Dear colleagues,

We are nearing the end of this highly unusual year, which has been full of challenges and created huge problems for many people. At the same time, 2020 was also a year in which we learned a great deal. Never before have teams of scientists around the world generated so much knowledge about a virus in such a short time, and never before have we had to make such drastic changes to our behavior or adapt so radically to changing circumstances from one day to the next. Along with the whole SNI management team, I particularly regret that the personal exchange of ideas within our network could only take place in small groups this year — and that we have not been able to hold any of the larger-scale events we had planned.

A short survey of SNI members recently provided us with confirmation of the effectiveness of this exchange across our network. Members particularly value the opportunity for discussion and collaboration between different departments and institutions, as well as the chance to obtain funding for cooperation of this kind. We will publish the survey results in the Annual Report, which we are currently working on. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their active participation and for all the positive feedback we received.
The last few months have also been challenging for our students. Although they were still able to attend some classroom courses at the start of the semester, teaching has now moved almost exclusively online. Especially for those who joined us recently and are still getting their bearings, this has not been easy. We asked four of them what it was like to begin their studies in these unusual circumstances.

Rafael Eggli, one of our master’s students, will perhaps take a more positive view of 2020 — at least from a personal perspective. Although he was forced to postpone his plans for project work in New York until next year, he also became a fellow of the Werner Siemens Foundation, which presumably makes up for the temporary change of plans.

Luckily, we were able to resume our laboratory research activities in the middle of the year. Some researchers from the network are working on the intelligent application of plastics, and we have summarized their approaches to this work in this issue of SNI INSight. We also provide an overview of exciting news from other subject areas over recent weeks and months.

Now, on behalf of the whole management team, I would like to wish you a peaceful — and above all healthy — Christmas as well as a happy and healthy New Year. I’m very much looking forward to the day when we have made it through these unusual times together and can again meet in person.


With best regards,

Christian Schönenberger, SNI Director