A crystal clear career opportunity
Crystallography is a technique used to investigate the structure of condensed matter. It helps scientists to understand how life works at atomic and molecular level and has many useful applications – for example, it can be used to develop new, innovative medicines, to measure the hardness of diamonds, and to assess the behaviour of plastic material, etc. For two weeks each summer, key figures from the world of crystallography and related scientific fields gather in the historic Sicilian mountain town of Erice to discuss the latest research, to exchange ideas and to forge future collaboration.
The International School of Crystallography, now in its 29th year, is also open to promising PhD students and young post-docs. Since 1997, Marie Curie funding has allowed 15 to 20 future crystallographers to take part each year. “Given the interdisciplinary character of each event, this is unique opportunity to bring together scientists and students who would otherwise never meet,” explains organiser, Professor Paola Spadon. “Each year we get twice to three times as many applications as places available. The successful students are guaranteed an intensive learning experience that they are unlikely to get anywhere else. In my experience, it helps to boost their chances of a successful academic or industrial career.”
The EU's High-Level Scientific Conferences programme gave Jolanta
Pauk from Bialystok in Poland the chance to study human locomotion
in Udine and Milan, and to exhibit at the poster session at a bioengineering
congress in Rome in October 2001. "It was a wonderful course
for me, and I learnt a lot. The main problem we have in Poland is
that equipment is so expensive that we do not have good laboratories.
The European support meant I could visit labs abroad, and exchange
information with other specialists," she says.
From friendship to research co-operation
Dr. Bob Moon from the University of Nottingham in
the UK is a regular at Marie Curie summer schools organised by the
European Powder Metallurgy Association (EPMA). Since 1998, he has
attended four schools looking at the underlying scientific and technological
applications of the power metallurgy process - used mainly in the
manufacture of engineering components for the car industry and in
the design of materials to meet specific requirements.
In total 210 young scientists and researchers from
17 EU Member and Associated States took part in the week-long programmes
in Dresden (1998), Gothenburg (1999), San Sebastian (2001) and Vienna
(2002). Some 153 participants were funded under the Marie Curie
Dr. Moon believes the over-riding benefit of the
summer school programme is that they allow young engineers and scientists
from different parts of Europe to enhance their technical training,
to learn from world-class experts and to meet each other.
"This last aspect is the one that holds
out the most hope for the future. Friendships have been made that
are leading to co-operations on research programmes and industrial
practice between people who met for the first time at the summer
schools," he says. "Without EU funding it would not have
been possible to hold events of this nature. It allowed the EPMA
to encourage participation by young researchers who would not normally
have been able to raise the full costs of the school."
from the experts
Dr. Mark Huyse from the University of Leuven in Belgium has
more experience than most organising Marie Curie summer schools.
Last September, in the French village of Les Houches, he organised
his ninth gathering on the subject of exotic beams in nuclear physics
for a group of young PhD students. The Marie Curie grant funded
50 researchers to attend the nine-day event. "This is an ideal
place for young researchers to hear from international experts working
in the field and to network with others carrying out similar research.
We have now established an active network of former participants
who can offer advice to researchers on their science and their careers."
Ulrike Diebold left Austria a decade ago to take up a post as an
Associate Professor or Physics at Tulane University in New Orleans,
specialising in advanced computational techniques in theoretical
materials science. So she was very pleased by the EU invitation
to a high-level conference on the computer simulation of complex
interfaces. "Society gets good value from events like this,
because very basic research has all sorts of useful applications,"
she says. "The smooth organisation really stands out, and this
allows the chairperson to concentrate on putting together a first-class
to present research findings
Eddy Van Doorslaer, econometrics professor at the Erasmus University
in Rotterdam, is a regular attender at the annual Euroconference
on Health Economic and Econometrics. "The organisers achieve
a very good balance. They include a few keynote speakers, but for
the bulk of the contributors, papers are chosen competitively, while
some young PhD students are presenting their results for the first
time. This work is so fundamental that finding commercial funding
is not possible," he says.