Swiss NanoConvention – A look behind the scenes

While last year’s Swiss NanoConvention (SNC) was canceled entirely due to the pandemic, the event returned this year. The difference between SNC 2021 and previous years’ events, however, was that the participants met online rather than in person. Thanks to the numerous sponsors and excellent organizational work, the SNI team laid the foundations for a successful conference – and it was then the 36 leading experts in their various fields, along with the chairs, exhibitors and all of the participants, who made SNC 2021 Online such a success.

Online is the best solution
The plan was to hold the Swiss NanoConvention at Congress Center Basel in July 2020, and the SNI team had already begun preparations at the start of the year. By May 2020, almost everything was on track to stage this wide-ranging conference. Given the uncertain situation in relation to the pandemic, however, the SNI organizing team took the decision to postpone the conference.

“In January 2021, we then once again faced the question of how we could share with the Swiss nano community the latest examples of research and applications in the nanosciences and nanotechnology as part of an interdisciplinary conference while also offering opportunities for networking,” says Conference Chair Professor Christian Schönenberger.

At the start of the year, a fully online conference seemed to be the best option for the SNI team. Most of the speakers who had already accepted invitations in 2020 also agreed to participate in an online version of the SNC, and so the team could once again guarantee a fascinating interdisciplinary program with high-caliber talks for 2021.

A completely different planning process
Some exciting weeks and months lay ahead for Dr. Kerstin Beyer-Hans, who was the principal organizer of the event. She soon benefited from the assistance of Tosca Kummli, who had joined the SNI team as a trainee. “We first looked at and tested various platforms for digital conferences and recommended that the team select MeetAnyway as a partner because it seemed to be the most suitable platform, offering not only intuitive operation but also a wide range of capabilities,” says Kerstin Beyer-Hans, Outreach Manager at the SNI.

It was important that the platform provide not only rooms for the various keynote lectures and parallel sessions, but also interactive platforms for poster sessions, poster presentations and exhibitions, as well as places where spontaneous discussions could take place. Kerstin and Tosca set up many of these virtual rooms. There would also have to be a help desk and video guides to help people register and find their way around the platform. Furthermore, all participants had the chance to take part in a sort of treasure hunt through the exhibition, select the best nano images, choose the best nano start-up and find out about vacancies at a job fair.

The approximately 500 participants had access to comprehensive information not only in digital form but also as part of a traditional conference booklet, which contained short summaries of all talks and brief information on the invited speakers. Participant lists and sponsors also appeared in the appendix to this extensive brochure.

“My thanks go to the whole team for the hard work to put together such a great conference. Professional work paired with passion is the perfect combination!“

Dr. Pierangelo Gröning, Empa

Excellent talks and much more
On 24 June, the time had finally come. At 9:15 am on the dot, the first online Swiss NanoConvention embarked on an intensive two-day schedule. A varied program with nine excellent keynote lectures in various subject areas highlighted the diversity of the nanosciences and the areas in which nanotechnology plays a role today. Thanks to nanotechnology, there are now multiple approaches to creating a quantum computer. Not only that: computer chips are becoming more and more powerful, new chemical compounds look set to pave the way for new applications, and viruses can be used to fight diseases. Nanotechnology methods help us to understand how sophisticated natural nanomachines operate in nature and how we can use these approaches in technological applications.

It was not just the international keynote speakers – leading lights in their respective fields – who had the chance to explain their latest research to participants. The parallel sessions also gave the invited scientists an opportunity to demonstrate their latest research findings, which are receiving attention far beyond the borders of Switzerland. These sessions not only centered around basic scientific findings but also dedicated significant time to applications of nanotechnology.

In addition to the various talks, participants could also spend time on the platform watching short presentations on most of the 87 posters and from the 29 exhibitors.

Numerous prizes for outstanding achievements
At the end of this successful event, Christian Schönenberger awarded various prizes that were created by the Swiss Micro- and Nanotechnology Network (Swiss MNT Network) and that are regularly presented as part of the SNC.

He began by presenting prizes for the best publication featuring a doctoral student from a Swiss research institute as its first author. This PhD Award was also bestowed in 2020 for publications from 2019 (see SNI INSight August 2020), but it was not until this year that the prize – which is sponsored by various companies – was actually presented to Claire Meyer (University of Basel), Dr. Daniel Najer (University of Basel), Katharina Kaiser (IBM Research), Dr. Kazuhiro Morimoto (EPFL) and Dr. Shantanu Mishra (Empa).

Schönenberger also honored this year’s prizewinners for outstanding publications from 2020. This time it was Dr. Luca Nela (EPFL), Nadine Leisgang (University of Basel), Dr. Thomas Karg (SNI and University of Basel), Dr. David Hälg (ETHZ) and Dr. Omar Rifaie (AMI/Fribourg) who had succeeded in winning over the interdisciplinary jury with their first-author publications.

The prize for the best nanotechnology start-up founded in the last five years went to anavo medical. Co-founder Dr. Tino Matter gave a presentation on the company to the SNC and persuaded the audience of the approach whereby inorganic nanoparticles are used to create the conditions for good wound healing. Tino studied nanosciences at the University of Basel before switching to ETH Zurich to complete his doctorate. His doctoral dissertation recently received the MaP Award 2021 from the Competence Center for Materials and Processes (MaP) of ETH Zurich.

Prizes for the best posters went to Mehdi Ramezani (SNI and University of Basel), Sami Bolat (Empa) and Oliver Erni (HEG-FR). Meanwhile, Nadine Leisgang (University of Basel), Evgeniia Gilshtein (Empa) and Filippos Kapsalidis (ETH Zurich) won the competition for the most fascinating images.

The last word came courtesy of Professor Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser, who will organize the next SNC – which will hopefully be held in person – in 2022 with her team from the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg.

Further information:

SNC 2021 Online