Educational events for the International Year of Crystallography 2014 and beyond

In July 2012 the UN General Assembly, following a proposal from Morocco, adopted the resolution 66/284 and proclaimed 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr2014). In their declaration, the UNGA recognizes that humankind’s understanding of the material nature of our world is grounded, in particular, in our knowledge of crystallography, and stresses that education about and the application of crystallography are critical in addressing fundamental challenges.

 

IYCr2014 commemorates the centennial of the birth of X-ray crystallography, thanks to the works of Max von Laue, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914, and William Henry and William Lawrence Bragg, who were awarded the same prize in 1915. IYCr2014 also falls on the 50th anniversary of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Dorothy Hodgkin for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of penicillin and vitamin B12. For crystallographers, IYCr2014 is the well-deserved celebration of the many successes and advances that crystallography has brought to almost all branches of science (e.g., chemistry, biology, physics, pharmaceutics and medicine, mineralogy, materials science, mathematics, cultural heritage and art sciences, and all related technologies) in the last century, as well as of its long and exciting history. In addition, and probably foremost, IYCr2014 is a new starting point, the birth of the second century of modern crystallography, with new challenges and frontiers to be explored.

Even though crystallography underpins all the sciences today, it remains relatively unknown to the general public. Moreover, fundamental courses on crystallography are disappearing from most academic chemistry degree curricula and are almost absent in the developing countries. IYCr2014 is then a unique opportunity for promoting education and increasing public awareness about the importance of crystallography in advancing science, through a variety of activities.

The International Union of Crystallography (IUCr, http://www.iucr.org) is partner of UNESCO for the implementation and coordination of the activities for IYCr2014. The IUCr and UNESCO have undertaken a wide ranging program of activities, all described on the official web site: http://www.iycr2014.org.

A worldwide crystal-growing experiment (http://www.iycr2014.org/participate/crystal-growing-competition) for school children will show that science — and especially crystallography — is fun! This competition will be accompanied by educational material (brochures, videos, etc.) to explain the basic concepts of crystals and crystal growth and the importance of crystallization techniques in many fields, from pharmaceuticals to materials science.

Among the activities offering educational opportunities to young students and researchers from the developing regions is the IUCr-UNESCO OpenLab project (http://www.iycr.org/openlabs), a network of operational crystallographic laboratories in selected universities in Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia. This project will take advantage of the scientific and educational expertise of the IUCr, the diplomatic and educational channels of UNESCO, and the partnership of crystallographic instrumentation manufacturers.

Another great educational resource, made freely available to anyone, is the “Timelines of Crystallography” (http://www.iycr2014.org/timeline), containing a rich source of historical notes sorted in different categories and linked to original documents, pictures, and so on.

Several other tools and online educational resources are available through the IYCr2014 (http://www.iycr2014.org) and IUCr (http://www.iucr.org) web sites.

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