The First Pan-African Conference on Crystallography

It was my extreme pleasure to be able to attend the first ever Pan-African conference dedicated to crystallography last month at the University of Dschang, Cameroon.  Nearly 200 crystallographers from around the world attended the meeting to present their work and to establish connections and collaborations throughout Africa.  Suzanna Ward and I were pleased to catch up with Françoise Amombo Noa in Dschang and hear more about her research.  Frequent visitors to the CCDC website and Facebook page may remember Françoise as one of the researchers responsible for our 750,000th structure – announced last summer.  Françoise was kind enough to send us some of her impressions of PCCr1 for inclusion in this blog…

It has been an honour to be one of the participants of the “First Pan African Conference on Crystallography (PCCr1)” held in October at the University of Dschang in Cameroon.

I was very enthusiastic the first time I heard about this conference, as Cameroon is my home country. As a PhD student doing research in South Africa at the University of Cape Town, I have had access to scientific apparatus, equipment and instruments which are not available in Cameroon.

The conference was an eye opener as it reminded me that some people in Africa do research under difficult circumstances. Many of the African scientists at the conference have to send their materials to other countries or outside the continent in order to have access to their research data because they lack necessary facilities.

It was great to see the single crystal X-ray diffractometer donated to the University of Dschang by the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr). This will help Cameroonian crystallographers to enhance their skills and to have better access to research data.

It was interesting to have the opportunity to network with participants from all over the world who have different backgrounds.

Suzanna C. Ward “Learning from 822,187 crystal structures” and Dr. Amy Sarjeant “The CSD and the weird, wonderful structures of Africa” both from the CCDC gave amazing oral presentations. Their talks had a similar orientation presenting the CSD as an invaluable tool in our research of everyday. This was particularly important because many attendees don’t have access to expensive equipment or instrumentation but they are able to access the CSD and the wealth of data in 800,000 small molecule crystal structures to further their research and understanding.

I enjoyed all other research presentations including poster sections and found some very inspiring adding to my knowledge.

 Prof. Ron Lifshitz from Tel Aviv University, Israël gave an outstanding talk on quasicrystals and their lack of symmetry. In his abstract, he said “I will review some of these profound changes in our understanding of crystallography that were brought about by the remarkable discovery of quasicrystals.’’ I liked the pattern of the pictures shown at his presentation and gained some knowledge on a topic in crystallography I know nothing about.

At the conference, I was fortunate to present a poster titled “Guest Exchange on Halogenated Host – Guest Compounds: Structures and Kinetics” (http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.cgd.5b01728) as shown in the image below.

Françoise presenting her poster during PCCr1.

 

In this study, inclusion compounds have been utilized to store volatile halogenated guest solvents. I had the opportunity to interact, meet and talk to people I have only known by name.

The conference was a great initiative for the promotion of crystallography in Africa. This kind of meeting should be nurtured so that further development of science in Africa is encouraged.

The First Pan African Crystallography Conference in October 2016 was a success and I look forward to PCCr2!

The participants of PCCr1 gather for a photo outside the conference venue