An amazing week of nanoscience in the snow - successful third edition of the NanoFront Winter Retreat


On Monday 18 March 140 Leiden and Delft nanoscientists travelled to Courchevel in the French Alps. Here, in a conference centre 1850 metres above sea level, we gathered for four exciting days of science, fun and outdoor activities. Our program committee, consisting of Liedewij Laan, Sonia Conesa-Boj and Stefan Semrau, had composed a nicely balanced program of PI-interviews, challenging workshops and keynotes, and PhD student and postdoc presentations and poster sessions that were tailored to the needs of our diverse audience.

Right at the beginning of the retreat, in his opening lecture, Steering Committee member Carlo Beenakker stressed the importance of taking time for reflection. “Being away from the lab is not a burden, but a chance to see things from another perspective,” he said. And he was right, many of us experienced during and after the retreat that it led to new insights.

Although we had a full program, there was some spare time in the afternoons, which offered us the chance to discover the beautiful surroundings of Courchevel, either on ski, snowboard or on foot. In evenings, there were plenty of opportunities to meet new people over dinner, and challenge each other in the quiz for example. Gary Steele’s after dinner lecture on Wednesday gave us a new perspective on the future of publishing in general, and about open science in particular. His quest for openness was underlined by the fact that he had immediately published his lecture slides on Zenodo.

Throughout the program, the two invited workshop hosts from Know Innovation, Tim Dunne and David Lomas, guided the group through various activities to look for overlap in the different research projects. This led to numerous new creative ideas, accumulating in four synergetic research proposals that were presented on the Friday afternoon. After some deliberation, the jury decided to award the mash-up proposal prize to Alexander Lau, Daniel Varjas, Kim Poyhonen and Ivo Severins – they will receive support to submit their idea in the NWA Idea Generator competition.  Apart from this prize, the jury, consisting of all the session chairs and the workshop hosts from Know Innovation awarded PhD student Esmée Adegeest for her original presentation, and the best poster prize was won by Benjamin Lehner, who received the most dots at one of the poster sessions.

After four stimulating days of science and snow we returned home in the early morning of Saturday 23 March. We would like to thank everyone for their contribution to the success of this event!

PS: For photos of the event, please see this album.