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20th European Fusion Theory Conference

Group photo outside Caffè Pedrocchi.

Ferard and Leney Graduate Travel Grant report – Will Clarke (2021, DPhil Theoretical Physics)

Of all the places to host an intense conference on theoretical plasma physics, Italy is certainly not the worst. With the promise of sunny weather and incredible food, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the 20th European Fusion Theory Conference (EFTC) in Padova – about an hour’s drive southwest of Venice. The city has a number of culturally significant sites, the most famous of which is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Scrovegni Chapel. Completed in 1305, the chapel contains a fresco by Giotto depicting the first kiss in Western art. Another landmark is Caffè Pedrocchi, a huge, neo-Gothic building in the city centre which houses a café, a restaurant, large conference rooms and even a museum. Opened in 1831, Pedrocchi is one of the most famous historical café’s in Italy, and has attracted intellectuals and writers from around the world, including Stendhal and Lord Byron. We were very lucky to be hosted in the Rossini room of Caffè Pedrocchi for the duration of the conference.

The four days of the conference were divided into a series of lectures in the mornings followed by poster sessions in the afternoons. These were punctuated by coffee breaks organised by Caffè Pedrocchi, but ‘coffee break’ does not do justice to the enormous spread of pastries, cakes and other desserts. Fuel was certainly not an issue for any of the attendees, and this made it easier to focus on the interesting research being presented by academics from all over Europe. I particularly enjoyed listening to advances in the modelling of turbulent heat transport in nuclear fusion devices. This has been the topic of my own research during my DPhil thus far, and I was grateful to be able to talk to world-leading researchers when I presented a poster in one of the afternoon poster sessions.

The main hall of the Palazzo del Bo, within the University of Padova.

This conference was certainly not all work and no play, as each night involved a different social event. On the first night, we had a guided tour of the historical seat of the University of Padova, Palazzo del Bo – the Palace of the Ox. The university is older than Univ, being founded in 1222, and houses the oldest anatomical theatre in the world. We were also able to see the podium from which Galileo gave lectures in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. On the second night, we were taken to a choral concert in the Church of San Gaetano, performed by a local choir. We had an amazing four course dinner in the restaurant of Caffè Pedrocchi on the fourth night, and the final night saw us visit the nuclear fusion research facility on the outskirts of Padova.

This was my first in-person conference, and if they are all as academically, socially and gastronomically satisfying as EFTC was, I will be applying for a lot more travel funding from Univ over the next two years. I would like to thank the trustees of the Ferard and Leney travel fund for partially covering my expenses, and making it possible for me to attend such an incredible conference.

Find out more about the range of travel grants and scholarships available to assist Univ students on our Travel Grants page or read further travel reports.

Published: 4 March 2024

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