school. I am very grateful to the organizers and volunteers for the arrangements and all kind of comforts and supports we obtained.”

Madan Kumar is based at the PURSE lab at Mangalore University. He has worked with both small molecule crystallography as well as the structure determination of proteins from single crystal x-ray diffraction. Madan commented that the hands-on workshops were particularly valuable for him and said “thanks very much to the organisers for giving me this opportunity, providing registration and travel support.”

The CCDC has a dedicated sponsorship and outreach fund, specifically to support younger scientists attending schools and conferences worldwide. If you are interested in applying for support for yourself or one of your students, please contact Amy Sarjeant at awards-info@ccdc.cam.ac.uk.

Figure 2 - The International School of Crystallography situated in the beautiful medieval hilltop town of Erice, Sicily (left) with all talks held in the former church and convent of San Domenico (right)

This year’s Erice school also included two opportunities for the attendees to take part in a hands-on workshop on use of the CSD-Enterprise software for comparative structural analysis as applied to high-pressure research. The workshops, run by Pete Wood and Erin Davis with help from Simon Parsons, were very well received with students taken through three different case studies analysing different types of compression study and comparing multiple pairs of polymorphs to understand structural relationships. These were crafted in a tutorial-like fashion, allowing students to work through the problems at their own pace and explore other avenues. The international crowd of attendees covered a lot of ground, and raised some excellent questions about the CSD itself, polymorph comparison and other areas of structural chemistry analysis. The vast majority of the students opted to install the CSD System on their personal computer so they could continue to explore it beyond the school. We look forward to hearing what kind of interesting things they’ve discovered!

Figure 3 – Hands-on CSD-Enterprise workshops on comparative structural analysis held in the Madonna room of the former monastery of San Rocco

The 2016 Erice school was really well organised, balancing the breadth of science in the field with suitably pitched presentations that ensured all attendees would be able to learn something from each talk whether it was in their specialist field or not. The extensive open forum discussion at the end of the school overran, having addressed only a tiny fraction of the questions that the attendees put forward about the field. Based on this school and the excitement it generated, I’m sure the field of high pressure crystallography has a bright future! CCDC very much enjoyed being participating in the school this year, and looks forward to continued involvement and sponsorship with the Erice International School of Crystallography.

Pete Wood, Product Manager for the CSD-System