Surface and Interface Processes at the Molecular Level, 17 - 23 August 2008

Rideal Travel Bursar John Thrower reports from Italy

The Surface and Interface Processes at the Molecular Level (SIPML) conference was held at the Il Ciocco Conference Centre, Barga, Italy from 17 – 23 August 2008. The topics covered by the meeting were wide-ranging, centred around three key themes - Surface processes in planetary and astrophysical science, Complex heterogeneous interfaces and Surface evolution. The meeting consisted of invited presentations followed by related submitted presentations. Each session ended with an extended discussion on the presentations within that session. Further research was presented in poster form during a dedicated poster session.

My research focuses on the icy mantles that surround dust grains in the interstellar medium. I am interested in the morphology of these ices and how they interact with each other and the grain surface. Such an understanding is crucial in order to understand the chemical and physical processing of these ices, both thermally and non-thermally following irradiation with photons and charged particles. I was fortunate to be able to give an oral presentation entitled ‘A laboratory study of the morphology and processing of benzene ice in the interstellar medium’. Many attendees had backgrounds in fields to which I had not previously presented. This resulted in some stimulating questions during the discussion session, which helped me to view my research from a different angle. This will certainly be useful in presenting my thesis and in future conference presentations.

The sessions related to astrophysical and planetary matters were particularly relevant for me personally, though I found many of the other presentations interesting. As an experimentalist I was impressed by the range of topics covered in presentations relating to theoretical work. The themes within this conference highlighted the importance of a combination of both experimental and theoretical studies in research. I found the structure of the meeting, with its extended discussions, extremely useful. This was further aided by the poster session and extended afternoon breaks that also provided the opportunity for social activities, along with an outing to the historic city of Lucca.

Overall the SIPML conference was an excellent opportunity for me to present my research to a wider scientific audience, and gain insight into research in some areas of surface science of which I have limited knowledge. My thanks go to the SIPML organising committee for allowing me to give an oral presentation at this meeting. Finally, I would like to thank the Society of the Chemical Industry for the award of a Rideal Travel Bursary, which helped to make my attendance possible.

John Thrower
Heriot-Watt University

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