A Retreat in Bavaria!

in the Optical style….

I was intrigued when invited to attend and give a talk at the SPP Retreat on Tailored Disorder in Kostenz, Germany last month organised by Prof. Cordt Zollfrank of TU Munich and collaborators, Prof. Helge Otto Fabritius. I am so glad that I accepted this invitation.

So what was so special about the retreat?

SPP 1839 Retreat held at Kloster Kostenz

SPP 1839 Retreat held at Kloster Costing

For starters it was hosted in the beautiful Bavarian Forest foothills in a monastery. So there was lovely scenery, fantastic beer (and wine!)… The mornings had a programme of excellent talks and the afternoons and evenings had a social programme (we went to a glassblowing workshop), a visit to an interactive Physics museum where adults had as much fun (if not more than( kids. Dinner would be followed by beer and wine in our special  hangout room!

The small numbers in the retreat (about 35) created a lovely intimate atmosphere and in this relaxed setting over beer and gorgeous sit down meals it was possible to get to know everyone, form some links, make friends ….  a perfect networking opportunity.

Weissbeer at the monastery- yum!

Weissbeer at the monastery- yum!

The technical aspect was very well served by the format: single track or focus of the retreat:   Tailored Disorder – A science- and engineering-based approach to materials design for advanced photonic applications. There were a handful of invited talks and the rest by PhD students on their projects on the theme. This led to lively interaction and because of the single focus from various aspects, the discussions were always interesting.

My favourite talk was by Prof. Laura Na Liu of Heidelberg University on dynamic/active 3D plasmonic nanostrucutres. Her presentation style was amazing: she explained in simple language and yet managed to convey the highly complex concepts. Perhaps the most elegant concepts she spoke (that appealed to me) were using DNA origami and complementarity of DNA base pairs to shift orientation of bundles/move a bundle along the origami etc.

apple spp

Laser inscribed SPP 1839 apple

By attaching gold nano rods to these origami and changing the origami the plasmonic response could be changed/monitored dynamically.

For PhD students and young postdocs I think this sort of meeting is invaluable: they can really interact with the invited speakers and hearing focused talks learn a lot, give their talks without feeling too intimidated. I am now a fan of Optics retreats!

Whenever I have the privilege of attending an event such as this which combines thebest science with the best of other things in life: great company, food and drink, nature…I  always feel blessed that being a scientist has given me more than my wildest imagining.

 

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