International Student Summer Programme concludes with student workshop


For the second year running, the ESRF and ILL organised a joint International Student Summer Programme for undergraduates from all over Europe. After four weeks of immersion into the world of X-ray and neutron science, the 15 students, originating from 9 different countries, each presented their work in a 20-minute talk.

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For Rustam Mardanov from Russia, the course in Grenoble was also his first opportunity to travel to France. In his talk, he presented the experiments carried out on the ESRF's ID17 beamline in the area of micro-beam radiation therapy (MRT). "The course has been the first practical application of the theory I've been learning at University. I was surprised by how many languages people speak here. My tutor for example is half-Italian and half-German, and he also speaks both English and French!"

Of the benefits listed by the students, cultural diversity came high in the ranks of the Grenoble programme. Although inherent to the ESRF and ILL as international research institutes, the multi-cultural environment is not one experienced by all the students at their home universities. "It is a fascinating union, or friendship between the different countries, all working together for higher aims", adds Rustam.

"Being in contact with international research groups and students from all around Europe, and being able to visit and use state-of-the-art experimental facilities has been life changing for me", says Vittorio, from the University of Milan in Italy.

"This year's programme is unquestionably a collective success," says Patrick Bruno, Head of the ESRF Theory group and one of the organisers. "It has shown the students the reality of the cultural melting pot that is research today. I'm very impressed by the high quality of the students and the excellent supervision they have received from their tutors."


Students, tutors and organisers of the 2015 International Student Summer Programme. Photo: ILL/S. Claisse

The four week course brought together 15 undergraduate students from Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Slovakia, Russia and Poland. The fifteen students were rigourously selected from the 120 applications received earlier in the year.

The course proposes a series of introductory lectures on the basic principles of X-rays and neutrons: fundamental principles, techniques used for their production (synchrotron, nuclear reactor), instrumentation and measurement techniques, interaction with matter.

Following the placement of each student either at the ESRF or ILL, more specific aspects of the application of X-rays and neutrons in a number of different scientific fields are explored,  for example diffraction and the structure of materials, imaging, nuclear and particle physics, structural biology, magnetism, spectroscopy and inelastic scattering, soft matter studies.

Katarina Zirova, from Slovakia, was happy for the practical experiments on the ESRF's ID30A beamline to confirm her theoretical learning. She studied fluorescent proteins and X-ray crystallography.  "The instrumentation here is particularly impressive and we have nothing like it at the university. I now feel better informed about the different and more efficient methods available for research. My tutor was very patient, taking the time to explain everything and answer all my questions. And I had loads! I've really learned a lot in a very short time."

It is the second time that Agnieszka Poulain, post-doctoral scientist at beamline ID31, has tutored a student for the summer programme. "It was again a great pleasure to host an enthusiastic and young person coming for the first time to the synchrotron, having an unusual opportunity to become a beamline member for a short period of 4 weeks. I am sure that this experience will influence the future choices of the students, who are about to decide their future career paths. I am sure that one day we will see some of them working with us side by side."

Over the four weeks, the students also have plenty of opportunities for social gatherings and to discover life in town and the mountains surrounding Grenoble.

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A well deserved rest after hiking in the Vercors. Photo: ESRF/P. Bruno

Students gather at the ILL for one of the introductory lectures. Photo: ILL/S. Claisse


For more information on the International Student Summer Programme, contact Patrick Bruno.

Text by Kirstin Colvin

Top image: Katarina Zirova delivering her talk at the student workshop. Photo: ILL/S. Claisse