Launch of the International Year of Crystallography

Launch of the International Year of Crystallography

Author: Jonathan Agbenyega (Business Development Manager IUCr)

On the 20 and 21 January more than 1000 delegates gathered at UNESCO
in Paris, France, to celebrate the launch of the International Year of Crystallography 2014 (IYCr2014). The International Year of Crystallography 2014 was declared by the United Nations in July 2012 to commemorate the centenary of X-ray diffraction by crystals. This discovery allowed information on the structure of matter at the atomic level to be gained for the first time. The International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) is a partner of UNESCO for the implementation and coordination of activities for the year-long celebration.

Opening Ceremony
The Opening Ceremony in Paris began with welcoming remarks from Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. He talked about “one hundred years of ground breaking discoveries in crystallography”.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, then talked about the importance of crystallography and how it underpins all the sciences forming the backbone of a wide range of industries, including pharmaceuticals, aeronautics, computing, mining and space sciences. Ms. Bokova concluded by inviting all Governments to join in raising the flag for crystallography throughout 2014 and beyond.

Professor Gautam R. Desiraju, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and President of the IUCr, then followed with an invitation to all crystallographers to celebrate IYCr2014. Professor Desiraju detailed just some of the exciting events taking place during the year, such as the IUCr–UNESCO OpenLabs, where the IUCr and UNESCO, with support from instrument manufacturers, will create laboratories that will host workshops, tutorials, and hands-on experiments for students and young professors from countries across Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Professor Desiraju also highlighted events such as crystal-growing competitions for schools and summit meetings for researchers to highlight the comprehensive programme of inclusion for all scientists from all walks of life.

Figure 1. Professor Gautam R. Desiraju, President of the IUCr, at the Opening Ceremony.

Day one continued with further welcoming remarks, a very lively young-persons round-table event moderated by the science writer Dr. Philip Ball, UK, and presentations from Emeritus Professor Jenny P. Glusker, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, USA, and Nobel Laureate Professor Brian K. Kobilka, Stanford University, USA. The final session of the day looked at the tremendous amount of crystallographic research taking place across the emerging nations.

Day two cast the crystal ball a little into the horizon and had a look at the activities taking place in the field today and plans for the future. Professor John Spence, Arizona State University, Phoenix, USA, covered subjects from X-ray tube to X-ray lasers and Professor David Bish, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA, and Dr. David Blake, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Washington, D.C., USA, talked about the role of crystallography in the study of the Universe.

Figure 2. (f.l.t.r.) Professor Gautam R. Desiraju, President of the IUCr, Alisa Ivanenko, Russian Academy of Sciences, Jane Robinson, IUCr, Professor Elena Boldyreva, Russian Academy of Sciences, Malcolm Cooper, IUCr, Professor Sine Larsen, Ex President, IUCr and University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Mike Dacombe, IUCr.

The take home message from the Opening Ceremony was that this is just the beginning, and it is vital that opportunities and programmes are created that promote the importance of crystallography and provide a permanent legacy for the future.

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