60 participants from Mexico and Latin America at the OpenLab Mexico

To celebrate the International Year of Crystallography 2014, the Instituto de Geología (IGEOL) of the UNAM (Spanish acronym for Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) has made an important effort to modernize its crystallographic facilities by acquiring a new multipurpose diffractometer that will joint the two previous diffractometers already available in the Laboratory for X-ray Diffraction of the Institute. New computing facilities and crystallographic software has been also acquired. In order to raise awareness of the existence of this infrastructure at national level and the potential that crystallography has to solve problems in different areas of knowledge, IGEOL has organized a four-day Open Lab lasting from 18 to 21 November within its facilities at Mexico DF. The OpenLab was intended for postgraduate and postdoctoral students and attracted sixty participants mostly from Mexico but also from other Latin-American countries.

The OpenLab was organized by the Laboratory of X-ray Diffraction of the IGEOL, assisted by Fabián Durán, coordinator of Communication Science IGEOL. We invited speakers from the UNAM and other research centers as well as PANalytical technicians who offered practical training on new equipment. The program included several lectures on fundamentals of X-ray diffraction and on the applications of crystallography in gemology (Juan Carlos Cruz Ocampo), in the cultural heritage (Xim Bockimi), in the fabrication and characterization of new materials (Marius Ramírez and Martín Hernández Landaverde), in cement industry (Jorge Pablo González), in environmental geochemistry (Mario Villalobos Peñalosa), in biomineralization (Ábel Moreno Cárcamo) in Crystal growth (Héctor Riveros Rotgé), in mineralogy (Oscar Irazaba Ávila and Teresa Pi Puig) as well as in ore genesis (Teresa Pi Puig). The president (José Álvaro Chávez Carvayar) and former president (Lauro Bucio Galindo) of the Mexican Society of Crystallography (SMC) delivered lectures on the activities undertaken in Mexico during the International Year of Crystallography and on the future of the SMC and LACA.

Two activities of outreach were also performed open to the general public, namely the screening of the film “The Mystery of the Giant Crystals” and a lecture on Crystallography and the origin of life, both delivered by Prof. García-Ruiz, from CSIC-University of Granada (Spain). On the afternoon of Wednesday 20 November, participants visited the Museum of Geology, a beautiful historical Museum built during the early years of the last century. During the visit guided by the team of the Museum (Luis Espinosa Arrubarrena and Julio Caballero Corona), the participants were able to know the crystallization workshops for children offered from this year on by the Museum with the help of the team of the Laboratory of X-ray Diffraction (Fernando Núñez Useche and Adriana Gómez Cruz).

During this IYCr2014, the Laboratory of X-ray Diffraction of UNAM has participated in two outreach events, namely “Encounter with Earth” and the “Party of Sciences and Humanities”, both with a large and enthusiastic participation of children, teens and families. The workshop ended with the ceremony of the poster prizes. An international jury selected among the 20 posters presented, two prizes for graduate students awarded to Guillermo Dolores Reyes and Laura Esmeralda Mendoza Ramos and two prizes for Master and PhD students, awarded to Serafín Sánchez Pérez and Luisa María Mainou. During the duration of the OpenLab, participants enjoyed an excellent Mexican cuisine created by the Romero family.

According to UNESCO, Mexico has a shortfall of experts in Earth Sciences and Crystallography so IGEOL intends to continue offering new courses to train experts in both disciplines with good job opportunities. 

Dr. Teresa Pi Puig
Head of the Laboratory of X-ray diffraction of the Instituto de Geología, UNAM