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Young Mineral Scientists Rock!

The EUROCORES Programme EuroMinScI Inititiative holds its 2nd Conference

What’s going on in the earth’s core, why are there magnetic anomalies in rocks, how is water incorporated in minerals, and how do pearls grow? These and many other important questions the mineral sciences engage in, were the topics of the 2nd EuroMinScI (European Mineral Sciences Initiative) Conference held in Giens, France, last April.

The conference is a major annual event of the EuroMinScI Community, providing a venue for the participants to present their latest findings and key achievements within the programme and seeing what is cutting edge in the field.

The European Science Foundation’s EUROCORES (European Collaborative Research) programme EuroMinScI draws together different experimental techniques and computational activities into interdisciplinary integrated research projects addressing various aspects of mineralogy. Advanced atomistic computer simulations make it possible to predict mineral properties and behaviour. At the same time, these predictions are tested by in situ measurements of many mineral properties at extreme temperatures and pressures corresponding to those existing in the Earth’s deep interior.

Hence, one aim of the EuroMinScI programme is to provide young researchers with an academic background in Earth sciences with training in the physics-based simulation techniques, where the methods differ considerably from traditional Earth sciences. Therefore, the “Outstanding Young Scientists Awards” marked a highlight at the 2nd EuroMinScI conference, acknowledging and rewarding the efforts of the young scientists involved in the programme.

All of the work presented by the young scientists attending the conference was of immensely high quality, and the committee comprising of Professor Björn Winkler (University of Frankfurt), Professor Ulf Hålenius (Stockholm University), Dr. Kai Rankenburg and Dr. Michiko Hama (both ESF), was impressed by the intriguing findings of both the experimentalists and the theoretical modeling researchers.

The award winners of the conference were two experimentalists: Olga Narygina for the best oral presentation and Verity Borthwick for the best poster presentation. “These experiments are outstanding in a sense that they really allow us to understand observations which were hitherto not easily accessible” said Björn Winkler, chair of the scientific committee of the EuroMinScI Programme. Both of the award winners received a generous travel grant, which they can use for attending a meeting, or visiting another project team involved in the EuroMinScI Programme.

24-year old Olga Narygina is a member of EuroMinScI’s MCEC (Mineralogy and Chemistry of Earth’s Core) project and works with iron-nickel alloy, the supposed main component of the Earth’s core. She investigates its properties in a diamond anvil apparatus under high pressure and temperature in order to constrain the influence of carbon on the phase relations in the iron-nickel system. Olga Narygina is currently a PhD student at the University of Bayreuth, having received her M.Sc. in Physics at Ural State University, Ekaterinburg, Russia, in 2006. She was astonished to have won the prize and is still debating on what to do with her travel grant. “I might use it to attend the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco” said Narygina.

Verity Borthwick is a 25-year old PhD student from Stockholm University and a graduate of the University of Sydney. She was delighted to have been selected as an awardee and will use the grant to participate in the Gordon Research Conference on ‘rock deformation – real-time rheology’ in New Hamsphire, USA, this August. “This is a really relevant conference for my project and it will also be a great chance to convey what we have learnt to people outside the European mineral sciences community” said Borthwick. Working in the MINSUBSTRDYN (Subgrain Structure Development in Rocks and Metals) group, she is looking at substructural dynamics, the understanding of which being a prerequisite to comprehend what’s happening on a larger scale like mountain building; her analogue study with in situ experiments in the scanning electron microscope on the annealing of deformed rocksalt led to winning the award.

A concentrated meeting like the 2nd EuroMinScI conference is especially important for the networking of young and also more senior scientists, opening up opportunities for their future careers and collaborations. 11 internationally recognized external experts were attending the conference as invited speakers. Professor Ross Angel from Virginia Tech, who gave one of the keynote lectures, noted the breadth of the research groups reaching from atomic modelers to structural geologists and stated: “I think EuroMinScI is a unique picture of this kind of collaboration between these traditionally very different fields of expertise”. Dr. David Stonner, Head of the Europe Office of the National Science Foundation (NSF), took part in the conference as an observer and enjoyed the multidisciplinarity of the participants. “I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and the quality of the interaction between the participants” commented Stonner. He sees multiple potential linkages between American groups in the mineral sciences and EuroMinScI.

The European added value of the EUROCORES programme could be clearly felt at the conference and the benefits are multi-facetted. The European mineral physics community has through EuroMinScI for the first time a common venue. “We have found a common marketplace to exchange ideas and EuroMinScI is a highly successful enterprise” said Winkler and hopes to continue the collaborative work in a similar manner in the future. David Stonner concludes: “My understanding of the Scheme and the changing research landscape in Europe is that EUROCORES will play an increasingly large role in collaborative activities in Europe, and I think quite possibly throughout the world, as scientists look for opportunities to cross geographical boundaries and work together”.

Angela Michiko Hama | alfa
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