Dear colleagues,

I hope you are all well in spite of the unusual times in which we still find ourselves.

I am delighted to see that our labs are up and running again, and that we can return to our research. But we must be under no illusions – the coronavirus pandemic has not gone away, and neither have the issues associated with it. We must continue to follow the rules, maintain safe distances, and protect ourselves and others wherever necessary and possible.

We have therefore decided, with a heavy heart, to cancel our Annual Event in Lenzerheide. We would have dearly loved to meet with you all in person for some fascinating research discussions, but our wellbeing must take precedence. We cannot and would not want to keep our distance at the Annual Event, nor do we want to restrict the meeting to a small group. This leaves us with no option but to postpone the network’s interactive and personal get-together for a while longer.

Decisions of this kind are never easy. Over the past months, the only sensible course of action has been to forgo many activities that bring us joy and motivation. For this and other reasons it has been a trying time, creating serious difficulties for many of us. We care deeply about how our nanoscience students and doctoral candidates have fared, so we asked some of them to share their experiences of the last few months.

Daniel Stähli, a former nanoscience student, was fortunate to have written his master’s thesis last year, as this allowed him to enjoy an exciting and instructive time at Stanford University in California. His thesis on ageing phenomena, which made a substantial contribution to a publication in the journal Nature, earned him the 2019 award for the best master’s thesis in nanoscience at the University of Basel.

Further prizes went to five young nanoscientists who wrote outstanding publications as lead authors. The PhD Awards are normally announced by the Swiss Micro & Nanotechnology Network at the Swiss NanoConvention (SNC), which was scheduled to take place in Basel in July this year. Although the SNC was postponed until June 2021, we still gave out the PhD Awards – which are sponsored by six Swiss firms – as planned. In this issue of SNI INSight, you can read all about the papers for which the young researchers earned their prizes. Furthermore, you can admire the fascinating images distinguished with this year’s SNC Image Award, which also went ahead in spite of the postponement.

Another fantastic piece of news is the approval by the Swiss National Science Foundation of the interdisciplinary Sinergia Hydronics project, an innovative research collaboration led by Ilaria Zardo of the University of Basel’s Department of Physics. Zardo’s team will work with colleagues from EPFL, Empa and IBM to study charge and heat transport in order to explore new ways of controlling electrical and thermal currents.

Countless research groups around the world are currently devoted to studying SARS CoV-2 and Covid-19. The SNI network is no exception, with various teams doing their part to expand our knowledge of the novel virus and improve diagnostics and treatment options. Several of these projects are presented in our overview article.

I hope you enjoy this issue devoted largely, but by no means exclusively, to the coronavirus pandemic. And last but not least, stay safe!

Kind regards,

Christian Schönenberger, SNI Director