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PICO Conference

Univ Old Members’ Trust Graduate Travel Report – Ping-Luen (Baron) Ho (2018, DPhil Inorganic Chemistry)

With the generous fund from Univ’s Old Members’ Trust, I attended this year’s PICO conference in Netherlands. PICO is the latest conference on Frontiers of Aberration Corrected Electron Microscopy. It was organised by the Ernst Ruska-Centre in Aachen and Forschungszentrum Jülich, where I did my one-year-exchange study at.

The conference is named PICO, which is the unit for 1 x 10-12 m. This name also aligns with the topic of the conference – how to apply fundamental electron optics in advanced transmission electron microscopy techniques to study solid-state research phenomena and life sciences. One of the characteristics of PICO2022 is that all speakers are invitation based and all 190 participants are at least junior microscopists from 25 countries throughout the world. This format made every minute of my PICO experience count, as it offered me the opportunity to listen to, talk to, and learn from the most admirable scholars in the field.

At PICO2022, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the invention, function and publication of the first aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope. PICO invited the four founders of this innovation. One of them, Professor Knut W. Urban*, shared their work in the past three decades. Listening to how they concurred multiple challenges and finally transformed theories into practice, more specifically, how they applied spherical aberration corrector to transmission electron microscope to advance resolution to sub-ångström level, I felt so moved and inspired: Seeing leads to scientific advancement, understanding and engineering. The field that I studied and conducted research for more than seven years would not exist if it were not for them. Their achievement has made it possible for the more recent development and function of new materials. It has been and will continuously be substantial to not only material science but also biological medical science. Attending PICO with these scholars, I am dedicated to contributing my future academic work to the blueprint that Professor Urban has pictured.

I was honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with Professor Urban before, we published a Physical Review B paper on the topic of atomic electron magnetic circular dichroism in 2017. It was one of my few publications on theoretical work and thanks to his generous guidance, I learned so much. PICO2022 was the first in-person microscopy conference in Europe since the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, I will see these scholars and friends soon so that I can continuously learn from them and sharpen my skills along with them.

* Professor Knut W. Urban is a German physicist. He studied at the University of Stuttgart where he obtained his PhD in physics in 1972. He was the director of the Institute of Microstructure Research at Forschungszentrum Jülich from 1987 to 2010. During this period, he collaborated with Harald Rose and Maximilian Haider to obtain the first aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy results, which were published in 1998, the 2011 Wolf Prize in Physics and the 2020 Kavli Prize Laureates in Nanoscience are awarded to them.

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: 14 July 2022

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