Some 2,000 chemists descended on Torino, Italy, birthplace of Amedeo Avogadro (of the famous constant), for a five-day biennial conference of the European Association for Chemical & Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS).
"Chemistry is essential to developing solutions to some of the world's greatest challenges," from energy shortages and protection of the environment to improving food quality and health, said Giovanni Natile, president of EuCheMS. The Torino conference addressed many, if not all, of these issues, he added.
The conference "brings Europe together," said Helma Wennemers, who develops peptides as asymmetric catalysts at the University of Basel, in Switzerland. "It's exciting. The meeting has such a broad diversity of science and cultures. It's a great opportunity to get to know what is happening in chemistry in all the countries of Europe."
One goal of EuCheMS is to provide a united voice for chemistry to European Union policymakers. "Chemistry, in all countries, is facing new challenges. There is an increasing need for an EU-wide scientific organization that interacts with EU decisionmakers on science policy and funding issues," Natile noted. "EuCheMS also fosters collaboration among EU scientists."
The Torino meeting comes two years after the inaugural EuCheMS conference in Budapest, Hungary. The fact that this year's conference was taking place at Lingotto, a renovated Fiat car factory, was not lost on Ulrich Stimming, a physical chemist at the Technical University of Munich, in Germany, who spoke on strategies for designing better fuel-cell catalysts.
When delegates were not visiting the conference center's rooftop race car track or enjoying keynote lectures from high-profile chemists, they were attending talks on such diverse topics as using calcium hydroxide nanoparticles for conservation chemistry or developing fluorescent sensors for triacetone triperoxide, an explosive used in terrorist attacks in London and Madrid.
EuCheMS was formed in 2005 to bring European chemistry societies, and their 150,000 members, under one umbrella. The organization is a loose affiliation of 35 chemistry associations across Europe, including Russia.