People living in central and northern Europe may have noticed that this summer has been way colder than the average. That is why I was happy to get an invitation from Nadja Doslic, one of the organizers of XTRAM17 summer school, to sunny Sicily at the end of July.
The place of the conference was absolutely fantastic – it was a small ancient town Erice on top of the mountain overlooking the mostly champaign landscape of western Sicily. Despite its distal location, Erice is a scholarly center, where many of the scientific schools and conferences take place at the same time. The whole infrastructure of the town is adapted not only for crowds of tourists but the constant presence of conference attendees as well. The center of the scientific life in Erice is Ettore Majorana Center. Many of famous scientists such as Feynman, Wigner, Dirac, and many others have been reading lectures within the walls of this center. According to center’s website “Every year since 1963, authors of new discoveries and inventions come to Erice; 85 of them were awarded the Nobel Prize after their participation to the EMFCSC activities and 49 were already Nobel laureates.” Remarkably, the walls of the lecture hall are decorated with artistic depictions of Feynman diagrams. I hope you can imagine the supportive atmosphere of this meeting.
Enough said about the place, but the meeting itself deserves positive comments as well. The abbreviation XTRAM is short for “School on X-UV time-resolved advanced methods” and is supported by the EU. Frankly speaking, this was a rare event when the scientific program was that relevant and interesting to me that I could not even decide which talks to skip to carve out time to prepare for my own lecture. Moreover, this was a nice opportunity to meet with people whom I did not know before. I think it is not a secret, that scientific community clusters around some prevailing topics and some cores of affluential researchers, who determine the agenda in each subgroup. Often, communities dedicated to the same subject overlap very little, and one can see publications where people cite works of their peers belonging to the same cluster, without knowing (or just ignoring) the others. Luckily, I have learned a lot about research going on in the community with which I am not that actively interacting but which deals with problems very related to my research. And of course, it was nice to talk and exchange ideas with people whom I know.
It is tough to select my favorites among the talks because they all were exciting. I was very interested to see how scientist working with non-equilibrium Green’s functions, Andrea Marini, Claudio Verdozzi, Enrico Perfetto, are treating electron dynamics of photoionization and Auger decay. There were also some talks on spintronics by Peter Eliot, Marco Battiato, Flavio Capotondi, as well as on electron dynamics treated with real-time TDDFT. For me, the talk by Martin Beye on recent progress in stimulated resonant inelastic X-ray scattering was very encouraging, since I consider this method as the primary experimental tool to examine ultrafast spin-dynamical effects, which are the main subject of my recently accepted project. This workshop provided me with an excellent overview of activities in the field and supplied me with a vast amount of information and literature which I would need to digest for months.
I should also mention lectures by Jesper Norell, Michael Odelius, and Philippe Wernet reporting the highlights of their recent and very prominent work representing a nice combination of novel experimental and theoretical tools in the field of time-resolved X-ray spectroscopy (see, e.g., nice this article). My own lecture was mainly devoted to ultrafast spin-dynamics in the core-excited states as it was explicitly requested by the organizers.
I would also like to thank Nina Ignatova, Jesper Norell, Vlad Kochetov, and Michael Odelius for nice time spent together in Erice. It was not only fun, but I hope should also promote our joint research.